Chasm Lake, Longs Peak Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Chasm Lake - 8.4 Miles
Longs Peak Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||8.4 Miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||9,405' - 11,803' (11,823' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+2,398' net elevation gain (+2,456' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Chasm Lake is located 4.2 miles from the Longs Peak Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park.
It fills a deep cirque carved from the base of Mt Meeker (13,911'), Longs Peak (14,259') and Mount Lady Washington (13,281'). Longs Peak's iconic 'Diamond' rises 2,456' above this placid alpine lake. Visitors will enjoy miles of open tundra and sensational views on the hike to Chasm Lake:
The trail climbs steeply past the Longs Peak Ranger Station through lodgepole, spruce and fir. Alpine Brook, largely concealed by timber, is the only feature of note before crossing the top of a long cascade at treeline (1.85 miles : 10,615'), where the forest is quickly reduced to bands of krummholz.
Krummholz - a German word meaning twisted wood - describes the stunted, irregular growth patterns of trees in the ecological transition zone between subalpine forests and alpine tundra.
Poor soil, thin air, and extreme weather limit growth at these elevations. Still, the tundra's nutrient-rich grasses, plants, and lichens support marmot, pika, ptarmigan, elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat.
Snow cover is possible year round, but large cairns ensure you stay on course. If disoriented, follow natural contours toward Longs Peak - intuitive routing will reconnect you with the trail. While the grade can generally be characterized as 'steep', the trail itself is consistent, manageable and easy to follow.
The trail makes a decisive turn toward the Longs Peak diamond from the Battle Mountain Backcountry Campsite spur (2.45 miles : 10,956') to the Chasm Lake - East Longs Peak Trail split (3.25 miles : 11,518'). Stock is not permitted on the Chasm Lake Trail beyond this point.
The trail bears southwest along the north wall of a deep gorge carved by Roaring Fork (Chasm's outlet) with views of Peacock Pool. It crests and drops across a steep-sided slope to an alpine bench that spans the upper valley and separates upper and lower Columbine Falls (3.8 miles : 11,580').
This short segment is narrow, slanted, and susceptible to snow slides. Traction devises are very useful when snow-covered.
The trail levels across this stream-crossed bench to the south side of the valley and Patrol Cabin (4.0 miles : 11,638'). Here the trail - more of a scrambling route chiseled from rock - climbs .2 miles to Chasm Lake.
Large boulders and uneven talus ring the lake, requiring some minor scrambling to the best viewpoints. An unimproved route circles Chasm Lake's talus-strewn north wall to the base of Mills Glacier, a shrinking remnant of the area's active glacial past.
GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View these GPS points on a Google Map
- N40 16.330 W105 33.409 — 0.0 miles : Longs Peak Trailhead
- N40 16.495 W105 33.852 — .45 miles : Estes Cone Trail split
- N40 16.385 W105 34.228 — 1.1 miles : Goblin Backcountry Campsite spur
- N40 16.489 W105 34.662 — 1.5 miles : Cross footbridge, resume steady climb
- N40 16.390 W105 34.805 — 1.9 miles : Cross waterfall on bridge
- N40 16.240 W105 34.837 — 2.25 miles : Winding trail through krummholz patches
- N40 16.251 W105 35.056 — 2.45 miles : Battle Mtn Backcountry Campsite spur
- N40 16.092 W105 35.218 — 2.75 miles : Steady, steep climb through open tundra
- N40 16.059 W105 35.464 — 3.0 miles : Pass through 11,300'
- N40 15.934 W105 35.561 — 3.3 miles : Chasm Lake - East Longs Peak Trail split
- N40 15.742 W105 35.945 — 3.7 miles : Begin cross from N to S side of valley
- N40 15.530 W105 36.040 — 4.0 miles : Reach S side of valley; begin rock scramble
- N40 15.511 W105 36.180 — 4.2 miles : Chasm Lake (11,803')
- The hike to Chasm Lake is very exposed. Get an early start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Anticipate changing weather throughout the day and carry versatile layers, sun, wind and rain protection.
- Because the first 3.25 miles of this trail is shared by Longs Peak hikers, you're very likely to encounter heavy crowds, no matter what time you start out. Crowds thin considerably beyond the Chasm Lake - East Longs Peak Trail junction.
- Parking is very limited at the Longs Peak Ranger Station. Additional parking is available along the roadside leading up to the trailhead, but is also quite limited.
Rules and Regulations
- Stock is not permitted on the Chasm Lake Trail past the East Longs Peak Trail - Boulderfield split.
Chasm Lake is accessed from the Longs Peak Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. The Longs Peak Trailhead is located 10 miles south of Estes Park off of Highway 7, between Estes Park and Allenspark.
From Estes Park, travel 9.1 miles south on Highway 7 to the Longs Peak Trailhead turnoff on the west side of the road. Follow the road .9 miles to the ranger station and trailhead. Parking is very limited, and the lot fills up early on weekends. Additional roadside parking is available. Campground parking for non-registered users is prohibited.
Rocky Mountain National Park