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Solitude Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Solitude Lake is an alpine lake situated in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park. Solitude is aptly named, as it is hidden from the main trail system, situated high above Glacier Gorge in the shadow of Thatchtop and Arrowhead Peak. Because the hike to Solitude and its twin sister, Shelf Lake, require travel on unmaintained trails, it is best suited for more experienced hikers who are familiar with Rocky Mountain National Park and who are have honed their land navigation skills. Full details can be found in the trail profile for Shelf Lake. Explore the full Solitude Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and all the tips and resources for this hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Solitude Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Solitude Lake is located about a quarter mile beyond Shelf Lake. Between the Shelf and Solitude are an unusual set of cascades, Shelf Lake Falls. Above the falls, you'll find a beautiful array of alpine wildflowers and breathtaking views of Longs Peak, Keyboard of the Winds, and the broad valley of Glacier Gorge. The hike up to Solitude take hikers past Alberta Falls, Mills Lake, and Shelf Creek Falls.

creek flowing bluebells at mouth of solitude lake

A final reminder: This hike is not on maintained trails, is a long hike, and demanding. Hikers should be familiar with RMNP and developed the skills needed for backcountry travel. A more detailed trail profile for locating the trail and a brief description of its course and hazards are can be found on the Shelf Lake hike profile page. If you are looking for a demanding hike on maintained trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, we would recommend exploring trail profiles for Sky Pond and Black Lake.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Solitude Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

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Black Lake Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Black Lake Falls cascades down the towering granite cliffs above Black Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. This trail through Glacier Gorge takes hikers past multiple sub-alpine lakes and several waterfalls. It's a demanding, 10 mile, round-trip hike with significant elevation gain in the heart of RMNP.

Trail Snapshot: Black Lake Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Black Lake Falls is located on the cliffside above the western edges of Black Lake and is best viewed from the boulder strewn shores of Black Lake. In the photo above, you'll be able to distinguish the stream of the falls cascading over grey granite cliffs. For a detailed description of this journey to Black Lake Falls, explore our full trail profile on Black Lake. Below you'll find a list of some of the other destinations in the Glacier Gorge trail system.

List and Links of Destinations From Glacier Gorge Trailhead to Black Lake

1. Glacier Gorge Trailhead
2. Alberta Falls - @ .8 mile
3. Mills Lake - @ 2.8 miles
4. Jewel Lake - @ 3.2 miles
5. Ribbon Falls - @ 4.8 miles
6. Black Lake - @ 5 miles

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Tips & Resources for Hiking Black Lake Falls in Glacier Gorge RMNP :

  • Start Early: The hike to Black Lake and Black Lake Falls is challenging and hikers will want to begin early to avoid being in this exposed area when afternoon thunderstorms often tear through the area in Summer.
  • Trekking Poles in Spring and Winter: Because the trail is high in the mountains, the snow and ice can hang around into late Spring and even early Summer, then pick up again in the Fall. Because of this, we recommend Trekking Poles and/or Traction Devices for this trail when the trail conditions are such.
  • Parking: If the parking lot is full at Glacier Gorge Trailhead, there is a shuttle available to take you to the trailhead, or you can park at the Bear Lake Trailhead.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park Trail Conditions: Click for RMNP Trail Conditions
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor Trails: Trail Map Link
  • Rain Gear Recommended: On every occasion I've been into Glacier Gorge, it's been gorgeous weather--and it rained. So, bring Rain gear. In the summer months, thunderstorms can form quickly in this area, especially in the afternoon--just another reason to begin your hike early.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Inkwell Brew Coffee
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Martin Braveboer for sharing such an amazing photograph of Black Lake and Black Lake Falls.

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Shelf Lake Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

You won't find the cascades of Shelf Lake Falls on the map. This tiered, shelf waterfall is hidden away in the high country above Glacier Gorge in Rocky Mountain National Park. Shelf Lake Falls flows out of Solitude Lake then into a creek that spills over the rock shelves of the falls, cutting strange formations out of the snow and ice that often remain into late Summer.

