Gem Lake, Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Gem Lake - 3.3 miles

Lumpy Ridge Trailhead

Gem Lake is a short day hike from the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead

Gem Lake is a short day hike from the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead

Round-Trip Length: 3.3 miles
Start-End Elevation: 7,882' - 8,830'
Elevation Change: +948' net elevation gain (+971' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Gem Lake - 3.3 Miles Round-Trip

Gem Lake is located 1.65 miles from the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead on the northeast side of Rocky Mountain National Park. It fills a shallow depression near the top of Lumpy Ridge, a massive granite rock complex home to numerous raptor species and world class climbing.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Gem Lake is unusual in that there's no true inlet or outlet stream - surrounding rock traps, collects, and steers water into the small basin. The lake faces south at a modest elevation, meaning less snow and faster melt that make it one of Rocky Mountain's most accessible 4 season hikes.

In May 2007 the Twin Owls Trailhead was relocated approximately .5 miles to the east and re-named Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. The new trailhead - which accesses Gem Lake, the Twin Owls Loop and all Lumpy Ridge climbing destinations - holds more parking and updated park information.

Some maps do not illustrate the recent move. Signs at Lumpy Ridge Trailhead clearly depict new routing and distances affected by the relocation:

The trail climbs steeply through mature ponderosa and aspen all the way to Gem Lake. Sculpted granite boulders line the trail and lend to the area's unique aesthetic. Autumn visitors will enjoy brilliant colors and a gold carpet of fallen leaves.

Openings in the forest yield rangy panoramas that include Longs Peak (14,259'), Estes Cone (11,011'), Taylor Peak (13,163'), Powell Peak (13,208'), McHenrys Peak (13,327'), and the Estes Park area.

The moderately-strenuous grade levels out only upon reaching Gem Lake. The lake's west shore is beach-like, while the north and east shores are encased by vertical granite walls that can be reached from their flat base just above waterline.

The trail continues past Gem Lake on longer routes to Bridal Veil Falls and the Twin Owls Loop.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 24.107 W105 31.218 — Lumpy Ridge Trailhead
  • N40 24.646 W105 30.206 — Gem Lake

Worth Noting

  • Dogs are not permitted on the Gem Lake Trail.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Rabbit Ears Backcountry Campsite

  • The Rabbit Ears campsite is located at 8,100', 1.4 miles from the Cow Creek Trailhead and 5.5 miles from the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. There is 1 site and a bear box available. Water is available from Cow Creek. The site is located south of the Cow Creek Trail in an open area surrounded by trees. It sits below the ridge where two upright rocks simulate rabbit ears. A rock bench behind the site makes a natural seating area.

  • Peregrine Backcountry Campsite

  • The Peregrine campsite is located at 8,480', 2.0 miles from the Cow Creek Trailhead and 5.2 miles from the Lump Ridge Trailhead. There is 1 site and a bear box available. Water is available from Cow Creek. The site is located off the Cow Creek Trail, approx. 100 yards past the Dark Mountain Trail junction.

  • McGregor Mountain Backcountry Campsite

  • The McGregor campsite is located at 9,040', 4.1 miles from the Cow Creek Trailhead and 5.1 miles from the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. There are 2 sites available; no bear boxes are provided. Water is available from Black Canyon Creek. The site is located in a thick pine forest south of Black Canyon Creek off the Black Canyon Trail.

  • Wood signs mark campsite spurs, which may also be marked by red arrowheads on trees. Pitch tents as close to the indicated site as possible, safely away from standing dead trees. Boil or adequately treat all water. Stoves only. Fires are prohibited, unless staying in a wood fire site with visible metal fire ring.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs are not permitted on the Gem Lake Trail.

Directions to Trailhead

From downtown Estes Park, turn north on MacGregor Ave, which becomes Devils Gulch Road shortly after crossing US Highway 34. Continue on Devils Gulch Road past MacGregor Ranch. The turn off for the trailhead is less than a mile ahead and marked by an NPS sign. Turn left (north) on the trailhead access road, which dead ends in several hundred yards. The trailhead has pit toilets.

