Trail Snapshot: Ypsilon Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
- Hike Distance: 9 miles Round Trip
- Difficulty: Difficult
- Duration: Approx 5-6 hr Round Trip
- Trail Type: Out and Back
- Starting Elevation: 8540′
- Elevation Gain: Approx. +2180′
- Seasons: Spring through Fall
- Dogs: Dogs Prohibited in RMNP
- Hike Trail Map: Click for a Map of Ypsilon Lake RMNP
- Recommended Trail Map: We recommend the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map – topographic with detailed information.
- Denver Drive Time: 1 hr 40 min
- Driving Directions to Lawn Lake Trailhead: Click for Google Map
- Town Nearest Hike: Estes Park, Colorado
- Beauty: Lake, waterfall, mountain views, aspen, ponderosa, meadows, river, wildlife: elk, Abert’s squirrel; wildflowers.
- Activities: Picnicking, hiking trails, fishing, snowshoeing, horseback riding, backcountry camping (with a permit), photography
- Fee: Park Pass Required
Parking & Trailhead Information for Ypsilon Lake
The Hike: Ypsilon Lake Trail in RMNP
The hike begins on a 1.4 mile stretch of the Lawn Lake trail before the intersection with the Ypsilon Lake Trail. This initial segment climbs a series of switchbacks. While it may be tempting to cut the switchbacks, they are there for a couple important purposes: to control erosion and to preserve your energy. Because this area of the park has been severely damaged by floods, it’s all the more important to stay the trail. There are areas of unstable terrain.
At 1.4 mile, the Ypsilon Lake trail junction will emerge on the left-hand side of the Lawn Lake trail. Here, the trail crosses the Roaring River–but the bridge has been washed out by a flood in the Spring of 2013. At the time of writing this trail profile (June 2016) the bridge has not been replace. However, the river can be crossed at low water. It’s easy to underestimate the hydraulic force of a river, so exercise care in crossing. If you’re planning to hike to Ypsilon Lake, it’s important to have a back plan, just in case you run into high water levels at the ford. Typically, the water levels are low, but both snowmelt and heavy rains can change levels quickly.
Approximately 0.5 mile after crossing the Roaring River (@ 2 miles), the trail begins a sustained climb along the ridge of a moraine. This longest segment of the hike leads through thick timber, then crests at 3.8 miles before descending to Chipmunk Lake @ 4.0 miles. The mountain peak reflections in Chipmunk Lake make this worth stopping for a photo.
There is a backcountry camping area with two individual sites just past Chimpmunk Lake at 10,640′. Camping permits can be obtained through the RMNP Wilderness offices. The trail from Chipmunk Lake to Ypsilon lake is just 0.5 mile, arriving at Ypsilon’s western shore. Hikers who pause to listen may hear the sounds of Ypsilon Falls. This segmented and tiered cascade can be accessed by crossing a small footbridge, then hiking toward the sounds of the falls along Ypsilon’s northwestern shore.
The return hike follows the same route back to the Lawn Lake trailhead, making this a 9-mile, round-trip journey.
Tips & Resources for Hiking to Ypsilon Lake in RMNP
- Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
- Bridge Out: Due to the damage caused by a flood in September 2013, the bridge over Roaring River is missing. Cross only during low water, and see the RMNP flood closures page for updates.
- Get there early: Parking may be somewhat limited as with many hikes in RMNP area and can get full even early in the morning.
- Recommended Trail Map: We recommend the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map which indicates the location of the Upper Chipmunk Backcountry Camping Site, and provides topo information.
- Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
- Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Roger Dellinger for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Ypsilon Lake in RMNP.
- After the Hike: Mountain Home Café
Map & Driving Directions
Click for Driving Directions