Towards the end of a week off for our anniversary, Suzy and I hiked up to Lawn Lake, in Rocky Mountain National Park, on August 18th, 2012. We had been partially up this trail two or three times in the last 10 years during the winter, on snowshoe trips, but never all the way up to the lake. Knowing the history behind the Lawn Lake Dam failure, resulting in the Estes Park flood in 1982, the hike offered more that just a scenic day out. To watch an interesting collection of news coverage on the flood, check out Estes Park Flood 7-15-82 KWGN-TV.
We left the trailhead at about 11 AM, and after a few switchbacks up the steep slope, the incline mellowed out a little and started following the Roaring River up to Lawn Lake. This shot, taken roughly 40 minutes up the trail, shows the erosive forces released by the sudden massive surge of water rushing down towards Estes Park after the dam breached thirty years ago.
An hour and a half up the trail now, we came up on this beautiful view of a waterfall cascade. Knowing how low the rivers and streams are right now in this drought, I hope I can get back up in the spring to see this with a more impressive water flow.
An hour further, we walked by this pretty section of the river. I just wish the sky hadn't been so overcast at the time.
Nearly three hours up the trail now, we were only about a quarter-mile from the lake. The boulders and lack of any vegetation really sparked my imagination of what it must have been like as the lake drained itself of over two hundred million gallons of water.
As we approached the lake, I was shocked at how small the breach actually was. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not begin to visualize the force of that much water being released so quickly through a point of failure so small.
This photo shows how low the lake is now compared to its capacity prior to the dam's failure. I would like to have seen how beautiful the lake was in its natural state, prior to the construction of the dam.
We saw a low slab of rock on the west side of the lake that looked like a good spot to eat a late lunch, so we crossed the river and headed on over to it. This picture, showing Hagues Peak northwest of the lake, was taken there after my usual peanut butter sandwich with one or two energy bars.
Continuing on circling the lake after our late lunch, I took this shot looking west. While my first though was that this might be Ypsilon Mountain, I felt it was too close. As with Hagues Peak, I had to consult the map to ID Fairchild Mountain. Some day I'll come back and hike on up to Crystal Lake at the base of this impressive face.
Working around the northwest end of the lake now, we tip toed through the soggy ground that feeds the lake. This picture was taken just after hopping over the creek and looking back across the lake.
Just after taking the last picture, Suzy, who was 10 yard ahead of me, let me know that a marmot was working its way through the brush towards me. I pulled out the camera just in time to get this series of shots while it moseyed on by.
As we complete our tour of the lake, I got a good shot of Mummy Mountain, just up from the northeast shore of the lake. This is the 3rd of the three 13,000 foot peaks surrounding Lawn Lake.
20 minutes or so down from the lake now, on our way out, I got a nice view looking down in the direction of our descent and took my final shot of the day. The GPS claimed our round trip hike was 13.5 miles, with a total ascent of 2,570 feet, reaching a high of 11,065 feet above sea level.
National Park Service - Climbing and Mountaineering in Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park: The High Peaks
U.S. National Parks Net - Rocky Mountain National Park Hiking Guide