We'd gotten quite a bit of fresh snow recently and heard trail conditions were excellent.
So when Tuesday dawned and promised another bluebird day, we got our snowshoes out and headed up to Bear Lake to begin our hike.
The drive in to Rocky and up Bear Lake Road was beautiful and dramatic, as always.
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|Entering Rocky at the Beaver Meadows entrance|
|Along Bear Lake Road|
We didn't get going all that early, hitting the trail at just before 11am.
|Susan at the Bear Lake ranger hut|
The hike starts at 9,475' at Bear Lake, then heads up the Flattop Mountain Trail and then joins the Fern Lake Trail. The "published" distance is about 6.4 miles round trip, with a gain of about 1,300'.
We were well-equipped this time, learning our lesson from our recent winter hike to Deer Mountain.
The scenery along the snow-covered trail was simply beautiful and we were so happy to be outside!
|Along the horse trail above Bear Lake; Hallett in background|
|Longs Peak and Glacier Gorge|
|Mike on the trail|
|Looking back to the southeast|
When we got to the large open area below Flattop Mountain we could see ski tracks all over the place. This is a popular area for skiers and boarders to hike up and do runs.
|Panorama with Mike at the "ski area" below Flattop|
From here, we "took the high road" climbing up higher than the summer trail. It was harder, but I think more scenic.
|Looking up at other snowshoers on the "high road"|
The trail had other tracks on it, but wasn't hard packed, and it was made a little more difficult by having to traverse a pretty steep slope.
|Susan on the trail traversing the steep mountain slope|
|Along the trail|
As scenic as this route was, it turned out to be a minor error, as we ended up well above Two Rivers Lake and Lake Helene with no obvious or easy way to hike down. On the other hand, being above Lake Helene provided views of Notchtop Mountain and Joe Mills Mountain which we'd never seen before from this angle.
|One of our first views of Notchtop Mountain (right)|
As much as Lake Helene was our destination, the real draw for me was the imposing Notchtop Mountain.
|Susan presents... Notchtop Mountain!|
|Favorite shot of the day of Notchtop. |
Note the hikers on the trail at bottom center.
We'd been hiking pretty slowly and it was starting to get late, and also windy, so we chose a direct line down to Two Rivers Lake so we could hike back on the Fern Lake summer trail.
|Mike breaking trail on the way down to Two Rivers Lake (center left, below)|
|Susan heading down to Two Rivers Lake; Notchtop at right|
|Detail of Notchtop Mountain|
At Two Rivers Lake we tried to sit for a few minutes to rest and have a snack, but it was just too windy to be comfortable, so we moved on down the trail.
|Looking across frozen Two Rivers Lake to Notchtop|
Before long we rejoined the trail we came up on, and continued on down to Bear Lake and finished up the hike.
|Back on the trail|
|Fun shadows along the way|
|Susan kicking it on the trail|
|Icicles on trees|
We ended up clocking a total of 6.9 miles with about 1,600 feet of gain. Here's the hike profile and map generated by Gaia GPS on the iPhone.
|Our last view of Hallett before heading to the car|