Lone Pine Lake - Snowshoeing
January 18, 2020 · Rocky Mountain National Park
The trek along the Lone Pine Lake trail is an easy trail along the oxbows, I have been to Lone Pine Lake in the Summer and in the Winter the snow-covered oxbows are very pretty. It was overcast for most of the trek in and began to clear up on the way out. I knew I would not make it to Lone Pine Lake, as the trail picks up in elevation just after the oxbows and the final pitch to Lone Pine Lake is hard in the Summer.
There was only one person ahead of me when I started the trek, he was cross-country skiing, and started about fifteen minutes earlier than I did. Given how overcast it was and how cold it was in addition to the fact that this trail is on the West side of Rocky Mountain National Park, I did not expect many people on the trail, and that was true for the entire way in and most of the way out.
Following the oxbows on the way in, Mount Craig is constantly in view and is very impressive covered in snow. For the trek along the oxbows I did not need to use my snowshoes, so I used traction spikes until I got to the bend in the trail where the elevation gain begins. The decision to switch to snowshoes came when I stopped to take some pictures and started postholing up to my waist.
While I was switching into my snowshoes the cross-country skier was on his way back out. We talked for a while about how nice it was, albeit a little on the cold side. He said he did not make it to Lone Pine Lake and decided to turn back because the trail ran out. In a way that was nice to hear and reassuring to know there was nobody else in front of me on the trail. At the same time, knowing how hard the last pitch to Lone Pine Lake is in the Summer, I knew I would not make it to the lake, but it was worth continuing as far as it made sense.
From here the trail picks up elevation quickly and then begins to undulate. There several river crossings, but with as much snow as there was, you could not tell you were crossing the river. There are number of short but steep inclines that hang off the side of the mountain. The icicles are very impressive, they are very large and very thick, a sign of slow-moving water seeping out of the mountainside.
I stopped for lunch on a ledge that overlooks the valley below and you can see Grand Lake in the distance. During lunch the weather started to clear up and it was very nice here. This would have been a good place to call it a day and head back. However, it still felt early and with the improvement in the weather I decided to keep going.
From here on, the wind had covered any remnants of tracks in the snow, the surface of the snow was very hard and about an inch thick, but when you punched through, it was fine powder and more often than not about knee deep, with snowshoes.
The trail undulates again and begins to go down more than up at this point, this is part of what makes the final pitch to the lake hard. Knowing that I was getting close to the final pitch and comfortable with the distance and very happy with the sites, I decided to turn back. On the way back there was a very light breeze and the skies had changed to partly cloudy, making for a nice easy glide back to the trailhead. This trek turned out to be a little over seven miles. It was a very nice quite day on the trail.