Trail Thursday: Timber Lake Backpacking In Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park!

Happy Friday eve! I’m so excited to share with you some of the photos from our backpacking trip last weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park. We booked our overnight camping permit about a month ago on their website here. Alex or I had never done any sort of Wilderness camping where you needed a permit, so we were both a bit excited and nervous! It was so easy to book the site and navigate through their website to find the best location for us on the date that we were looking for (plus it was inexpensive too! $26 to book online). I ended up booking Snowbird site at Timber Lake because it was a relatively do-able distance for us (4.6 miles 2,000’ gain), close to the lake, and close to the Grand Lake entrance of the park (closer to our home!). It ended up being National Parks Day on Saturday so the park and trailhead was busier than we expected, but it wasn’t anything unmanageable. We picked up our permit at the Kawanachee Visitors Center around 11:15am and got to trailhead before noon! We ate the sandwiches that we had picked up at Natural Grocers earlier in the morning and headed out. The Ranger that gave us our permit said to be on the lookout for Moose (they were rumored to be active in this area) and that the hike would take us 4-5 hours. We were hopeful we could get to the site around 3pm!

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

The trail to Snowbird site was so beautiful and well-maintained. I honestly think it was one of the best trails I’ve been on since moving to Colorado 5 years ago!


We crossed over several streams, but there were great man-made footbridges which made it easy.


It was also a pretty gradual ascent (hard, but still do-able if you’re used to the elevation) for most of the hike which was nice since we had our heavy backpacks on!


At mile 2.6, we made it to the Active Landslide area. I had read reviews where most people went around the landslide, but that it was very steep and difficult. We looked at the landslide area (it was short - maybe 1/10 mile long (if that))- gravel and a few downed trees to go over and under, but we decided to give it a try! It was definitely trickier with our backpacks on and I think that if the trail was wet at all or if we were just beginning our hiking/backpacking season then it would have been much more difficult/near impossible. We made it to the other side (thankfully) and soon arrived at the Long Meadows trailhead.


At this point, the trail climbs up a bit steeper (with several switchbacks) and you never really get a great view of the Never Summer Wilderness region. Another mile or so past the trail crossing, we came to the Jackstraw site (it was unavailable this year) and to the open meadow (SO BEAUTIFUL).

We knew that once we hit this site that we were getting close (our mileage said we were around 4.5 miles and ~2,800’ in gain)!


We crossed by the privy and at this point the trail subsides a bit and rolls in-and-out of the forest and meadow area, until we arrived at Snowbird site! Our mileage said that we were at 5.0 miles and gained 3,000’ in elevation (a bit off from the designated site details). We arrived at our site at 2:55pm and I think we really made excellent time. We didn’t stop too much coming out, but I was definitely TIRED once we got there!

Rockslide area right by our campsite!

Rockslide area right by our campsite!

We set up our tent, sleeping bags & pads, and gathered our chairs/books/cameras to head to Timber Lake around 4pm. Once we got there, we were the only ones! It was so beautiful- the photos absolutely do not do it justice. The lake was about a 5 minute hike from Snowbird campsite.


We turned in relatively early (both had a mild case of (what we think) Altitude sickness, a bit of nausea) and had all of the winter layers since it was anticipated to get down to around 30* that night!

Thankfully we packed all the layers (plus hand warmers which I put on my toes!), so we weren’t too chilled when we woke up the next morning. We retrieved our bear box (necessary for the wilderness camping) that we set out 70 steps from our campsite the night before and made coffee (always tastes so much better outdoors!)/ a Mountain House for breakfast.

We both wanted to get back home, so we packed up pretty quickly and were out hiking back by 7:45am! It was still chilly for the first 2-3 miles so I kept my mittens and down jacket on for a bit.

Good Morning!

Good Morning!

We made it out of the trailhead by 10am and only met a handful of hikers heading out onto the trails. The other snowbird site was never filled and overall it was so peaceful! We got a bunch of reading done and the beauty of the Fall Foliage during the hike was spectacular. It is definitely longer than the NPS suggests, but I think you should be able to make it to the Lake within 3.5-4 hours even if moving at a gentle pace. The biggest factor in this trail is making sure to be prepared (you have zero cell service) for all weather conditions (including First Aid/ food/ layers) and going through the landslide area (it is pretty dicey for anyone who is not experienced or if the trail conditions are even a bit damp/ frosty).

Navigating the Landslide area with all.the.layers

Navigating the Landslide area with all.the.layers


Overall- I’d highly recommend backpacking out in Rocky Mountain! The trails were so well-maintained. We didn’t see any wildlife (slightly disappointed), but I know it’s out there so please remember to leave no trace when hiking and respect the animals who call these places home.

Some of the many Fall colors we came across!

Some of the many Fall colors we came across!

Backpacking on the CDT

Last weekend we went backpacking on the Continental Divide Trail to the 6 Fishing Lakes in Routt National Forest and it was amazing! We had previously done this hike (but camped on a different lake this time) and last year, it was raining/lightning almost the entire time. We got lucky and had spectacular weather the entire time! 

We decided to begin our hike earlier than we normally do backpacking (we typically don't start our hike until 2 or 3pm, but went out at around noon) and this gave us so much time in the afternoon to just relax and read and fish. We set-up our camp 3.5 miles into the trail at the 3rd lake we came to (Lake Elmo) and were the only ones there the entire time. The trail passes by our campsite a bit, but it was nice to have some passersby once and a while and still feel like we had the entire place to ourselves. 

At first, I was a little skeptical towards backpacking as being out in the woods by yourself and far enough away from anything & everything is a bit scary, but this trip was SO wonderful it really began to change my outlook towards backpacking. I also think this is a great trail for beginning backpackers (I've gone on maybe 10 backpacking trips & still consider myself a beginner) because it's not so remote that you feel helpless if something were to go wrong, but it's also a good distance from anything. 

We arrived to our campsite by 2 and cooked up some lunch (we typically just pack along some snacks and a few mountain houses to make clean up easy and keep our packs light) then set up our tent and relaxed! I think I probably read about 100 pages in my book on the trip and we saw maybe 30 fish jump (but sadly caught nothing...I'm beginning to think that there's some consensus between all the fish to not latch onto just our pole because others around us ALWAYS catch something). We also saw a giant moose pass about 200 meters by our campsite- it was so out of the blue that I didn't even have my camera on me to take a picture!

Sunset views from our tent

Sunset views from our tent

The views were so wonderful and my photos definitely do NOT do it justice! We got up the next morning around 7:30 and I headed out for my solo trail run shortly afterwards. I ended up getting stung by a bee on the top of my ankle about a mile in, but luckily I had my compression socks and that really kept the swelling down and I managed to get in 4.5 miles and reach the final 6th fishing lake, Long Lake (the biggest one) at an altitude around 9,200 feet (we camped at an altitude of just over 10,000 feet). 

The wildflowers were in bloom throughout our entire hike and the trails were really well maintained (it's a popular mountain biking trail as well). I'm so glad I was able to fit in some trail running because that's been on my wishlist to do for a while. This trial is also part of both a 10k that our local running series puts on (I'm thinking about signing up) and their annual 50/100 mile trail run! It's pretty cool to say that my training run was along these routes, as well as on the CDT. 

Overall, this was a perfect backpacking weekend. We got back to our car around noon on Sunday and that gave us the afternoon to do (what seemed like) a million loads of laundry and meal prep for the week ahead. HIGHLY recommend doing this as a backpacking trip if you're ever in Northwest Colorado- you can tie it into a loop hike for higher mileage (10 mile or 20+ mile round trip) if you want to. Happy hiking and trail running!