Hiking Gem Lake in Estes Park

This hike comes with plenty of great views of Estes Park and lots of unusual rock formations. You may even see “Paul Bunyan’s Boot”. If this sounds good, then you should try hiking Gem Lake Trail in Estes Park.

Gem Lake
Estes Park, Colorado

A short but fun hike. We really enjoyed the rugged trail, the rock formations and of course Gem Lake. The weather was perfect so the views of Estes Park were fantastic. The stacked rocks reminded me a little of Joshua Tree National Park. After relaxing at the lake we decided to climb to the highest rocks that surround the lake. Amazing views but much more dangerous.

Some highlights:
– lots of Estes Park views
– short hike but still mostly uphill
– popular trail but heavily trafficked
– Paul Bunyan’s Boot (you can’t miss it)
– a mirror-like lake

Facts To Remember


Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 3.4 miles / 3 to 4 hours
Elevation Gain: 990 feet
Starting Elevation: 7,870 feet
When To Hike: Spring, Summer, Fall
Permits: No
Pets Allowed: No
Starting Location: Short drive from Estes Park
Time of Year: September

Hiking Gem Lake

We had a late start today and asked some locals for a good short hike. Gem Lake appeared to be the most recommended. So decision made let’s go.

The drive from downtown Estes Park was less than 10 minutes. Even though we left late morning, we had no problems finding parking. The parking lot was fairly large.

The Trailhead

The Gem Lake Trailhead was easy to reach with plenty of signs and directions.

The Hike Begins

We loved the actual trail. Lots of wooden steps make for a nice looking path through the forest. The Aspens were likely close to peak too!

Paul Bunyan’s Boot

This is a very impressive large rock that appears like it would fall forward onto you. Most of the rock is actually behind the rock with the hole. We also found out it’s not just a big rock with a hole but it’s actually Paul Bunyan’s Boot.

Apens, Pines, Rocks and Relaxation

Gem Lake

Bouldering Above the Lake

A Toilet with a View

You may not hike hoping to use the bathroom but if you need to go – this IS the toilet with a view.

Our Thoughts

This is a great short hike but there is some elevation gain that gave us a workout. Nearly 1,000 foot gain in 1.7 miles. The scenery and views are worth the hike and if you like rock scrambling then the rocks around the lake are fun.

Another fun hike and would recommend if you are in the area.

Suggestions and Tips

Are you Considering This Hike?

The elevation gain isn’t terribly difficult but you should be in reasonably good shape
Always check the weather and dress appropriately.

Hike Recommendations

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