Today’s forecast was chock-full of snow flurries and grim temperatures which meant that many hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park were likely to be treacherous. I did a quick search for low elevation trails in the area—easy hikes, ones that might keep us out of the way of white fluffy stuff. Lily Lake fit the bill perfectly.
The Lily Lake trailhead lies about six miles south of Estes Park along Highway 7. The trail is an easy one and you have the option of hiking a completely flat path around the lake or adding a smidgen of terrain to your journey—at the half-way point around the lake, you can turn onto a side trail that climbs up onto a modest ridge. The ridge path runs parallel the lakeshore for a while before it descends back down, closing the loop back to the trailhead.
Some reviews of the Lily Lake trail described the route as boring—they claim the trail is dull because you can see the whole hike from the parking lot. Not true. We found it to be a lovely hike. It offers wonderful views of a number of stunning peaks in the area including Estes Cone, Mount Meeker, Twin Sisters and Longs Peak. Additionally, the ridge trail section was very pretty, twisting in and out of tangles of lodgepole pines and aspens.
There was also plenty of wildlife that was active in and around the lake. On our hike, we saw a tiger salamander, some greenback cutthroat trout, various species of waterfowl, a mountain cottontail, and an army of Wyoming ground squirrels.
As critics of the Lily Lake trail note, this is a pretty easy hike. But we liked that. There were benches scattered along the trailside and a lovely picnic area. For anyone that wants to make the hike more strenuous, I recommend they simply walk faster, jog or do several laps around the lake. Do what you have to do, but just don’t pass this hike up because it doesn’t offer enough challenge. You would be missing out on a very special place.