Lawn Lake, Lawn Lake Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Lawn Lake - 12.5 miles

Lawn Lake Trailhead

View of Lawn Lake from the trail to Crystal Lakes

View of Lawn Lake from the trail to Crystal Lakes

Round-Trip Length: 12.5 miles
Start-End Elevation: 8,540' - 10,987' (11,019' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +2,447' net elevation gain (2,558' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Lawn Lake - 12.5 Miles Round-Trip

Lawn Lake is located 6.25 miles from Lawn Lake Trailhead in the Mummy Range of Rocky Mountain National Park. It fills a wide, flat basin at treeline ringed by Fairchild Mountain (13,502'), Hagues Peak (13,560') and Mummy Mountain (13,425').

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

This notably large lake offers exceptional fishing and numerous backcountry sites. The long but moderate hike closely follows Roaring River much of the way, highlighted by diverse forests and abundant wildlife:

The Lawn Lake Trail climbs 534' to the level east bank of Roaring River with good views over Horseshoe Park on the ascent (1.0 mile : 9,074'). It turns north upstream to the Ypsilon Lake Trail split (1.4 miles : 9,170'), a shorter but comparably challenging alternative to Lawn Lake.

The trail rises steadily through intervals of lodgepole, fir and aspen to the split for a trio of backcountry campsites on the west bank of Roaring River (2.75 miles : 9,605'). This designated crossing provides safe river access for anglers.

The trail keeps a moderate pace through heavy timber before emerging in a wide flat (5.25 miles : 10,690') with good views north of Mummy Mountain (13,425').

It passes the Black Canyon Trail split (5.65 miles : 10,807') and climbs into a band of old-growth spruce (6.0 miles), emerging from thinning timber on the south shore of Lawn Lake (6.25 miles : 10,987'). No horses are permitted beyond this point.

Lawn Lake is one of Rocky Mountain National Park's largest subalpine lakes. Its perimeter is long, flat and easy to explore. Mummy Mountain looms east, while Fairchild Mountain (13,502') and Hagues Peak (13,560') stand north of an unnamed 12,541' peak directly over Lawn Lake's west shore.

The main trail continues on to Crystal Lakes and 'The Saddle', a 12,398' pass between Fairchild Mountain and Hagues Peak.

History
Lawn Lake was once dammed. On July 15, 1982 its 26' high earthen dam failed, releasing 674 acre-feet (219,724,000 gallons) of water at an estimated peak discharge rate of 18,000 cubic feet (134,640 gallons) per second down the Roaring River valley. Three people were killed and damages totaled $31 million.

As a result, sections of the Roaring River's high banks are unstable and prone to sudden collapse. Lawn Lake's south shoreline still bears the scars of this catastrophic event, though nature is rapidly reclaiming it.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 24.439 W105 37.564 — 0.0 miles : Lawn Lake Trailhead
  • N40 24.648 W105 37.722 — .55 miles : Steady climb over Horseshoe Park
  • N40 24.911 W105 38.013 — 1.0 miles : Level out on high bank over Fall River
  • N40 25.203 W105 38.085 — 1.4 miles : Ypsilon Lake Trail split
  • N40 25.644 W105 38.398 — 2.0 miles : Fast travel on level bank
  • N40 26.023 W105 38.102 — 2.75 miles : Backcounrty campsite spur
  • N40 26.276 W105 37.690 — 3.5 miles : Moderate rise in diverse forest
  • N40 26.603 W105 37.572 — 4.0 miles : Cross 10,000'; forest comp changes
  • N40 26.969 W105 37.642 — 4.5 miles : Emerging views of surrounding peaks
  • N40 27.168 W105 37.481 — 5.0 miles : Transition to spruce-fir forest
  • N40 27.652 W105 37.290 — 5.65 miles : Black Canyon Trail split
  • N40 27.754 W105 37.514 — 6.0 miles : Patchy forest and high point over lake
  • N40 27.888 W105 37.708 — 6.25 miles : Lawn Lake
  • N40 28.215 W105 37.944 — 6.75 miles : Rugged travel on north side of lake
  • N40 28.295 W105 38.153 — 7.0 miles : Grades steepens through treeline
  • N40 28.396 W105 38.388 — 7.35 miles : Crystal Lake - The Saddle split
  • N40 28.368 W105 38.745 — 7.75 miles : Crystal Lake #1
  • N40 28.254 W105 38.810 — 7.95 miles : Crystal Lake #2
  • N40 28.803 W105 39.413 — The Saddle

Worth Noting

  • Autumn travelers stand a good chance of seeing elk in the Horseshoe Park area; winter visitors may see bighorn sheep that come down for salt licks in the vicinity.

  • Aspen and leafy vegetation along the river bank yield brilliant autumn colors. Late summer berries and mushrooms attract bear to this travel corridor.

