This hike leads you six miles through the forest along the edge of the Roaring River. When you think it will never end the trees begin to thin and the world begins to open. As you approach Lawn Lake its delightful meadows and surrounding peaks welcome you to this idyllic hideaway.
- Distance RT: 12.2 miles
- Difficulty Rating: 190* (251)
- Hiking Time: 8 hours and 5 minutes
- Time to Go: most anytime
- Season: mid-June until first snow
- Primary Ecosystems: montane and subalpine
- Views: forest and stream views followed by a large lake near tree line surrounded by mountains
- Possible Wildlife: forest animals and marmots
- Trail Conditions: The trail is generally wider and smoother than most in Rocky but it does have some rougher sections.
- Reminder: This is a longer hike, so be sure to have some way to filter water, bring plenty of food, and stay out of the open during storms.
- Elevation Start: 8,540’
- Highest Point: 11,010’
- Total Elevation Gain: 2,600’
- Trailhead: This hike begins at the Lawn Lake Trailhead near Horseshoe Park.
The trail begins on the northeast side of the parking lot. Just a few steps up the trail and you’ll need to turn left at the first intersection. Continue on up four switchbacks that quickly lead you higher. As the trail begins to head westward, parallel to the Endovalley, it provides views on the meadows below. This first section of trail is wide and fairly steep. Just before the one-mile mark you reach the edge of the Roaring River and the trail turns to the north following the river upstream. It will be your companion all the way to Lawn Lake. Here the Roaring River is in a deep chasm that it carved out during the Lawn Lake Flood and again during the flood of 2013. The edges of this bank are quite dangerous, as it is still eroding, so avoid walking anywhere near the edge and be sure to keep children well back. As the trail follows the river it will slowly begin to level out a little. In a short while it heads into an aspen grove, which can be brilliant in late September and early October.
At 1.3 miles you pass the junction for the Ypsilon Lake Trail. For the next half a mile the trail continues very gently and peacefully alongside the river. At around two miles it begins to climb and soon starts the next set of switchbacks. After four turns it begins to level out. The trail often feels rather long as it makes its way through the woods with little in terms of views beyond the forest. Fortunately, almost all of this hike is accompanied by the sound of the Roaring River, which is never too far away. This is a great hike for hot, sunny days or windy days, as neither will bother you much here in the deep forest.
You’ll cross a few streams and traverse a couple more switchbacks as you make your way through the woods. At about 4.3 miles the trees on the left open and you have a chance to go down to the stream to dip your toes in or filter some additional water. Soon you’ll reach the start of the last switchbacks. At the top of those four switchbacks you’ll notice the trees getting shorter and things beginning to open up. The trail levels out and you’ll begin to get glimpses of Mummy Mountain. Eventually the trail will come right alongside the stream and you’ll notice lots of debris. This was the result of the Lawn Lake Flood in 1982 when a dam at the lake broke. As you move through this area you’ll pass a junction on your right. This is the Black Canyon Trail, which leads a long ways back to Lumpy Ridge.
Shortly after the junction the trail enters a marshy area that can be a bit muddy and which during the early summer is filled with a great variety of wildflowers. Continue on up and eventually the forest will open for you at the outlet of Lawn Lake, the start of the Roaring River. From here you’ll walk through beautiful meadows with views of the lake. When you reach the junction for the campsite trail (wilderness camping permits required), turn left and follow the small path down to the water’s edge. I’m certain this is a place you’ll want to stay for quite a while as you soak in the beauty of this special place.
If you have energy and the weather shows no sign of storms, consider continuing on to Crystal Lakes, which is another 1.4 miles up trail from here.