|Trail Features:||Lake Views, Waterfalls|
|Trail Location:||Lawn Lake Trailhead|
|Roundtrip Length:||9.0 Miles|
|Trailhead Elevation:||8540 Feet|
|Total Elevation Gain:||2180 Feet|
|Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:||484 Feet|
|Highest Elevation:||10,760 Feet|
|Trail Difficulty Rating:||13.36 (strenuous)|
|Parking Lot Latitude||40.40712|
|Parking Lot Longitude||-105.62669|
The hike to Ypsilon Lake begins from the Lawn Lake Trailhead in the Horseshoe Park area, located just west of Estes Park. To reach the trailhead drive 2.1 miles past the Fall River Entrance Station on Highway 34 and turn right onto Fall River Road. The trailhead is located one-tenth of a mile from this junction along the north side of the road.
Hikers should note that as a result of the September 2013 floods, the Lawn Lake and Ypsilon Lake Trails have sustained significant damage, with sections that are missing. Moreover, the bridge across the Roaring River near the start of the Ypsilon Lake Trail is missing, making access to the lake difficult during high water. As of March 2016, the park is estimating that it could take 3 to 10 years before all the flood damaged trails in the park are repaired. For the latest information on flood damaged trails, hikers should call the park office or visit the park's website.
Hikers visiting Ypsilon Lake and Lawn Lake will be sharing the same path for the first 1.4 miles.
From the beginning the trail makes a steady climb through a deep pine forest. During the first two miles or so you'll catch sporadic views of Longs Peak and the mountains surrounding the Horseshoe Park area.
At just over a mile from the trailhead hikers will reach the steep banks of the Roaring River where you'll witness some of the destruction from the infamous Lawn Lake Flood. In 1903 a 26-foot high earthen dam was built to enhance the natural lake from 16.4 acres to 48 acres in order to help with crop irrigation in the Loveland area. On July 15, 1982, the dam failed and released more than 300 million gallons of water down the Roaring River valley. Some witnesses said the failure created a wall of water 25 to 30 feet high. After killing three campers, the water rushed down Elkhorn Avenue in Estes Park before stopping at Lake Estes. In all, damages to the area totaled roughly $31 million. Even today sections of the Roaring River's high gully walls are still unstable and prone to sudden collapse. The dam failure led to the removal of three other man-made dams within the park, including Pear Lake, Sandbeach Lake and Bluebird Lake.
At roughly 1.4 miles from the trailhead, hikers will arrive at the Ypsilon Lake Trail junction. Hikers should turn left here to continue towards Ypsilon Lake.
At just over 3.5 miles the trail finally flattens out, while also reaching its highest elevation of roughly 10,760 feet. After descending a short distance you'll reach a very beautiful pond known as Chipmunk Lake (see photo below, on left), which I found to be far more scenic than Ypsilon Lake. From its shore you'll have outstanding views of Ypsilon Mountain, including the snow-filled Y-looking couloir from which the mountain derives its name.
After passing Chipmunk Lake the trail begins descending again, including a fairly steep decent just before reaching Ypsilon Lake. At 4.2 miles hikers will pass the Upper Chipmunk Backcountry Campground, and at 4.5 miles, will finally arrive along the western shore of Ypsilon Lake. For the best views of the surrounding mountains hikers should take the social trail that leads east towards the opposite end of the lake.
Ypsilon Lake sits at the base of 13,514-foot Ypsilon Mountain and 13,069-foot Mt. Chiquita in the heart of the Mummy Range, and is fed by a waterfall near the point where the trail intersects with the lake.
For the adventurous - those with basic scrambling and route-finding skills - it's possible to continue along a social trail that leads west from the inlet creek, to a couple of alpine lakes known as Spectacle Lakes. The two lakes fill a cirque basin just beneath Ypsilon Mountain.