Hiking Lawn Lake Trail: Rocky Mountain National Park

After my parents’ visit to watch me race cyclocross at Valmont, I knew I needed a weekend off racing to recharge and rest a little. The nerves are almost harder on my system than the actual race itself.

So when I walked through my front door a couple Fridays ago, I dropped all my bags next to my bed and faceplanted into my comforter. I let out a sigh that literally came from the center of my body and decided then and there that I wasn’t going to race on the last weekend of September. There were two on the calendar—and I even had a free entry into one of them—but I had absolutely no desire to roll up to a start line. Every cell in my body needed a break from alarms, late nights, early mornings, and racing.

I’ve been joking that I’ll only take cyclocross racing seriously when someone pays be to do it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care, don’t get nervous, and don’t want to win. I care a lot because I’m competitive as hell, and the mental stress of meeting my own expectations combined with my body’s need for a breather told me one thing: I needed to take the weekend off of competing.

Saturday: Logan Mill Ride

When I woke up at almost 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, September 28th, I still wanted to ride my bike. But I wanted to do it solo, in the mountains, with a good amount of climbing. I slowly sipped a cup of piping hot coffee and pulled up the blinds to find gray skies. It was actually calming. We get so much sunshine out here in Colorful Colorado that it’s kind of lovely when we get an overcast day every now and then.

I pulled on my bibs, a long sleeve jersey, a vest and then my helmet. The morning was chilly and one of the first signs of fall weather.

I warmed up on some of the flat roads out east of me then eventually made my way towards the mountains for some climbing. I hadn’t ridden Logan Mill in quite awhile, so I rode up Sunshine Canyon, connected to Poorman, then Fourmile and hung a left up Logan Mill, a long and fairly steep dirt climb.

It got quieter and calmer the higher I went. A few trucks rumbled past me going up and going down. An elderly woman sauntered to the end of her driveway to pick up her morning paper. Saturday things. A couple miles later, I peeled off onto Escape Route, which took me even further into the dewy trees overlooking Boulder.

As I looked out over the teeny tiny city I loved so much, I wondered why I didn’t do this ride more often and with more friends. Noted.

Over a piping hot cup of post-ride coffee, I decided no bikes on Sunday. Plus, it was the last weekend I could use my annual National Park Pass before it expired, and I was on my last pair of bib shorts anyway.

Sunday: Lawn Lake Trail Hike

After a quick search on my AllTrails app, I decided on Lawn Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park. Estes is a bit over an hour away, so I wanted something long that would make the drive worthwhile. Lawn Lake Trail begins near the beginning of Old Fall River Rd. and is an out-and-back of about 12 to 13 miles depending on where at the lake you turn around. The elevation gain is tame and the highest point is just over 11,000 ft.

On Sunday morning I left my place around 6:30 a.m. to beat the traffic. Any later, and you’re sitting in a parking lot of cars on the highway. I stopped for coffee and gas and arrived at the trailhead around 8:00 a.m. As I started the hike, the sun had risen over the mountains and bathed everything in an orange-gold light that just filled up my soul. It’s moments like this when I realize how lucky I am to be here, and how much happiness Colorado has brought into my life.

Another one of the reasons I wanted to get into RMNP that weekend was to see the trees. It’s called leaf peeping out here. This time of year, the green leaves change to a bright yellow and light up the forests. It’s one of the most beautiful phenomena you’ve ever seen.

A couple miles in, the trail starts to run parallel to a river that eventually leads to Lawn Lake. Several times during the hike I turned off my podcasts and listened to the rushing water, the leaves rustle against each other, and the birds squawk to each other. Getting out of the city and away from traffic and other people is one of the most relaxing feelings I think I’ve ever experienced.

Several hours and a handful of podcasts later, I finally made it to Lawn Lake, a beautiful blue body of water, maybe less than half a mile across. It’s completely surrounded by mountains and looked like it was nestled in a crater on the moon. I sat down in the dirt just off the trail to inhale a container of oatmeal I’d stuffed in my backpack earlier that morning. Walking uphill for more than 6 miles and with almost 3,000 ft. of elevation gain really took it out of me. My legs throbbed and my head spun a few times on the way up. I’d forgotten a spoon, so I tipped the container up and let the cold oats mixed with protein powder and almond milk slide right into my mouth. Man, it was good. I just sat and listened for about 15 minutes. Crickets, wind against the trees and the mountains, my own breath…it was so peaceful.

I didn’t want to get up, but I knew the descent back down would be infinitely easier than what I’d just done. And, really, it ended up being so great because the hike felt totally different on the way down than it did going up. I got to look around a bit more and at new things that were behind me, the weather warmed up quite a bit while I was up high, and I even ran a little bit which was a nice change from what felt like doing lunges uphill for six miles.

As I plodded back down, I saw a lot more people, so I knew I had gotten there at the right time to have more of the trail to myself. When I finally had the parking lot back in my sights, I was so happy to see my car and the bathrooms. I couldn’t wait to sit back down in my car and head home to lunch and coffee. My legs and hips were screaming and I was definitely on the verge of overheating in my long sleeve thermal top and wind jacket.

Lawn Lake Trail is excellent for new hikers, those that aren’t looking for anything too steep or technical, want a hike with less elevation gain, and would prefer an out-and-back so they can turn around any spot they please to make the hike as short or long as they want. The end, though, is definitely the reward because the lake is just so beautiful.

I’ll definitely be renewing my pass very soon so I can go back and enjoy some hikes before the winter really hits and forces trail closures.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s