Trail Snapshot: Shelf Lake Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

The journey to Shelf Lake and Shelf Lake Falls follows an out-of-the-way, unmaintained trail, and is a very demanding hike. The hike is best suited for those who have experience navigating off-trail in the backcountry. Because this is a destination page, it does not include trail details. See the Shelf Lake Trail profile for a more detailed description and photos of this hike into the high country of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Shelf Lake Falls in Glacier Gorge RMNP

  • Start Very Early: Because this hike is so demanding, and because thunderstorms jet through Glacier Gorge on many summer days, it's wise to begin the journey early in the morning.
  • Parking: If the parking lot is full at Glacier Gorge Trailhead, there is a shuttle available to take you to the trailhead, or you can park at the Bear Lake Trailhead.
  • Bring Food: My legs were shot after hiking back to the main trail, and my energy was waning. I had packed a few snacks, but wish I had packed more. So, bring something to give you an energy boost for your hike back to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.
  • Trekking Poles: Trekking poles proved really helpful, especially in navigating the descent.
  • Recommended Map for Rocky Mountain National Park: The trail maps provided by Rocky Mountain National Park are usually sufficient. However, if you plan to hike RMNP often, we recommend purchasing a National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Inkwell & Brew Coffee

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Shelf Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

This demanding hike in Rocky Mountain National Park takes you off the beaten path to two high-mountain lakes, and grants views of several waterfalls along the way. This trail profile provides helpful details for making the journey to Shelf Lake, Shelf Lake Falls, and Solitude Lake. Because the hike to Shelf Lake requires travel on unmaintained trails, it is best suited for more experienced hikers who are familiar with Rocky Mountain National Park, and who are have honed their land navigation skills. Explore the full Shelf Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and all the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Shelf Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

The Hike to Shelf Lake RMNP

Shelf Lake sits high above Glacier Gorge, nested in a cirque between Thatchtop and McHenrys Peak. The journey begins at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. However, the Bear Lake Trailhead--which has more parking--affords access to the Glacier Gorge Trail system, adding approximately .1 mile jaunt. The first scenic point along the trail, Alberta Falls, is found at .8 mile in. The trail leads to Mills Lake (at 2.8 miles). Here you'll gain breathtaking views of Longs Peak and the Keyboard of the Winds. The trail skirts the east side of Mills Lake, and makes its way past Jewel Lake.

shelf lake rocky mountain national park trailhead

Soon, you'll come to a fork in the trail with a sign that reads Glacier Gorge campsite, and Black Lake 1.2 miles. The Glacier Gorge Campsite is probably the best site in the entire park and to reserve it, you will have to call the backcountry office as soon as their season opens for reservations. I've spent several months in the park over the years, and this site is unrivaled. However, the trail up to Shelf Lake requires hikers to continue on the main trail, the one that leads towards Black Lake.

Past the sign, the trails climbs a set of stairs and eventually, after approximately 1/4 mile, emerges into an area that is full of downed trees from what appears to have been an avalanche many years ago. If you keep your ears and eyes peeled, you'll see Shelf Creek Falls spilling out into a couple segments of waterfalls up along the cliffs and trees below Arrowhead (see photo below). The hike up to Shelf Lake will afford more views of these falls.

shelf lake rocky mountain national park arrowhead

The unmaintained social trail is located across glacier creek, to the right (West) and can be difficult to find. After a short buschwack across a marshy area to Glacier Creek, a natural crossing point should come into view. Hikers should find two large, flat rocks (pictured below). This has been named, Helicopter Rock. Other crossing points are not advised as the gap widens and the current of Glacier Creek can be swift and very cold.

shelf lake rocky mountain national park trail crossing

On the other side of the creek, the real work begins. The trail is marked--at times--by cairns, but it's often a route-finding puzzle. My rule of thumb is always to avoid anything steep and/or slippery. There is also a TON of deadfall along the trail, which adds further need for caution and slows progress. About half of the way up, you'll encounter another waterfall, Shelf Creek Falls, as the trail bends again toward Shelf Creek.

