My hiking partner, Emily and I arrived at the Longs Peak Ranger station early on January 20th, 2020, and started our winter hike to Chasm Lake at roughly 5:45am. Waking up at 4:30am, getting dressed, getting our stuff (all of it) out of the hotel room, and in a moving car by 5:00am, was totally worth it. Want to find out why?
This was our first time hiking Chasm Lake. We’ve both done some research on the hike via East Longs Peak Trail, to Chasm Lake Trail, and were concerned about the winter conditions and the avalanche danger. Specifically the Chasm Crossing, the section of trail between Chasm Junction and Chasm Meadow.
As I saw a recent photo of the Chasm Crossing the night prior, and the success of many hikers making it to the lake, we decided to switch our original plans of snowshoeing to Black Lake, and go for Chasm Lake instead.
Our Chasm Lake winter hike times recorded from Alltrails App
- Distance – 9.3 miles
- Elevation Gain – 2,585 ft
- Moving time – 4:57:58
- Total hike time – 5:59:55
Chasm Lake Hike Video
Arrived at Longs Peak Ranger Station
We took the popular route to Chasm Lake starting off at the Longs Peak Ranger Station, with an elevation of 9,405 ft. The road conditions up to the trailhead were pretty good with just a few snow patches on the road. My 2wd Toyota Corolla made it with no issues at all. Parking lot was empty when we arrived at roughly 5:15am.
Snowshoes were not needed at any point while hiking to Chasm Lake
But, we brought them anyways. So did several other hikers that were attempting the Chasm Lake trail that day. I brought an ice axe but Emily didn’t. Adding a few extra pounds to a 9 mile hike with an elevation gain of 2,600 ft. only makes you stronger right?
The first part of the trail takes you through a forest for almost 2 miles of steady elevation gain. We wore micro-spikes and hiked it just fine. The trail was very easy to follow in the dark with headlamps.
2.1 Miles in were perfect sunrise views behind Twin Sisters Peaks
I brought my Manfrotto tripod and ball head, hoping to get a good sunrise picture. I knew we wouldn’t make it to the lake in time for sunrise so I was going for Twin Sisters Peaks, and got the shot above.
A little over an hour on the East Longs Peak trail we broke treeline. As we got about a 1/2 mile in I was huffing and puffing more than I liked, so dropped my 6lb camera tripod setup off behind a cairn to lighten the load a little bit.
The East Longs Peak Trail was easy to follow, as we just kept an eye out for the cairns. Still steady elevation gain as you head towards Chasm Junction, but dropping that 6 lbs gave me a huge burst of energy. Should have done the same with the snowshoes. At this point still hadn’t seen anyone of the trail yet.
We arrived at Chasm Junction at about 2 hours in. Took a small potty break behind the locked bathroom. Changed the GoPro Hero 7 battery as it was dead already. At this point we ran into 2 hikers, the first people we saw on the trail this day. They were heading to Chasm Lake, but said they were attempting the cables route to Longs Peak. Seemed like cool people, wonder how far they made it?
Chasm Junction offers great views of Peacock Pool. I think Peacock Pool is one of the coolest frozen lakes I’ve seen, in terms of ice/crack formations. Definitely planning a trip down to the lake in the near future while it’s still frozen.
Chasm Crossing is between Chasm Junction and Chasm Meadow, and took us about 10 minutes or so to cross it. This is the part of the Chasm Lake trail that is susceptible to avalanche danger. Today the trail was pretty packed down. Although I never felt like the snow below me or above was going to cave in, it was still pretty sketchy for someone with moderate winter hiking experience above treeline.
Once you get past the crossing the land levels out for a little it until you get to the Chasm Lake sign. This is where the slope up gets pretty steep, about 40 degrees or so for about 100 yards. For me the ice axe and micro-spikes helped quite a bit. Emily made it up easily though with just micro-spikes.
After the steep incline up, there is one final mini scramble to Chasm Lake. I’m 100% the route we took up wasn’t the main one, as we just climbed straight up. We later found out there’s a pretty walk-able approach up to the lake, which Emily took on the way down, while I descended the same way I came up. Whatever way you take just don’t overthink it. It’s very short no matter what.
We arrived at Chasm Lake a little before 9am, bringing our hiking time to the lake at just around 3 hours. Once we got there we pretty much had the entire lake to ourselves. Only two climbers were off to the north of Chasm Lake ascending up the Longs Peak cable route.
I feel like we got some amazing footage and photos of Chasm Lake, but the technology and creativity that digitally captured the light from this adventure cannot replicate the feeling we had when we reached the lake. It’s truly one of the most amazing scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Longs Peak towers over 2,000 ft above Chasm lake, with Mt Meeker towering to the left, Mt Lady Washington Towering to the right, and if your on the west side of the lake, a view that looks like the edge of the lake leads into the eastern Colorado bluebird sky.
After spending almost an hour of taking in the majestic scenery on and around Chasm Lake, we began to head back down. Still no signs of any other hikers. That changed though when we got back to Chasm Junction.
We got back down to the Longs Peak ranger station in just under 2 hours. Passed about 20 people total during that time.
The hike to Chasm Lake has been my favorite hike so far this year. Although the first 2 mile is kind of boring just walking through the forest, it opens up with spectacular views once you get to the treeline.