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Mirror Lake
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Mirror Lake, especially on a weekday, has to be one of the best destinations I know of for escaping the Rocky Mountain National Park trail traffic. Other than three rangers coming out as we started in, we never saw another hiker all day. This I’m sure is due to the fact that the trailhead is located up the Poudre Canyon, and a couple miles outside the park’s north border. So, it was 7:55 AM, Thursday, August 15th, 2013, when Suzy and I started up the trail from the Corral Creek Trailhead.

Corral Creek Trailhead sign

An hour and a half up the trail, as the grade started getting a little steeper, we came up on a young buck. He ran up the hill for 20 yards or so but stopped, with an ornery look, to watch us.

Young buck on trail to Mirror Lake

Ten minutes further up the trail, we saw this little critter. I’ve always enjoyed watching these Douglas (Pine, or Chickaree) squirrels; they are so - squirrely.

Douglas (Pine, or Chickaree) squirrels on trail to Mirror Lake

Three hours and forty minutes on the trail now, we were getting fairly close to the lake, and as we hiked past a small meadow, we saw this little falls on the other side. We watched closely for moose in the area but didn't see any.

Small falls across meadow west of trail near Mirror Lake

Almost exactly four hours after leaving the trailhead, we arrived at Mirror Lake. It was beautiful, sitting under the east face of Mount Ikoko, and we ate some lunch while we took in the view.

Beautiful view of Mirror Lake under the east face of Mount Ikoko

We crossed Cascade Creek and walked over to the lake’s southwest corner. Suzy picked out a rock for some lazy lounging in the sun, while I worked up the slope for a while to see what I could see.

Suzy relaxing on a rock along the SW shore of Mirror Lake

The SW slope was full of wildflowers. I wanted to work up to Mount Ikoko’s south slope, and then summit, but I settled for just enough height to see the pond north of the lake.

Mirror Lake and pond to the north, as seen from the lake’s SW slope

A close-up of the pond shows just how close it is to the lake. There’s a little waterfall cascade on the short creek running down from the pond, just out of this shot to the left (west).

closeup of the pond north of Mirror Lake, as seen from the lake’s SW slope

Coming back down the slope, I met one of the resident marmots. They are cute, but don’t ever leave your pack on the ground unguarded with one in the area.

Curious marmot on the lower SW slope of Mirror Lake

Much of the upper forest floor on this hike has a beautiful green cover. At 2:25 PM, on our way back down, I finally had to stop and get a picture of it.

The green forest floor along the trail below Mirror Lake

At 3:50 PM, we were back at the convergence of the Cache La Poudre River - coming in from the south (left) - and the La Poudre Pass Creek - coming in from the southwest (right). This is the north boundary of the Park. We still had about one hour to go to finish off the hike.

convergence of the Cache La Poudre River and the La Poudre Pass Creek

We made it back to the jeep at 5:00 PM and were heading back down the dirt road, jabbering away and feeling good, when this moose caught Suzy’s eye 30 yards out in a small clearing. Seeing it along the roadside at the end of the day was mildly disappointing - I would have rather seen it during the hike - but it was better than no sighting at all.

Moose along the dirt road, a couple miles from the Corral Creek Trailhead

The GPS showed that, jeep to jeep, the hike took 8 1/2 hours, totaled 13.95 miles, had a total elevation gain of 2,479 feet, and reached a max elevation of 11,206 feet. I would love to do this again sometime with enough gear for a three or four day stay at the lake.

Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric) Mushroom Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric) Mushroom Rose crown (Clementsia rhodantha) Rose crown (Clementsia rhodantha) Star gentian (Swertia perennis) Star gentian (Swertia perennis) Rosy Paintbrush (Castilleja Rhexifolia), Elephant Flowers (Pedicularis groenlandica), Spreading daisy (Erigeron divergens) Rosy Paintbrush, Elephant Flowers, Spreading daisy Agaricus augustus (The Prince) Agaricus augustus (The Prince) Ramaria largentii Ramaria largentii Old Man’s Whiskers - Geum triflorum Old Man’s Whiskers - Geum triflorum
Speyeria hesperis Speyeria hesperis Gnophaela vermiculata Gnophaela vermiculata

Mirror and Emmaline Lakes Area Topo Map

RMNP Links

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

Click for Estes Park, Colorado Forecast