The last half mile is demanding, hiking around 1000 vertical feet up to Shelf Lake. Don't forget to stop, breath, and take in the views of Glacier Gorge. At this point, hikers are truly in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park.

shelf lake rocky mountain national park view into glacier gorge

View into Glacier Gorge and Keyboard of the Winds before Reaching Shelf Lake

At Shelf Lake, you'll hear water streaming over the shelves of rock above the lake. In the early days of Summer, the meltwater cuts beautiful formations out of the snow and ice as it cascades from Shelf Creek Falls into Shelf Lake. View the video below to see it.

You've hiked this far, so it would be a shame to miss Solitude Lake which is a short hike further above Shelf Lake. The wildflowers between the two lakes are outstanding!

A final reminder: This hike is not on maintained trails, is a long hike, and demanding. Hikers should be familiar with RMNP and developed the skills needed for backcountry travel. If you are looking for a demanding hike on maintained trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, we would recommend exploring trail profiles for Sky Pond and Black Lake.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Shelf Lake in Glacier Gorge RMNP

  • Start Very Early: Because this hike is so demanding, and because thunderstorms jet through Glacier Gorge on many summer days, it's wise to begin the journey early in the morning.
  • Parking: If the parking lot is full at Glacier Gorge Trailhead, there is a shuttle available to take you to the trailhead, or you can park at the Bear Lake Trailhead.
  • Bring Food: My legs were shot after hiking back to the main trail, and my energy was waning. I had packed a few snacks, but wish I had packed more. So, bring something to give you an energy boost for your hike back to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.
  • Trekking Poles: Trekking poles proved really helpful, especially in navigating the descent.
  • Recommended Map for Rocky Mountain National Park: The trail maps provided by Rocky Mountain National Park are usually sufficient. However, if you plan to hike RMNP often, we recommend purchasing a National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Inkwell & Brew Coffee

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Mt. Bierstadt Trail on Guanella Pass

Summit a Fourteener, Mount Bierstadt, or go for an easy hike with your family high in Colorado's Rocky Mountains. In short, you've got options on this trail near the top of Guanella Pass. You can choose an easy stroll or a difficult hike. Explore the trail snapshot and profile below for hiking, camping, and trail map info.

Trail Snapshot: Mr. Bierstadt Hike at Guanella Pass

You've got options with the Mount Bierstadt trail. First, we'll profile the hike to the summit. Below that, you'll find some information on how to just explore the area with your family or friends, making this an easy hike high in the Colorado mountain.

Climb Your First Colorado Fourteener

Mt. Bierstadt is popular, not just because it's so close to Denver, but it's also one of the easier and more accessible of Colorado's 54 fourteen thousand foot peaks. The Mount Bierstadt trail can be accessed on the south side of Guanella Pass from the Mt Bierstadt trailhead (click here for map and directions from Denver). It's important to be aware that the weather can change in an instant in the mountains, and that snow can come in fast even in the late Spring and early Fall. As with any Day Hike, be sure to (at least) pack the 10 Essentials.

The Bierstadt trail is well marked; you'll follow signs down to a boardwalk, then to Scott Gomer Creek. After crossing the creek, the trail will become more steep, and the steepness will increase as you make your way to the summit. The trail winds gently through the tundra until you are about three miles in when the green and brown gives way to rock. Follow the west ridge up to the summit of Mount Bierstadt. For a detailed trace and profile of the Mt.Bierstadt route, see this Route #1 Bierstadt profile on 14ers.com.

hiker crossing creek below mt bierstadt near guanella pass with child in backpack carrier

Make it an Easy Family Hike

Hiking Colorado's Bierstadt trail doesn't mean that you have to summit. In fact, the first mile of trail is really tame. It takes you over a creek, through willows, and by two small high mountain lakes. If you want to gain additional views, you can add another half mile of moderate hiking that will take you above the valley floor.

