- Mileage: off the road
- Altitude: 9, 475 feet
- To get there: Take the Bear Lake Road in RMNP to the Bear Lake trailhead.
As we approach the start of the Bear Lake loop trail, I feel a bit like I am entering an amusement park. There are families chattering and parents disciplining their children. We have a volunteer take our picture. But mostly what makes me feel this way is the sheer amount of people who are also embarking on the loop. As much as I love to go backpacking for days and not see another hiker, I don’t really mind the people here. Bear Lake is big and beautiful and offers some of the best views in the park of Long’s Peak, the Keyboard of the Winds and Hallett Peak. Everyone here is enjoying themselves, and that’s what national parks are all about, right?
The way I remembered Bear Lake is much different than the way I am seeing it today. It is the fourth of July and my parents have come to hang out for the day. Last time I saw Bear Lake it was December, the lake was frozen and snow-swept and Hallett was a looming, white monolith in the distance. Today, the hills that flank the Bear Lake trail are covered with sprawling green foliage and wildflowers. In December, it was quiet and serene. Now it is buzzing with human life. As I think about these differences, I am smiling. RMNP is the only national park I have spent any amount of time in during the winter and it’s baffling to see the way Bear Lake has exploded with activity this time of year.
Seeing it this way just makes me more curious about what changes are to come in RMNP during the fall and winter. As we finish the loop on the south side of the lake, I can see remnants of the winter at Bear Lake lingering as a mother and son have a July fourth snowball fight.
Source: Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park, by Kent and Donna Dannen.