The air in Rocky Mountain National Park was sharply cold. As I looked around the forest, I noticed the trees standing heavy and silent in their thick white coats. My exhales puffed in front of my face like plumes of smoke that late afternoon we were there.
My friends chose a short hike because they were not yet acclimated to a higher altitude. Offering picnic areas, tiny Sprague Lake rests at an elevation of 8,710 feet. This high-country jewel is a favorite destination for many, located just inside the park along Bear Creek Road. The Sprague Lake Nature Trail Loop circling the now frozen water is made up of boardwalk and gravel all along its relatively flat (now snow-covered) surface.
The beauty of the short Sprague Lake Loop is that during the warmer months it is wheelchair accessible, enabling people with special needs to enjoy a tame introduction to the backcountry.
Also during the summer the lake is a fine fishing hole for native greenback cutthroat trout. Sprague Lake is framed by stands of towering pine. This time of year is one of the best times to visit Colorado’s national parks and monuments because there are fewer crowds. Of the more than three million people who visit Rocky Mountain National Park annually, a full half comes during the summer months.
As elsewhere in RMNP, all manner of wildlife make their home near Sprague Lake. Depending on luck and the time of day you may see a rabbit, raccoon, grouse, porcupine, weasel, mountain lion, fox, coyote, elk, deer, bear, cougar, owl, or even an eagle. Or at least you may see some tracks in the snow.
While the short loop around Sprague Lake isn’t appealing to the more vigorous among us, it is an ideal destination for out-of-town flatlander friends who are not used to outdoors in Colorado, or who may be new to snowshoeing. This is a good introductory hike for youngsters, too.
Ending our snowshoe-sightseeing outing that day, it was nearing six in the evening as the bright blue sky started to flatten in color. A faint pink glow began to hum over the mountains and we were getting excited to have a late dinner in Estes Park. Eating at one of the many restaurants in the Estes Valley is another reason to take your friends up that way.
More hikes can be found in my book, “Best Boulder Region Hiking Trails” (Big Earth Publishing, $19.95). Consider subscribing to this page for weekly hiking suggestions (see tab, above). Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To the trailhead: From Boulder, take US 36 west and drive through Estes Park to enter Rocky Mountain National Park at the Beaver Meadows entrance. Obtain a park map. Take your first left on Bear Lake Road and continue to the Sprague Lake turnoff on your left.
Distance: One mile loop
Elevation gain: Negligible
Information: Rocky Mountain National Park, (970) 586-1206