Sunrise Hike to Chasm Lake

8.4 Miles Round Trip - 2398 ft gain - Out-and-Back Trail

Longs Peak Trailhead - Search Nearby - Added by Sonja Saxe

An 8.4 mile round trip hike takes you through a beautiful subalpine forest, an exposed rocky boulder field, past a waterfall and finally to a serene cirque formed by Longs Peak, Mt. Meeker, and Mount Lady Washington. Backcountry camping shortens the morning hike, making it easier to capture the sun slowly lighting up Longs Peak's famous 'Diamond'.

The trail to Chasm Lake starts at the Longs Peak trailhead outside of Estes Park, CO. Many people choose to do Chasm Lake as a day hike and start in the wee hours of the morning to secure a parking spot at the bustling trailhead and avoid the noon storms that sweep over the mountain summit. I recommend a different approach: a short 1 mile hike to a backcountry campsite known as Goblins Forest the evening before your sunrise hike to Chasm Lake. This is beneficial for a couple reasons: first, by the time you get to the trailhead in the late afternoon most of the cars from that morning's climbers and hikers are cleared out and you get a prime spot. Second, the morning of your hike you can just wake up and start hiking without having to worry about driving to the trailhead. And finally, by hiking in the night before you knock one mile off of your morning hike, which doesn't sound like much but when you are going to be completing the entire hike in the dark and the grade of the hike is relentless, every bit helps.

The hike from Goblins Forest to Chasm Lake is 3 miles and takes about 2 hours with a few rest stops. Chasm Lake and Longs Peak share a trail and being the only 14er in Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak is very popular so even at 3am you will have company on the trail. From the Goblins Forest campsite the Longs Peak trail steadily rises another 1.3 miles until the tree line gives way to tundra. The trail is well travelled and well marked but snow cover is possible on the tundra at all times of the year, if there is snow cover cairns mark the path. Continue the climb through the exposed tundra until the Chasm Lake - East Longs Peak trail splits at 3.3 miles. From here follow the trail around an exposed valley; headlamps and careful steps are essential here as a fall could be potentially fatal. At 4 miles you reach the end of the well marked path and you must scramble over large boulders and rocks. There are cairns but they can be difficult to find in the dark. We actually took a break here until the pitch black sky started to turn purple and offered some light to follow the path better. Once you complete the rock scramble you will find yourself at Chasm Lake and see Longs Peak eastern face rising above it on the opposite shoreline. If it is still predawn you will be able to watch the headlamps of climbers slowly ascending the peak. Besides a few climbers making an attempt on The Diamond of Longs Peak there was only one solo hiker that joined us to watch the sun slowly rise and illuminate Longs Peak. Having Chasm Lake almost entirely to ourselves to explore was incredibly peaceful and I'm thankful we avoided the crowds that make their way there only a couple hours later.

A few notes: be prepared for extremely windy conditions at Chasm Lake and make sure you have adequate layers. Also be prepared for quickly changing weather conditions and enquire about the summit conditions at the ranger station before embarking on your hike. Even though it is clear and sunny at the ranger station the weather at the top can be formidable.




8.4 Miles
2398 ft elevation gain
Out-and-Back Trail

Stay Nearby

Larimer County, Colorado

Glacier Basin Campground

Allenspark, Colorado

Olive Ridge

Estes Park, Colorado

Moraine Park Campground

Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park KOA

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