Contact Information

Rocky Mountain National Park
1000 Highway 36
Estes Park, CO 80517-8397

General Visitor Information:

Backcountry Permit Info:

Campground Reservations:

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Challenging with constant ascent via rock and bolder steps to small lake (more like a pond). Great panoramic views of Estes Park along trail. Some guide books say this is a moderately easy trail suitable for families with kids, but trust Protrails ( thanks Protrails!) for their accurate description of moderate (lower levels) to strenuous (as the ascent continues 900+ feet). On our dissent, we saw several families and older individuals that were stressed....and they were barely at mile 1. Don't be fooled by the relatively short distance of just over 3 miles. It's straight up. A great cardio workout that we highly recommend if you are prepared. Arrive early for parking. "
jj  -  Austin  -  Date Posted: July 14, 2017
"Just hiked this morning with my 17 year old son. He and I both went about as fast was we could. I'm 56 and relatively fit, but not a runner. I went up in 40 minutes and down in 14 with just a few stops to take a couple of pictures. My son did not time himself, but he was probably at least 5 minutes ahead of me. I'm not bragging, I just want to give a perspective that while this trail is pretty much straight up, it's not at all too challenging for anyone who is relatively fit. As you can see from other comments, it's also very doable for anyone who is willing to take a little extra time and rest. That being said, be prepared for some steep sections and some stair steps. The lake is small, but very pretty."
Doug  -  CO  -  Date Posted: July 31, 2016
"Did this hike today. Got there about 10am and it was already very hot in the sun. This hike is rated moderate but due to the steep elevation climb and huge steps that have been put in, I'd call it a bit harder than that. I also saw two different people walking their dogs up as I was on my way down. Take lots and lots of water. Some energy giving food for at the top by the lake is very helpful too. Google maps has the entrance a half mile further down the road than it actually is but luckily the owners of the private property have put a clear sign up saying Google is wrong go back half a mile. Be sure you can handle heat and altitude, but otherwise great hike!"
Willow  -  Centennial, CO  -  Date Posted: July 24, 2016
"Been hiking this one since 2009. It's great to hit up right after breakfast and before too many people are coming down while you're going up. About 90 minutes up and about 45 down if you want it to be. Great vistas. "
Jon Hatten  -  Lexington, KY  -  Date Posted: February 1, 2016
"Suggested by and hiked with friends from work. I'm the oldest in the group (61) and not in the best shape, but thanks to our pace with a good number of breaks, it was a wonderful experience with breath-taking views. To all those who do the work, thank you. Nicely maintained trail! To my hiking buddies, Frank, Michele, and Monica - thank you for a great day! "
Julie  -  Greeley  -  Date Posted: October 12, 2015
"We completed the hike today with 2 boys (age 7 1/2 and 5 1/2). It took us 2 hours to ascend to Gem Lake, taking multiple breaks in the plentiful shade. Our family of 4 went through 80 oz of water so make sure you bring enough. At the top we decided to wade in the water of Gem lake. Upon getting out we realized we had very small leeches on our feet. It was painless but annoying to get them all off (they were around the size of an uncooked rice grain). I wouldn't recommend swimming in it for this reason. Hike down took 1 hour, and was painless. Highlights: beautiful views, log bridge, lots of shade, well kept trail."
Jessica  -  South Denver  -  Date Posted: July 26, 2015
"Great trail, with spectacular views all the way up! The lake is more of a pond, but amazingly beautiful. Go early to avoid crowds later on. Highly recommended. "
Donna  -  Lakewood, CO  -  Date Posted: May 28, 2015
"It feels like a long two miles, but the views of Estes Park near the top are exceptional, along with of course the beautiful lake itself."
Danny  -  Estes Park, CO  -  Date Posted: January 27, 2015
