Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park Winter Trip Report
The 3:30am wake-up call came with some ease this go around. Surprisingly, my eyes naturally popped open without an alarm. It’s as if my natural body clock knew what was coming. I rolled out of bed and got moving for today’s destination: Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park. Who doesn’t want to ring in a new year watching the sunrise dramatically over the snow-capped mountains?
Rocky Mountain National Park Info
However, here’s the catch: Rocky Mountain National Park is quickly becoming one of the most popular national parks in the United States. According to the park, in 2014 there were over 3.4 million visitors. That’s staggering. Traffic jams, long lines, and overcrowded trails lead me to mostly stay away from the place despite the scenery.
So why did I bother? Well, my tactic to avoiding crowds in popular wilderness areas is simple – I’m up painfully early and I go during the off-season. Today was a perfect example of that. January 1st is the number 1 day to sleep in. Squirrel and I decided that is the perfect time to hit the hay early and head to the park’s most popular area – Haiyaha Lake Trail in the Bear Lake parking area.
Lake Haiyaha Trail Area
The trail to Haiyaha Lake is one of the most popular trails in the state if not all of the National Parks. It’s easy to see why: Lake Haiyaha Trail is one of the best trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail is roughly 4 miles round trip up pretty easy terrain. As you meander gently uphill the trail treats you to four pristine high alpine lakes nestled among staggeringly high dramatic cliffs. The trail gets tougher and thus, less crowded, once you start to gain a rather short ridge to the final Lake – Lake Haiyaha. As you round the corner you’re greeted with a steep drop to a valley below while surrounded by the iconic rocky peaks that make Colorado famous.
The place is a dream. And we had it all to ourselves. Ya sure, conditions were less than ideal, with strong winds and freezing temps, but fit for a new year. Everything isn’t going to go your way, there will always be an obstacle to overcome in return for the reward.
Trail Information for Lake Haiyaha Rocky Mountain National Park
Trailhead: Located at the end of Bear Lake Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. Use the East access for entry.
Round Trip Distance: This trail is roughly 6 miles round trip. It was hard to track this time of year, as the snow means that the main trail is covered. With all of the drifting snow, we were certainly off the main trail.
Elevation Gain: Only 885 vertical feet of gain makes this trail a breeze, even in the snow.