Cub Lake, Colorado

Location: Cub Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Maps: USGS 1:24K McHenry Peak; Longs Peak
Trail: 2.2 miles one-way, ~500 ft elevation gain.
Trailhead: NAD83 zone 13 447708e 4467474n  Elevation: 8080'
Access: From Interstate 25, take Highway 34 through Loveland and Estes Park to the Beaver Meadows entrance. Just beyond the entrance gate, turn south on Bear Lake Rd, drive a few miles south and turn right on the road to the Morraine Park Campground. Follow the road 1/4 mile and veer left on the road to Fern Lake. The Cub Lake TH is marked along the left side a few hundred yards down the road. 
Fees (2007): $20 7-day park pass; $35 annual park pass; $80 annual Federal public lands pass
Dogs: not allowed
Webcam: 7 miles east in Estes Park
Weather: Current conditions 
               Local Forecast

It wasnít the beautiful, blue-sky pristine January day we had hoped for, but we decided to go hike anyway. Fierce gusts of bone-numbingly cold wind kept us focused on low-elevation trails, and on the east side of Rocky Mt National Park, you canít get much lower than Cub Lake in the Mill Basin near Morraine Park. Surprisingly, the small dirt lot at the trailhead was full when we arrived at 11:00, so I drove 1000 ft down the dirt road to the overflow area and parked there. While Andra and I were pulling on layer upon layer of warm clothing at the back of the car, a gust of wind came along and snatched my fleece jacket away, pushing it nimbly across the lot and into the frozen wetland beyond. I had to run to catch up to it. So thatís about what kind of day it was.

Bulky with warm weather clothing, we walked down the road to the trailhead and in no time we were on the trail heading south and into the trees, which did an outstanding job of sheltering us from the wind. The sun was out, barely to the east of a dark cloudbank that had been spilling over the divide towards us all morning. At the first junction we turned west. The hike was pleasant, and flat, following an unnamed creek at a gentle grade through the willows and aspen. Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir lined the drier spots of the trail. I was actually surprised at how little snow there was for January. The trail starts at around 8000 feet, yet most of the terrain was bare, with only thin patches of snow about. The trail had a few inches of hard-packed snow on it, easily navigable with hiking boots. We had our skis in the car, but opted to leave them there. 

It seemed that we were the only animals without the sense to stay inside on this cold day, as we didnít see another non-human creature for the entire hike. Even human activity was limited, as we only saw 6 other people on the trail. I donít know where all the cars came from, but they didnít appear to belong to folks hiking on this trail. It began snowing lightly, and the sun dipped behind low clouds for increasingly long periods. After about xxx minutes, the trail steepened, and the snow pack increased significantly. We were still OK, however, since the trail was hard-packed and not icy. 

After winding a few switchbacks, we arrived at the lake and holy bejeebers it was windy. I put on my sunglasses against the gale and even then I couldnít look directly across the lake. The hard-packed trail disappeared in giant snow drifts, and it was the only time during the hike that snow came over the toes of my boots. I muddled my way to the eastern edge of Cub Lake, and snapped a few quick shots of the icy expanse before quickly retreating back into the trees. 

The hike back down took very little time: not only was it downhill but we also had a 20mph wind at our backs. When we arrived at the parking lot, all the cars had gone. 



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