  • The Roaring River's high banks are unstable and prone to slides and collapse; steer clear of its edges.

  • Be mindful of changing weather patterns and get below treeline before storms develop.

  • There's a Ranger Patrol Cabin at Lawn Lake.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Permits are required for all overnight stays. Fires are not permitted within Rocky Mountain National Park. Camp safely away from dead trees, as close as possible to the silver metal arrowhead posted at each site. Red flags on trees provide additional guidance to each campsite from the main trail: The Ypsilon Creek, Cutbank and Golden Banner sites are located on the west bank of Roaring River. A spur from the Lawn Lake Trail (2.9 miles, +1092') crosses the river and forks with access to each:

  • Cutbank Backcountry Camspite

  • The Cutbank site is located 2.6 miles from the Lawn Lake Trailhead at 9,620'. There's one individual site with access to a privy. The site is located in a lodgepole forest on the west side of Roaring River. Water is available from Roaring River.

  • Ypsilon Creek Backcountry Campsite

  • The Ypsilon Creek site is located 2.9 miles from the Lawn Lake Trailhead at 9,560'. There's one individual site with access to a privy. The site is located in a lodgepole forest above the confluence of Ypsilon Creek and Roaring River on the west side of Roaring River. Water is available from both sources.

  • Golden Banner Backcountry Campsite

  • The Golden Banner site is located 2.9 miles from the Lawn Lake Trailhead at 9,600'. There's one individual site with access to a privy. The site is located in a lodgepole forest on the west side of Roaring River (.3 miles north of the river crossing). Water is available from Roaring River.

  • Lawn Lake Backcountry Campsite

  • The Lawn Lake site is located 6.2 miles from the Lawn Lake Trailhead at 10,987'. There are 4 individual sites and a llama-stock site, each with access to a privy. The sites are located in a spruce-fir forest on the north side of the lake, west of the Patrol Cabin. Water is available from the lake, but ideally taken from the inlet. Lawn Lake was once a man-enlarged lake, but the dam broke in 1982 causing considerable flooding downstream and forming the Alluvial Fan and Fan Lake. The lake now exists at its original level.

  • Ypsilon Lake - Upper Chipmunk Backcountry Campsite

  • The Upper Chipmunk site is located 4.2 miles from the Lawn Lake Trailhead at 10,640'. There are two individual sites and a privy. The sites are located northeast of the Ypsilon Lake trail between Chipmunk Lake and Ypsilon Lake in a dense pine forest. Water is available from the outlet of the pond or from Ypsilon Lake. The water is slow moving and a filter would be helpful in addition to your purification measures.

Fishing Information

  • Only catch and release fishing is permitted along the Roaring River, Lawn Lake, Crystal Lakes and Ypsilon Lake drainages.

Directions to Trailhead

Lawn Lake Trailhead is located 5.1 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station in Rocky Mountain National Park (2 miles north of Trail Ridge Road on Fall River Road).

From the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station, continue west on Highway 34 (Trail Ridge Road) to Deer Ridge Junction (3 miles).

Turn right at Deer Ridge Junction and drive 1.9 miles to Fall River Road. Turn left on Fall River Road, and then an immediate right into the Lawn Lake Trailhead parking area.

Contact Information

Rocky Mountain National Park
Visitor Information:
970.586.1206

Backcountry Office:
970.586.1242

Campground Reservations:
800.365.2267

Emergency Dispatch:
970.586.1203

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.



