In his guide, ‘Best Hikes Rocky Mountain National Park’, Kent Dannen says, ‘my favorite trail is the one I hiked most recently.’ So true! My heart skips a beat every time I think of our hike to Gem Lake. The autumn aspens, the crisp air, the breathtaking views, 11 month old Cecy content the whole hike…now that’s what my dream hikes are made of!
We started out at Lumpy Ridge trailhead and hiked through boulders and unique rock formations with frequent stops to catch our breath and take in the panoramic views of Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain range behind us. This was a moderately strenuous hike because of the steep steps that lead up to the lake, but the short distance at 1.8 miles each way made it pretty attainable.
If you work up a thirst, you can try out one of the new breweries in town called Lumpy Ridge Brewing Company. Located in an old gas station, the brewery has a small, eclectic tasting room plus a couple of outdoor picnic tables where you can enjoy the beer and Lumpy Ridge views.
Beautiful Lily Lake is right across the street from Twin Sisters trailhead on highway 7. A flat .8 mile trail circles the lake. This is an easier walk for anyone who struggles with strenuous terrain. Several benches are available offering an opportunity to rest and soak in the gorgeous views. We enjoyed showing Cecy the little ducks on the lake and the pretty wild flowers that surround it. This is a spot I expect to return to again and again, especially when Cecy starts walking. She took a few cautious steps on her own yesterday – so that might be soon!
A couple of months after our wedding my husband brought me to Estes Park, CO. The first hike we went on was Twin Sisters Peaks. When we made it to the top, I looked over at the surrounding mountains in awe and instantly fell in love with the area.
Fast forward three years and we hiked the same mountain plus a baby and a sister-in-law! We began at the Twin Sisters trail head which is located six miles south of Estes Park on Highway 7.
I was excited to share this summit hike with my little one, but next time we will probably leave her home with a babysitter. My husband carried her, but that meant I also carried a lot of weight in my pack so the three of us would have enough water, snacks and gear. Baby gear = diapers, wipes, sunscreen, hat, change of clothes … we could have over-packed!?
We were slowly chugging up the mountain with extra weight on our backs when we ran into the landslide area about 1.5 miles in. We navigated over loose rocks and a steeper slope.
Once we crossed, we found that the landslide wiped out several switch backs so we had to make it up three steep vertical climbs that were approximately 20-25 yards each. This was the part that I was most concerned about with our baby, even though my husband was very careful.
*2020 Update: This section remains steep, but has been improved.
Despite the new challenges, this is such a fun hike and the views of Longs Peak from the top are truly amazing. This was my sister-in-law’s first summit hike which was very cool to share with her too.
Round trip is about 7 miles reaching 11,413 ft of elevation on the West Summit, a gain of 2,253 ft. The East Summit is slightly higher, but we decided to shorten the trip this time by going up just one side. The final approach to the East Summit is a fun class 2 scramble.
2020 Update on Twin Sisters hike:
My husband recently hiked Twin Sisters (late May 2020). He took this video from the top of the East Summit on an early morning. Twin Sisters melts out sooner than some of the other summit hikes in the area, so it’s a great early season trail. It’s always good to check trail reports/conditions to make sure you have the right gear, especially during the spring when weather conditions are always changing. For the most part, the trail is similar to the conditions we wrote about nearly 5 years ago. We include Twin Sisters on our list of 9 hikes with amazing views.