Distance: Approximately 11 miles
The charming town of Grand Lake sits on the west side of the Rocky Mountain National Park, about 50 miles over the Continental Divide via Trail Ridge Road. Once you arrive in Grand Lake and follow W. Portal Road until you reach the East Inlet Trailhead. There is plenty of parking and a large privy at this trailhead.
The adventure begins immediately, with an amazing view of Adams Falls ⅓ of a Mile in. The falls were moving fast due to ample snowmelt, the sound imitating a locomotive passing by. Incredible!
The East Inlet River meanders through meadows adjacent to the trail, and this particular day it was flowing impressively high — brimming at ground level— just barely spilling onto the trail in some areas.
These meadows are prime areas to spot wildlife, so keep an eye out for Moose, Mule Deer, and Elk. I was fortunate to see two moose, a cow, and calf, grazing just off the trail. I refrained from stopping to take a photo to ensure I didn’t stress them; what strong, impressive beings to admire!
The trail during this trip was also home to many spring wildflowers. Another uniquely shaped flower I captured was the Western Red Columbine. All around, Springtime in the Rockies amazes and inspires.
The meadows eventually give way to steeper, rocky terrain that overlooks an expansive valley. Although the elevation gain is somewhat strenuous, the trail was well designed by the National Park Service; it is wide with lots of stone steps to help you through the steep inclines, and there are solid bridges to cross swift water. All the sweat and hard work that went into it produced a truly pleasant hiking experience.
After passing a few backcountry campgrounds—one named “Cat’s Lair,” yikes!— you arrive at Lone Pine Lake. Granite boulders lay just off the trail, perfect for sitting on and enjoying the lake while resting up for the 5.5 miles back the way you came. Happy Trails!
Tip: Stop off at Cy’s Deli in Grand Lake for a delicious sandwich made with freshly baked bread. A perfect way to refuel after your hike!