Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Timber Lake Trail - Rocky Mountain National Park

The first time I made this trek was on a weekend trip to Colorado for my 40th birthday. For my 40th birthday my wife bought me an airline ticket so I could climb my first 14er on my 40th birthday. My birthday fell on a Sunday so to acclimate I made this hike up and around Timber Lake, stopping on the way back to pick up a few Colorado River cutts from Timber Creek.

You would think the trailhead would be somewhere near Timber Creek or Timber Creek campground, but instead it is across Trail Ridge Road from the Colorado River trailhead - about a mile up the road from the campground.

The trailhead sits somewhere around the 9,000 feet mark and Timber Lake rests in a cirque just over 11,000 feet. That's a pretty moderate elevation gain over the 5.3 miles, with only one strenuous section of trail.

The first mile or so of the trail is relatively flat as parallel the road. After you cross the footbridge on Beaver Creek the trail begins to quickly gain elevation. During this section of the trail you have excellent views of the Never Summer Mountain as you catch vistas in and out of the tree tops. I had several photos of these views but a lost laptop hard drive = lost pictures.

Once the trail turns east and heads away from the road the trail flattens out again until you reach the 3.5 mile mark and the junction with Long Meadows trail. This is also the first opportunity on this hike to wet a line for Colorado River cutthroat.

If you decide to remain on the trail your next half-mile is the most difficult section of the trail. With multiple switchbacks this section of the trail is still difficult until you reach the meadow section and Jackstraw back country campsite. Once you enter the high meadow you will also pick up Timber Creek again.

I think this is one of my favorite sections of water to fish anywhere in the park. The stream is a little over a foot wide, and deeper than wider, but if you can get a fly on the water through the high grasses the little cutts are very anxious to take anything that hits the water.

The final pitch up to the lake is another steep section of trail, but very short. The lake sits in the shadows of Mt. Ida at just over 11,000 feet.

When I visited this lake in September of 2007 the lake ha apparently turned over and had gone from (a reported) crystal blue to a dull shade of green...but still an amazing view!

The only fish I saw in the lake was a "floater". There are a couple of smaller lakes that surround Timber Lake but I saw no fish cruising those either and (again) lost hard drive = lost photos.

I have since made this hike one more time (August 2008) but instead of taking the difficult switchback section I made my way to the meadow by staying in Timber Creek and I stopped just short of the lake itself.


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