Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park
- Date hiked: 02/15/2020
- Hiked from: Bear Lake Trailhead
- Distance hiked: 2 Miles one way
- Total elevation gain: 900 ft
- Maintained trail: Yes – although we had to blaze our own trail after Dream Lake due to deep snow
- Overall Difficulty: 5/10 – Deep snow made this hike difficult. I’ve done this in the summer as well 3/10 difficulty.
- Overall Views: 5/10 – It was very windy and cloudy. Views were ok at the lake and throughout the entire hike.
Winter Hike to Lake Haiyaha
Emily and I have attempted to reach Lake Haiyaha two times before making it. Once from Mills Lake trail junction, the other from Dream Lake. Both times we failed due to snow conditions….
We arrived at Rocky Mountain National Park late that day, (12pm) and somehow found parking at the Bear Lake trailhead. Our plan was to get to Lake Haiyaha, then head over to Mills Lake for sunset.
Video of our Winter Hike to Lake Haiyaha
The following was written by Emily.
It wasn’t the usual 3AM wake-up call today; the sunset seemed more appealing. We drove into Rocky Mountain National Park at 12:15PM and headed for the Glacier Basin area. The parking lot for the Glacier Gorge Trailhead was completely full so we decided scope out parking at Bear Lake – and ran into a traffic jam! At the Bear Lake parking lot a ranger was turning cars around but by some stroke of luck our vehicle and a few others were waved in; other visitors had just exited the lot.
We were not acclimated to all of the activity on the trail as we are usually beginning our hikes in the dark with headlamps. Today we did pack the headlamps, but for the return trip. Our route was to complete a loop; Dream Lake to Lake Haiyaha to Mills Lake and back to the trailhead. We had tried to reach Lake Haiyaha twice previously, once from Dream Lake and once from Mills Lake. Today we were taking our second stab from Dream Lake.
In order to reach Dream Lake, we crossed over Nymph Lake but didn’t stop to set up any compositions. We quickly made it to Dream Lake to snap some pictures. As we were circling back from Dream Lake, we took a right hand turn onto the Lake Haiyaha Trail. There was no trail marker; it may have been buried in snow or it may be an unmarked trail. Early on it was apparent we needed snowshoes, the microspikes were packed away in favor of flotation.
Our Snowshoe Route to Lake Haiyaha
The trail to Lake Haiyaha was vastly different from our hike-fail earlier; the trail was well defined and, while not completely packed down, it wasn’t difficult to follow. During our earlier attempt there was no defined trail at all.
There is considerable elevation gain between Dream Lake and Lake Haiyaha and the uphill snowshoe was quite a workout. The trail was also a bit scary there were long stretches of trail with a steep drop-off on one side.
When we arrived at Lake Haiyaha it was extremely windy; we had both made recent goggle purchases which helped a lot in saving our eyes from the wind and snow. Lake Haiyaha was unlike any alpine lake we had seen this winter. Most of the lakes we encountered this winter were relatively smooth, while Lake Haiyaha was the complete opposite.
The ice around the edges of the lake had been pushed up to create jagged edges and even in the middle of the lake there were these very large odd looking bumps made out of ice. The “ice hills” as I will call them, are formed by intense pressure on the ice’s surface by unfrozen water beneath.
When the pressure is great enough, the ice on the surface cracks upwards and water flows out. That water almost immediately freezes and it creates these ice formations. I’m not sure why this happened on Lake Haiyaha and not any other lake we’ve seen; perhaps it has something to do with the depth.