Happily Lost campsite

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On the trail to the Happily Lost campsite

On the trail to the Happily Lost campsite. This site is in the northern area of the park and had many segments of lush, green meadows and woods.

Hike details:

  • Mileage: 12.4 roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 1,600 feet
  • Altitude: 9,560 feet
  • To get there: Follow highway 36 West through Glen Haven to Dunraven Road. Follow this dirt road to the Dunraven Trailhead. Note that you are beginning the hike in on National Forest Service land and will be hiking into RMNP 4.1 miles into the hike.
  • Side Trips: Lost Lake: 3.8 miles from the campsite, The Glen Haven General Store, where they have the best homemade cinnamon rolls in the world!

“Just one more campsite to pass and we will be happily lost,” Alex says as we near our site.

When making our camping reservations for this week, he chose this site based solely off its name. Along with having the best name of any site I’ve ever camped in, this is also one of the best trails I’ve ever hiked on. We are hiking along the river for the first couple of miles and the bank is overgrown with thick, green life. I am marveling at the jungle-like woods as we go deeper and deeper into them.  As we continue and get away from the water, the greenery changes. Now, we are in meadows with long grasses and green-leafed Aspens. The Aspens own this area, I’m sure of it. Being one of my favorite trees, there is something about them that is always enchanting to me. Their leaves are always moving a bit, even if it’s still outside, and they are thin enough to let the sun through. This always makes me think they are sparkling or twinkling. On the way to the site, the scenery changes once more to lodgepole pines and imposing boulders. But it is in the Aspen meadows that I feel happily lost, like I am in another world.

The hike to the site seems fairly quick for 6 miles with full packs on in early season. I mention this when we reach a sign indicating we have 0.9 miles left. I quickly realize I spoke to soon, as this final bit drags on and seems to suck out our last ounces of energy. After the grueling 0.9 miles we reach our site. At the ‘Happily Lost’ sign we meet two hikers who are planning to go up a bit further and reach Lost Lake, 3.8 miles above us, early in the morning. This is their first time in Colorado and they are grubby and grinning at us.

“This is so much bigger than the hills of Indiana,” they tell us.

I realized after my first summer of working in Yellowstone that I, having grown up in Colorado, took the Rockies for granted for the first 18 years of my life. I could see them from my childhood neighborhood. I spent summers camping in them. I spent winters skiing in them. But it wasn’t until the first time I saw someone crane their neck at tall mountains that I realized mountains were somethin’ special! And now, in the company of these happy Indiana hikers I am again humbled at the greatness of these giants. The hikers are eager to go after just a few minutes of small talk and we head down to our site.

Despite having the best name and the best trail to it, Happily Lost is not the best site I’ve ever camped at. It’s a decent site:

On the trail to RMNP

The hike to Happily Lost begins and National Forest Service Land and enters RMNP 4.1 miles from the trailhead.

nothing extraordinary and nothing extremely disappointing. It’s in a grove of pines, where we can hear the river and are steps from it. It’s shaded, has a pit for a fire, and has a bit of a view of nearby Mount Dickinson.

My cousin is on this trip with Alex and I and we spend the night catching up while we make dinner and tend to our small, extremely smokey fire (all the wood is wet!) When it gets chilly and we are moving closer and closer to the coals we decide to put the fire out and play poker in the tent, betting with M&M’s (disclaimer: if you do this, make sure not to lose a candy or leave trash in the tent when you’re finished. There are bears in the area! Even having these candies in the tent to begin with probably wasn’t the smartest idea…but sometimes we’re not the smartest.)

I’ve never played poker and I spend the dusk hours at Happily Lost nodding in pretend understanding and sneaking M&M’s from the dealers pay-out pile.


Source for hiking details: Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park, A Falcon Guide by Kent and Donna Dannen. 
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