We took our 4 1/2 year old, 2 year old with us in the Fall and they loved it. Dog's on the Mount Bierstadt trail must be kept on a leash and need to be kept 100' from water sources (in short, they aren't allowed to play in the lakes and streams). In fact, because we'd recommend that you leave Fido at home because of the fragile alpine tundra ecosystem. In August of 2012, Missy, a German Shepherd, was rescued after being stranded on the peak for eight days. You can read more about her ordeal and the rescue in this Denver Post article.

lake along bierstadt trail on guanella pass colorado hike

Camping Near the Mt. Bierstadt Trail

There are a lot of campground sites along both sides of Guanella pass that are managed by the forest service (fee required) and dispersed camping is allowed on US Forest and wilderness areas. Below you'll find a few important links to camping information for the Mt. Bierstadt and Guanella Pass Area.

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Mt. Bierstadt Trail:

  • TIP: Go Early; the parking lot at the Mt. Bierstadt Trailhead fills fast.
  • TIP: If you've never summited a 14er before, be sure to read this great article by Lindsey Koehler of 5280 Magazine.
  • TIP: If you plan to summit Mount Bierstadt, start early so that you can be back at the trailhead before the almost daily summer thunderstorms role in. I'd recommend starting around 6am, so that you're back at your car around 11am.
  • TIP: Hiking times vary. Those who frequently make the assault on Mt. Bierstadt (even trail run it), can make it up and back in 3 hours. The average is 5hrs, but adjust for experience and how good of shape you're in
  • After the Hike: Tommy Knocker Brewery
  • TIP: The weather will be cooler at the trailhead than the posted Georgetown, Colorado temperature below. It will be even cooler at the summit of Mt. Beirstadt.
  • Trail Map for Guanella Pass: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions

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Chicago Lakes Hike Near Mt. Evans

Want to take in some of Colorado's breathtaking scenery and put some miles under your hiking boots? The Chicago Lakes hike begins at Echo Lake. You'll pass three more mountain lakes as you punch up into the high country of Colorado's Mt. Evan's Wilderness. Explore the full trail profile below for the Chicago Lakes which includes driving directions, map, and tips.

Trail Snapshot: Chicago Lakes Hike Near Idaho Springs, Colorado

Looking for amazing views and some high mountain lakes near Denver? This challenging hike takes you to two high mountain lakes with amazing views of the Mt. Evans Wilderness area. Both lakes can be fished, as well as the lower Idaho Springs Reservoir that you pass on your way. We are not into giving long trail descriptions on Dayhikes Near Denver, but we'd suggest you read the basic one below and check out the trail description and pdf Chicago Lakes map link in the trail profile below.

The Chicago Lakes Trailhead and Trail: Park at the Echo Lake lot, where you'll find the sign for Chicago Lakes Trail 52 on the west side of the lake. That will lead you to another sign about .5 mile later directing you to the trail. The trail will turn into Idaho Springs Reservoir Road, then will return to a normal trail. It climbs through a burn area, the result of a fire in the 1970s, then continues to climb to Lower Chicago lake. The trail has a lot of character: steep areas, massive cliff walls, and expansive meadows. The trail continues, faint at times, up a steeper section to Upper Chicago Lake.

wildflowers in meadow with mountains in background on chicago lakes trail near mt evans colorado

As you'll see in the comments on this hike, people come back with different trail lengths. So, to clear this up: Beginning at Echo Lake, the trail is 4.24 miles one-way to the lake. However, most people don't want to stop there, many continue on to the upper lake, which adds and additional .6 mile to the trail. Then, some people opt to hike around the lake, which adds to the hike as well. You may want to start early, especially in the Summer months so that you have the time to explore and to avoid our famous, afternoon Colorado thunderstorms.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Chicago Lakes Near Mt. Evans, Colorado :

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