A classic lollipop hike from Bear Lake to Grand Lake and back one fine Fall weekend.
As an impending marriage approaches, there are certain rituals that are done. The wedding site and reception place booked. Lodging for the guests. "Catering" prepared. And invitations sent out. If you clicked on the links, you'll see that it is a very grass roots affair. A ceremony in the aspen grove with a cook-out after.
Simple. In the foothills of Colorado. And something that reflects the values that someone and I hold. Where community, simplicity and the outdoors can all be had and enjoyed in one memorable and happy day.
Part of this ritual is the bachelor party. At thirty-eight years old, the typical bachelor party did not appeal to me. Spending lots of money to watch a sea of jiggling silicone while doing shooters of mutli-colored shots is really not something an idea that enthralled me.
So, what better way to end my bachelor-hood than a hike in the Fall with friends and BBQ and beer after?
On fine Fall day on Sept 8th, 7 of us met in Boulder. Josh (my officiant), Markhamm, Kevin, d-low, Disco, Matt and I carpooled up the ranger station, received our parking permit and left the vehicles in RMNP for the night.
Off we went and immediately appreciated the fine fall weather at Bear Lake.
We climbed up the steadily switch backing trail and quickly noticed the changing fall colors on the tundra.
We finally approached Flat Top Mountain and had a snack break by Tyndall Glacier.
From there we relished the fact that the hardest hiking of the day had been done.
Off to Ptarmigan Point we went…..
While enjoying the view towards Odessa Lake and Notchtop below where an alpine climb was attempted earlier in the summer.
We eventually started leaving the tundra behind and began our descent into the trees.
We made our way through pleasant single track and stopped for another leisurely break at Big Meadows.
Without exaggeration, it was one of the highlights of the day.
Shortly after, we made it to the trailhead. 100 yds to the hostel. 100 yds or so to the other trail and mere feet to where our friend Mark parked.
Mark could not join us for the hike, but did meet us in Grand Lake with Gatorade, salty chips and cold, delicious and scrumptious BEER. What a friend!
We settled into the nearby hostel, enjoyed the porch overlooking Grand Lake and prepared for the evening.
And what a evening it was. Mainly one more of gluttony than debauchery. 🙂
Perhaps a little too much beer..and definitely too much food!
Markhamm's face says it all….
The following day we managed to wake up at 7ish somehow and get on the trail A satisfying breakfast was had at the hostel before we started out. The Colorado peaches were amazing and some of the best I had all summer.
The hike back started out mellow and flat with great views of the aspens just starting to hit peak.
The day was mainly pleasant walking through forest until about early afternoon.
We then crossed over the treeline again. The weather was again amazing, if not better.
We then reached Flattop again and took one last look around before starting our descent.
After nearly four miles that seemed longer than the day before, we came near the lake and again enjoyed a tunnel of aspens.
The hike finished and concluded the weekend with a stop (if less gluttony..salads were eaten!) at Oskar Blues in Lyons.
A fine weekend and a great bachelor party.
Now to get married on Sept 22nd. 🙂
- I'd refer to this link here for mileage, maps, elevation gain and other pertinent info
- If you have more than 2 (maybe 3) people, I'd strongly urge calling ahead and booking at Shadowcliff even for a bunk. The place can be popular.
- Shadowcliff serves a simple but satisfying breakfast. Hard boiled eggs, oatmeal, nuts, fresh fruit, bagels, juice, coffee and tea. At $8 it was less expensive than town and we did not have to bother with going into town either. With the TH being 100 yds away from the hostel, it was very convenient.
- Having said that, the town is only about a 10 or so minute walk from the hostel..maybe 20 after the beer. 😉
- A smaller loop that is great for a mellow-ish weekend backpack is to start/end at Grand Lake. Eliminates the hike to and from Flattop and Bear Lake. Shaves about nine miles and 2700' gain. Makes an ~25 mi R/T and 3000' hike roughly over two days. Great scenery with easy logistics.
- Even if you do the "European Style hike" my friends and I did (no campsite in the park), you still need to get a parking permit from the backcountry office. The permit for parking only is free (but still requires paying the park entrance).