"Got there around 7am and had the trail to myself. Definitely challenging on the legs and lungs, but took it slow to enjoy the autumn colors and amazing views. Hardest part are the stone steps that have a high rise to step up (or down) to them, but there are not many of those. The tiny "lake" was like a mirror and is a serene place, though not so much with the tons of people who arrived by mid morning."
TH  -  Omaha  -  Date Posted: September 28, 2014
"Excellent hike, beautiful views and humming birds galore. Can't wait to hike this trail in the in the fall to see the changing colors."
Carol  -  Berthoud, CO  -  Date Posted: June 24, 2014
"We hiked Gem Lake with our 7 and 5 year-olds and it was a bit difficult for them. Lots of water breaks! I also had my two year-old in a carrier on my back, so we got quite a workout. The kids loved having lunch at the top and putting their feet in the water. There are some steep places with rock "steps." Pack extra water! The views along the way are amazing!!"
Kim  -  Colorado  -  Date Posted: July 28, 2013
"We loved the hike, it was tough a bit, but my family, wife,son, daughter, future son in-law,and my 65 year old mother truly enjoyed it, it was a little hard for my mother, but getting to the top made it all worth while. We had a lunch there and was visited by several chipmunks,be careful they get too friendly. Great hike, highly reccommended"
Tony Ramberg  -  United States  -  Date Posted: October 4, 2012
"This hike gains elevation quickly and has a lot of steps, some of them very high steps, so I don't see how younger children could easily navigate this trail. My husband and I hiked up to the lake and beyond to cover about 6 miles. We did it easily, but our legs are longer than a 3-year-old. By the time we got back down to the trailhead (11 am), there were no spaces in the parking lot, so arrive early to avoid the crowds. We enjoyed the hike and the elevation climb is good to get the heart pumping. FYI, the trail beyond Gem lake was much more enjoyable for us - it is more secluded and no rock steps!"
Vicky  -  Westminster, CO  -  Date Posted: August 20, 2012
"Date approximate. We hiked this and it became a favorite. The fist time we did it, there was this woman working out for a triathalon. She was running up and down the mountain. We would stop to 'admire the view' about every 10 minutes and it seemed like every time, there she was running one direction or the other. OK, it took her about 40 minutes between passes. But boy was it humbling to two flat-landers with only three natural knees."
RogerFeeley  -  Kansas City  -  Date Posted: August 17, 2012
"This is a great hike for kids. Yes you've got some elevation gain, but the trail isn't particularly rocky or hard to hike and it offers decent shade. Take your time, it's doesn't have to be a race to the top. Enjoy the nice views looking down into Estes Valley and explore some of the cool rock formations along the way. At the end, you'll see that the trail is aptly named when you come upon a little jewel of a lake. We climbed the rock formations behind the lake (the ascent is MUCH safer from the back side) and were afforded a lovely 360 degree view. Finally.... this is a heavily used trail. On a Monday morning, we were on the trail by 7:30a.m. and pretty much had the place to ourselves until 9:30a.m. On our way down at 10, the place was crawling with people. My advice is to get up early and beat the crowds."
Carol Brand  -  Boulder, CO  -  Date Posted: July 30, 2012
"I enjoyed this hike this morning. It was already hot at 9am but with a few stops for water and catch my breath, this 58 yr old lady did the hike in a total of 3 hours. On the way down I talked with alot of people and took some pictures. I ate a sandwich at the lake. I probably could have done the whole hike in 2 hours if I wanted to. I liked the sandy trail which was easy on my feet. Yes, take water, wear a hat and sunscreen and have fun."
Janet  -  Brighton  -  Date Posted: June 8, 2012
"First off, this is NOT an easy trail. It's longer then you think and my whole family only made it 20 feet before we were out of breath. Over all, we only made it half a mile before we could barely move. Be sure and have water. Lots of it. "
Taylor  -  Colorado  -  Date Posted: May 31, 2012


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