Comments

"This was my first attempt at lawn lake 10/16/2017. My wife and I hike all over RMNP since moving here from Ca a few months ago. We had to detour since 34 was closed which added about an hour to our start time. We did get to the trailhead til 1pm. The hike was one of the best so far - with the roaring creek to the west of the trail almost the whole trip. There was still snow on the ground for half the trip up. There are still 2 trees laying across the trail. There are several switchbacks throughout the trip. Since we went on Monday and got a late start - we only ran into 4 people the entire day. Which in the back of my mind had me concerned as I remembered back at the trailhead was a black bear warning that had just been printed and posted. We stopped a couple times to eat a snack and catch our breath. We were in awe of the damage that the 82 damn break caused. 35 years ago - and it was still evident that the damn break must have been catastrophic. I felt bad for the hikers that lost their lives. By the time we made it to the lake it was 5pm. In our dedication to completing the hike, we’d threw caution to the wind and were ok with traveling back in the dark. We stopped for a short time and checked our gear for headlights and jackets/gloves. We knew it took 4 hours to get up and in an hour it’d be dark. We started down - at a much quicker pace as we had completely forgot about the bear issue until the sun started to set. My headlight was dead ( my fault for not checking - must have been in my pack for a couple years without use since camping in idlyllwild, Ca) I still had a flashlight and my wife had a good headlight and a flashlight. I decide we’d use the 1 at a time until the batteries died. My wife walked behind me w her headlight on which cast enough light for the both of us. The sun had long set and the sky was moonless. Pitch black consumed the mountain. My wife started to pray out loud that we’d make it back to the truck safely. I was, for 2 hours hitting my trekking poles together to make as much noise as possible, in hopes that whatever was out there would hear us and decide to move on. We passed a few landmarks in the dark to where we knew where we were, but it felt like an eternity had passed. I had always taken enough gear to survive an overnight if required due to injury or getting lost in the dark. I had made some mental notes about where some good spots were. We didn’t stop one time on the way down - we were operating on pure adrenaline knowing we were potentially on the dinner menu. When we got to the switchbacks that I remembered from the start of the trail - I told my wife we r almost there. At the same moment she said “ oh my god, I just saw the reflection of eyes” we both came to a dead stop I had her get up close to me and I looked back at her and asked her to point to them. She said they were right there. We moved up the trail a few feet to get around a tree. I was using my flashlight and I came across the “eyes”. It took my breath away and I thought this was the end and so close to being safe. Thankfully the “eyes” were a pair of dear that were just grazing 10’ elbow the trail. We had to keep going - a few moments later I saw the trailhead and the reflection of my license plate. We had made it. We got in the truck right away - started it and got the heater going. We looked at each other with disbelief and amazement at the same time. This trip has made us stronger and more aware of what we need to pack and double check before heading out. Thanks for reading "
Tom  -  CO  -  Date Posted: October 23, 2017
"Hiked the trail 7/9/1982 - 7/11/1982. This is a memory I will never forget. Although my hike to Lawn Lake was some 30+ years ago I will always remember the aftermath of what happened up on that mountain 4 days after we had completed our weekend adventure. I was about 5 years out of high school at the time and had started to enjoy backpacking, especially in Rocky Mountain National Park. Well, myself and 2 of my buddies decided we wanted to go backpacking the weekend after the 4th. So we headed up to RMNP on that Thursday after work. We got to the backcountry office just before they were getting ready to close. Our first option of destinations was not available but they had some campsites available at Lawn Lake for that weekend. We got our permits and headed up to the trailhead. It was almost dark before we started so we got out our flashlights and headed up the trail. I remember we hiked for several hours and decided to stop along the trail to sleep for the night (our flashlights were starting to go dim and we still had 2 more nights to go). I pulled out my sleeping bag and laid it next to the trail to sleep for the night. Well about an hour or so into my sleep I woke up itching all over. Well to my horrified surprise, I had set my sleeping bag down on an ant hill and had ants all over inside my sleeping bag. That wasn't fun. After cleaning out my sleeping bag the best I could, I laid it back down right on the trail and tried to get some sleep. Not much luck with that. So my buddies and I got packed up and started back up the trail just at sunrise. We got up to the Lawn Lake campsites just a few hours later. We were all so tired we just set our packs down and dozed off. About 45 minutes later we woke up to a deer who had wandered into our area and was maybe 20 feet from us. Had never been that close to any large wildlife before. We just stayed still and let the deer finish roaming off. We had crashed in an area just to the right of the trail and below the lake. The campsites were just below the lake and to the left of the trail. We made our way over to the campsites and noticed how soggy it was just below the lake. Didn't think much of it at the time as we had never been to this lake before. A foreshadowing of events to happen a few days later. Well, we had a great time at the lake for a couple days. I remember we tried fishing but did not catch anything. I do remember hiking to an area just above the lake which was above timberline. There was a large area covered by snow along a rock slide area. I remember coming back down that rock slide area and deciding it would be a quicker descent to slide down the snow. Great idea for a while until I started sliding and couldn't stop. Tore up my side pretty good as I the snow ended and slid into the rocks. Lesson learned. We saw many more deer, an eagle feeding her chicks and couple wolves or fox, not quite sure. Very enjoyable trip. We headed back down the trail Sunday morning. Thursday morning changed Estes Park forever. My heart goes out to those who lost there lives. "
Tim  -  Colorado  -  Date Posted: August 10, 2015
"I would have put year in date hiked but the drop down box didn't go back to 1982. That year was my 3rd trip to Lawn Lake. On this trip my buddy and I were supposed to be there July 15. We hiked up on the 12th and camped above the lake and dam on the right at a designated camp spot. Then we were going to leave mid morning the 15th for Crystal Lake for a couple days before heading back down. Each trip I wanted to stay at Lawn a couple full days because the brook trout fishing was great. In fact the trip before I stood on the earthen dam at dusk and just after dark a moth hatch occurred and 1000's of moths were everywhere. Bats were flying around eating them and knocking them into the water. The trout were literally jumping out of the water to eat the moths. I had a small white popper with white feathers that looked like wings coming off the side. I put that on and I didn't even have to cast. I just underhand tossed it out a few feet from shore and I couldn't keep it in the water. My other buddy's didn't fish and were back in camp sleeping. I came back with a handful to eat (you could keep some back then) and had fun until the moths stopped and the full moon came over the range. I had caught and released probably 30 or so 1 to 1 1/2lb brookies. It was around midnight then and I had a blast standing on that dam all by myself. There were so many moths you couldn't open your mouth or you would breath in a few. When I got up next morning my sleeping bag a some dead ones in it from my cloths and hair.

