Sitting across the canyon from the Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park is Arrowhead Lake. This is perhaps the most pristine and visually spectacular place in the park. The problem is how to get there. Without any trails and its location in the cliffs, only a handful of hikers get there each year.
I’ve been there once before, but wanted to take my two boys Tal and Nate. I wasn’t sure if they could make it as the ordeal entails a 14 mile round trip hike along the Continental Divide with a total elevation gain of 6,000 feet. The reason for the insane elevation gain is because you need to hike to Mt. Ida at nearly 13,000 feet, then drop down the other ridge another 3,000 to get to the lake.
The best thing about the hike are the views. Walking along the Divide, you can see both sides of the park, along with a great view of Lake Granby. On the way up, we saw six Rocky Mountain big horn sheep grazing next to the trail. This is a rare sight, and being within 30 feet was pretty neat. Earlier that morning, we’d watched two moose walk through our camp, followed by about twenty elk. I knew the moose were close by because I stumbled across one bedded down while fly fishing the headwaters of the Colorado River.
When we got to the top of Mt. Ida, I was surprised by the snow pack. We had to traverse an enormous snow field to drop back down to the lake. It wasn’t too bad for me in my Merrell boots, but Nate brought his Nike tennis shoes and it was like being on skis.
It took three and a half hours to get to the lake and the wind really kicked up as a storm moved in. That meant we didn’t get to fish long which was a big disappointment. But it was a good thing we didn’t stay long because as soon as we got to our car, the storm unloaded. We later learned the lightening killed one person and sent eight to the hospital.
On the way back down, my legs were so hammered that I felt worse than my last marathon. I brought my Garmin with me to track our progress (and so people couldn’t say I lied about the distance or elevation gain). Even then, it was well worth it–the views, the wildflowers, the wildlife, all stunning.
If you want more info or details on how to get to Arrowhead, let me know and I can get you more info.