August 2: Dayhiking in the Bear Lake Area

To me, the rugged splendor of Lake Haiyaha and Chaos Canyon was the highlight of the trip,

If there was one day I was looking forward to more than the whitewater rafting it was today. Today we would get into the park's backcountry a few miles and let the kids see what things were like more than a couple hundred feet off the road.

We got a decent start on the day with our now customary breakfast of cereal and fruit. The kids were all pretty good about getting their daypacks ready while Yumi made some sandwiches and prepared lunch for the trail. By 10 AM we were on our way to the Bear Lake area, arguably one of the most scenic in the entire park.

We (read: I) made a minor mistake by blowing past the sign that told us there was no parking available at the Bear Lake parking area, resulting in our backtracking to Glacier Basin to catch the shuttle bus back up. The ride was enjoyable even though we had to stand for the 10 minute trip.

Once off the bus we were treated to a very busy and crowded trailhead complete with a ranger acting as traffic cop. Not sure what to do we decided to make the easy half mile walk around Bear Lake before heading up to Emerald Lake. Bear Lake was picturesue, but teaming with families, senior's and young children---definitely not my image of communing with nature, but I'm sure our huge tribe detracted from others experiences as well.

After making our lap of the lake we immediately began the ascent to Emerald Lake---about 2 miles and 700' up. the trail was more like a blacktopped sidewalk for the first mile and didn't waste any time climbing. What would have had me gaspng for breath a couple of days ago was now a walk in the park as we had ample time to acclimatize. We passed tiny Nymph Lake, all decked out in Lilly Pads, about halfway to Dream lake. Not bad, but hardly the scenery I had envisioned. Not more than a few minutes later we were at the foot of Dream Lake. That's better.

It was a little after noon so we decided to push on to Emerald Lake and have our lunch there. that was not to be, however, as the trail up to the lake was closed for trail maintenance until 4:30. It didn't matter. We found a nice rock large enough for all of the kids to sit and eat upon while Yumi and I sat on the trail and watched a family of ducks make thier way towards us looking for a handout. They didn't get anything from us other than crumbs from our turkey sandwiches though not for lack of trying. One even sampled my boot lace but gave it up after a few attempts. I was surprised to note that these ducks seemed to leave Yumi alone---unlike the bighorn's and mountain goats and deer which seemed to torment her last summer in Glacier.

The view up to the cirque which held Emerald Lake was very impressive and I was very disappointed that the trail was closed. Whatever angst I was having was soon replaced by humor watching Nick decide to jump into the frigid waters of Dream Lake. Yes it was cold and I think it surprised him. Sabrina joined in and waded a little bit while the others valued the warmth and security of their rock.

After spending about a hour at Dream Lake it was decision time. Should we go back or hike up to Haiyaha Lake a little more than a mile away. The weather was good and the kids were for it so we packed up, said goodby to "baby AFLAC" and made our way back to the foot of Dream Lake. En route we saw a Ptarmigan perched on a large rock, oblivious to the dozen other hikers a mere 50 feet away.

The trail leading up to Hiayaha looked to be more vertical than anything else. While Todd, nick and Sabrina charged right up the ridge, Yumi, Melaina and Matt were, well, not into the climb. I managed to coax them upward until we completed another 400' climb. The reward was a beautiful vista looking over Storm Peak, Long's Peak and Glacier Gorge to the west. To the east and far below was Nymph, Bear and Dream Lakes. A truly impressive sight which almost rivaled our view into the Nyack from Dawson Pass last year at Glacier. From here it was an easy walk to Lake Hiayaha.

A great view looking towards Dream and Emerald Lakes.

Simply put, Hiayaha was the most rugged and beautiful lake I have ever seen. Guarded by boulders the size of small cars, this lake was fed by the remnants of a melting glacier running down through Chaos Canyon. The kids loved it almost as much as I and had fun tossing their water bottles down to me so that I could fill them up with filtered ice-cold water. Again Nick was the bravest as he dunked himself in the lake while the others were content to get their feet wet and scramble over and around the boulders.

After spending some time soaking up the beauty, the trail crew that was working on the trail to Emerald Lake paraded by and told us they opened up the trail early. since it was only 3 PM the kids all decided to go back and check it out. The lone dissenting vote was Yumi who thought the storm brewing to the west might be a problem. I thought so too but really wanted to see Emerald Lake.

Just as we got back to Dream Lake it started to sprinkle and we donned our rain gear. What started as a beautiful day was turning dark, but I wasn't worried as we were prepared and wouldn't be hiking on any exposed ridges. we pushed onward and mostly upward. Again, Yumi, Matt and Melaina were not happy to be climbing so I lied to them and told them the lake was close. For that melaina wrote me a ticket for lying later that night. We eventually made it to the lake just as the skies opened, dumping the first drops of what would be a rather hard rain.

Fed by Tyndall glacier and framed by Hallet Peak and Flattop Mountain, Emerald Lake was gorgeous despite the rain. We couldn't stay long and had to beat it back down to the trailhead and the relative warmth of the shuttle bus.

Though Melaina and Matt struggled for energy climbing earlier in the day, they certainly found their second wind on the way back down. Though we had already hiked nearly seven miles already, they practically sprinted all the way down to Bear Lake, leaving me in their dust---or mud. We were able to catch the shuttle back to Glacier Gorge and were soon in the van heading back to our camp at Moraine Park.

After dinner at the A&W the kids and Yumi, minus Todd, went to play mini golf while I checked out some of the outfitting shopes in town. Todd caught up on his beauty sleep in the back seat. I spent a half hour chatting with the manager at the Warming Hut" about the park, hiking and Glacier, where he was headed in a few weeks. Unbeknownst to us, another massive storm was coming over the mountains, and it was going to be a good one. Before we knew it the skies opened and it began to rain like hell. I quickly purchased a filter element for my water filter and five single serving dehydrated meals for my Glacier trip and dashed through the rain to the van so that I could pick up the rest of the kids who were by now chased off the course.

We made it back to camp and were thankful the downpour had turned to a light drizzle. Pretty much wasted from the long hike, everyone fell asleep quickly to the pitter-patter of raindrops on the tent.


Rocky Mountain National Park
The Drive West
Moraine Park
Trail Ridge Road & Trail Ride
Dayhiking the Bear Lake Area
Ridge Road & Trail Ride II
Rafting the Poudre
Back to the Springs
Visiting Coach Paul
Home Again
Final Thoughts
Back to Vacations and Getaways


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