Rocky Mountain National Park: Lost Lake

Lost Lake. Stormy Peaks. These places represent their names well on this 19.4-mile out-and-back in the northeast corner of Rocky Mountain National Park.
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Lost Lake. Stormy Peaks. These places represent their names well on this 19.4-mile out-and-back in the northeast corner of Rocky Mountain National Park.

This 19.5-mile weekend retreat climbs 2,800 feet along the North Fork Big Thompson River to the cradle of Lost Lake. The initial stretch warms up the legs with a half-mile downhill before the climbing begins. The scenic trail passes buildings on a private inholdings (stay on trail), crosses footbridges in Roosevelt National Forest, and runs past homestead ruins in the Comanche Peak Wilderness before it enters Rocky Mountain National Park. Stop for the night at one of eight forest service campsites 2.3 to 3 miles from the trailhead, or continue to the National Park boundary for several widely-spaced permit-required campsites there.
The climb intensifies near mile 7 after cutting through an alpine meadow and passing the Lost Falls campground, one of four camping areas along the trail's upper reaches. You'll pass a spur trail to Lower Lake campsite. To continue, scramble over boulders on the climb to the mile-wide bowl between Stormy Peaks and Mount Dunraven.
Lost Lake is guarded by 12,000-foot peaks. Pick a flat rock along the lake’s eastern shore for postcard views of the snow-caps, or continue another quarter-mile around its south side to access the chilly water from a small sandy beach.

-Mapped by Kristy Holland

PLAN IT
MAP
Rocky Mountain National Park ($12, natgeomaps.com)
Order USGS topo quads at store.usgs.gov.
Order a custom map of this route using MyTopo.com

CONDITIONS
Trail Ridge Road is closed from November to April. Check conditions for the east side of the park check Estes Park, CO (80517) Weather

PERMIT
$20 for entry to Rocky Mountain National Park; (970) 586-1242, nps.gov/romo

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK INFO
Visitor Information (970) 586-1206 (daily, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mountain Time; recorded information after hours)
Trail Ridge Road Information Recorded Message 970-586-1222 (available 24 hours a day, updated when conditions and/or road status change)
Visitor Information for the Hearing Impaired (TTY): 970-586-1319 (daily, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Time)
Backcountry Office (970) 586-1242

OTHER RESOURCES
GAS
Shell‎ 860 Moraine Ave. Estes Park, CO (970) 586-7867
GEAR
Grab supplies or gear rentals (packs, bags, pads, and fishing gear) at Estes Park Mountain Shop, 2050 Big Thompson Ave., Estes Park, CO; (866) 303-6548.
GROCERIES
The Country Market National Park Village 900 Moraine Ave. Estes Park, Colorado (970) 586-2702
RESTAURANTS
Try a Mountain Mai Tai and the buffalo-and-bacon meatloaf at Peak-to-Peak American Grille, 451 South Saint Vrain Ave., Estes Park, CO; (970) 577-0577

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 31.2

Waypoints

LLT001

Location: 40.475456, -105.460442

This route follows the North Fork Trail that begins on the south side of the parking area, near the toilet.

LLT002

Location: 40.472855, -105.463585

Turn right at the T-junction toward Rocky Mountain National Park.

LLT003

Location: 40.47279, -105.470001

Cross the North Fork Big Thompson River on this footbridge, the first of many along the trail.

LLT004

Location: 40.479053, -105.47113

Stick to the trail as it enters private property. For the next quarter mile, you'll pass summer-camp facilities including a horse barn, lodge and sport field.

LLT005

Location: 40.482262, -105.474678

Turn left at T-junction following signs toward the National Park boundary and Lost Lake.

LLT006

Location: 40.484741, -105.485169

Cross another footbridge and bypass the Forest Service campsites to your right. Eight campsites are scattered along the next half-mile of trail.

LLT007

Location: 40.487663, -105.496674

At the western end of a meadow, you'll pass these log-cabin ruins on your left.

LLT008

Location: 40.494022, -105.508148

This section of the trail, high above the stream, is rocky with little of the lush riverbank vegetation common on other parts of the trail.

LLT009

Location: 40.497753, -105.518578

The trail to the Boundary Creek campsite, the first site inside Rocky Mountain National Park. There are at least 7 other marked sites between here and Lost Lake.

LLT010

Location: 40.497688, -105.530739

Stay to the right at the Y-junction to continue 4.4 miles to Lost Lake.

LLT011

Location: 40.497189, -105.536919

A sign marks the half-way gain in elevation from the trailhead. From here, you have to climb just 1,400 feet to Lost Lake.

LLT012

Location: 40.50032, -105.557472

Stay straight on the trail, bypassing the Lost Falls campsite. From this point, the uphill climb intensifies.

LLT013

Location: 40.505417, -105.568123

Turn left at the T-junction, 2.1 miles from the lake.

LLT014

Location: 40.505497, -105.57151

Cross the North Fork Big Thompson River, this is one of the few unbridged crossings, but several stepping-stones will keep your boots dry.

LLT015

Location: 40.507267, -105.594887

Continue left at the Y-junction toward Upper Lost Lake campground and Lost Lake.

LLT016

Location: 40.507526, -105.59938

At 10,714-feet, Lost Lake, is just below this area's highest peaks and may take your breath away. Large rocks near its shore make great picnic spots.

Log Cabin

Location: 40.487556, -105.49633

These ruins are on the west end of an open field. Pass them on your left.

Boundary Creek Sign

Location: 40.497761, -105.518585

Boundary Creek Campsite

Location: 40.497974, -105.51831

Boundary Creek's luxe campsite can accomodate 2-3 tens and comes complete with a privy, chopping block, fire ring, and easy access to the nearby stream.

Trail Sign

Location: 40.497719, -105.530747

The whole trail is well marked and informs hikers of distances and potential destinations.

Halfway Point

Location: 40.497192, -105.536964

This sign marks Halfway campsite and point where the trail has gained half the elevation to Lost Lake.

Meadow

Location: 40.499393, -105.555191

Three miles from Lost Lake, a meadow offers glimpses of Stormy Peaks to the north and Mt. Dickinson and Mt. Dunraven to the south.

Waterfall

Location: 40.504715, -105.565361

During a rain or after heavy snow-melt, this waterfall can flood the trail's footbridge.

North Fork Crossing

Location: 40.505497, -105.571465

Stepping stones provide dry passage across the North Fork of the Big Thompson River.

Snowy Climb

Location: 40.507572, -105.596451

This photo, taken in mid-June, shows potential snow cover on the upper reaches of the trail.

Lost Lake

Location: 40.507542, -105.599396

Large rocks on the east side of Lost Lake make great picnic spots.