Anyway back to the story at hand. Near the end of the hike to the lake was a camp spot we were going to stay at. It was maybe 50yrds or so directly below the dam. There was a group of hikers staying there and we stopped to see what was up. They had the good spots so we went up to the spot right of the lake I had stayed at before. As it turns out these were the hikers killed. Some of the details I learned later is the dam collapsed around 6am if my memory is correct. Nobody at that time was up so they were swept away in the 30ft wall of water that came out of the lake with the catastrophic failure of the dam. They were found inside their tents still in their sleeping bag. They were crushed against trees, likely the cause of death and not drowning. It boggles the mind to think what went through theirs.

Now that we set up and I started fishing the weather turned bad. A lot of rain moved in and temp dropped. So after spending the 12th and 13th with bad weather we decided to pack out the morning of the 14th and head south to Arizona for some desert hiking and camping. We were driving down the highway in Arizona I believe on the 16th and heard a radio report of a back country dam that broke in the park, killed some hikers and flooded Estes. So we kinda freaked a bit and I told my buddy that I'll bet it was Lawn Lake dam. So another day went by and we stopped at phone to call home and check in. My mother told me they had seen this news on a local TV channel in Ohio where we lived. She called the park because she knew we were supposed to be there and they told her we were on a list of unaccounted for. We didn't check in when we got back down, just got in our truck and headed for a hot shower and soft bed. So I had my mother call them back and tell rangers we had left a day early. I felt bad but we were young, cold and tired. I was 26 and my buddy 23. It's a mistake never made again.

Fate was definitely on my side twice. The 1st was moving to the other campsite. The 2nd time was I spent 2 days standing on that dam fishing. It could have collapsed with me standing on it or we could have camped at the spot below and stayed until the morning of the 15th. I am 60 now and it has always stuck with me I meet and spoke with the ones that died. It easily could have been me and my buddy.

I used to have the back country permit that we wired to our packs back then and an newspaper clipping I cut out from somewhere that had a picture of the flood damage in Estes. But I do have the last picture of Lawn Lake I took leaving the morning of the 14th. I will always be thankful it didn't happen to us but I always wonder what would have happened if we stayed. We wouldn't have been hurt but how or when would we have gotten out. I'm sure the trail was wiped out with timber and rocks. On a prior trip I meet a man 80yrs old that helped build that trial when he was young. Him and his daughter day hiked up on a sunny warm July day.

I made 10 trips in total to the Rockies from Saw Tooth Range in Idaho to the Grand Tetons to Rocky Mountain National park. My last trip will be 30yrs ago next summer. We live in SW Florida now and I'm retired. I can't pack like I used to, to much arthritis but I could do a day hike or 2. I now scuba dive and tell people I have been to the top of the country to the bottom. I dive the wrecks down in the keys to 120ft blow sea level. My wife and I are planning a RV trip next summer and will visit as many places as we can out west. Those trips in my younger years help mold me as a man. Great confidence builder and you learn to adapt and overcome adversity. 10 days of hiking 50 miles in the Rockies to 12,000ft and back down will do that to a person.

I hope I didn't bore you and somebody enjoyed my story..I sure enjoyed making those memories. I could sit for hours reliving them. My buddy Dave died over 10yrs ago in a traffic accident. If I take a day hike up to Lawn Lake I will carry up a couple Coors and have one for each of us sitting on that dam. I will be tankful for all I have accomplished in my life and be thankful it wasn't us below that dam. And of course toast to those unknown people that lost their lives to soon to that strange twist of fate. We used to worry about bears, go figure.

If anybody would like to email me, feel free. I sure would like to know who those other hikers were that didn't make it.

Tom Hammen Ft Myers Florida [email protected]

Thanks Tom"
Tom  -  Florida  -  Date Posted: August 3, 2014

"The trail requires no special skills, but the elevation gain means 3 hours of steady climbing, The trail is quite rocky and only real hiking boots are recommended. The scenery is well worth the 5+ hours required for the round trip trek. Nearly all of the hike was in complete solitude."
David  -  Aurora, CO  -  Date Posted: June 27, 2012

 

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