One of my favorite parts of living in Colorado are the quick and easy day trips that make you feel like you actually got out of town, sometimes it even feels like another country. I knew when my brother and his girlfriend were coming to visit they’d want to experience as much as they could, without spending all day in the car.
Estes Park is perfect for this – beautiful, easy, relatively quick drive to a spot that truly feels like you’re in the middle of the mountains. I really wanted to take them to Rocky Mountain National Park so I found Gem Lake trail, which is technically in RMNP, but you don’t have to fully enter or pay a fee and you still get incredibly friendly and helpful park rangers at the trailhead.
This trail was one of those where you kept stopping to take pictures of the view, only to climb a little higher and realize it got even better. But stopping to take pictures was also the perfect excuse to take a few oxygen breaks – whenever I start to see my out of state friends breathing a little heavy, stop and take pictures! Or a water break – the elevation is no joke.
There were also so many spots where people just sat down and enjoyed the view- I would love to go back and bring a lunch – maybe even a glass of wine 🙂
You almost forget that you’re hiking to a lake because the views feel so rewarding on their own. But after about a mile and a half of pretty steady uphill hiking, there it is! (Another gorgeous spot for lunch, by the way.) Chipmunks will run circles around you while you take it in, which I always find delightful.
There’s also a toilet at the top of this trail! The reason I know this is because of the llamas we ran into at the top. Now you can’t just bring your pet llama on the trail, these guys were there for kind of a shitty job. Literally. Park Rangers were cleaning the toilet out and these llamas had the lucky job of carrying all of that “waste” back down the trail. Thank you llamas, for your dedication.