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  • Craig Cooper Photography

A Lake Within Chaos Canyon

I have always been drawn to the outdoors, and there is absolutely no shortage of charming wilderness to explore in Colorado. From the fascinating Rocky Mountains to the Great Sand Dunes in the southern region, my admiration for Colorado grew exponentially after partaking in the hike to Lake Haiyaha.

Lake Haiyaha is an alpine lake which sits at 10,244' elevation and is located in the Rocky Mountain National Park near the quaint town of Estes Park. The lake gets its name from the Ute Native Americans, with "Haiyaha" meaning "rock" or "big rock", depending on the translation. The lake lies within Chaos Canyon and features unparalleled views of nearby mountains and peaks, including the infamous Hallet Peak (12,713' elevation) and Otis Peak (12,486' elevation). Chaos Canyon is world renown for its stunning boulder and rock formations in a predominately subalpine climate, which ultimately results in a moderately difficult, yet extremely venturous hike. The hike is 3.9 miles roundtrip and includes an elevation gain of 865 ft.

The beginning of the hike originates at Bear Lake Trailhead near the end of Bear Lake Road, located within the Rocky Mountain National Park. This particular hike interested me because not only do you have the opportunity to visit Lake Haiyaha, but you are able to visit three additional alpine lakes along the way. The first lake you stumble upon is Bear Lake, located almost directly at the start of the trailhead. I recommend visiting this lake at the beginning of your hike as a glimpse of what's to come as you head off to your destination. From Bear Lake, the paved trail steadily climbs before you reach Nymph Lake, which is located about 1/2 mile from the trailhead. Upon arriving to Nymph Lake, the paved trail opens up to a beautiful frozen lake lined with Alpine trees. It was at this point that I quickly realized this hike was going to exceed my expectations. After pausing to admire Nymph Lake, I continued on my journey to Lake Haiyaha. At about the 1 mile marker from the trailhead, you arrive at a junction with a choice to either turn left to trek on towards yet another lake by the name of Dream Lake, or turn right to trek on towards Lake Haiyaha. Dream Lake is located only a short distance from this junction and is an easy side trip that is well worth the extra mileage. After basking in the beauty of Dream Lake, take a right back onto the trail to continue on towards Lake Haiyaha. At this point the trail quickly enters into a very sublime pine forest. This particular part of the trail was a favorite of mine, with snow drenched pine trees in every direction and views of nearby mountains and peaks (including a superb view of Hallet Peak). The dense forest soon opens up to spectacular aerial views of Nymph Lake and Bear Lake. It was at this point when you realize how far you've come and how close you are to your destination. After pausing to scope out the lakes and surrounding areas, I continued my climb and finally reached Lake Haiyaha at approximately 1.9 mile from the trailhead. In order to reach Lake Haiyaha, you must climb and maneuver through giant rocks and boulders before finally reaching the shoreline.

After exploring the lake and enjoying a nice picnic lunch along the shoreline, it was time to make the trek back to the trailhead. The hike back down to Bear Lake Road was fairly simple, yet just as gorgeous as it had been during the more strenuous hike earlier in the day.

As a nice bonus trip, we stopped at charming Sprague Lake on our way back, which is located directly off of Bear Lake Road. This paved trail loop is a family friendly loop and features a gorgeous lake lined with Rocky Mountain views every where you choose to look. This loop is a 0.9 mile trek and only has an elevation gain of 10 ft. It's a perfect location to take a seat, rest your feet from your long day of hiking and soak up the views of the nature surrounding you.

Hiking is a passion of mine and I always try to scope out at least one or two hikes during any trip I take. There is something magical and inspiring about being surrounded by nature and in my case, it truly soothes the soul. The hike to Lake Haiyaha will be an experience that I remember for years to come.

View of Nymph Lake directly off of the trail

Stream along the trail headed towards Dream Lake

Beautiful Dream Lake, definitely worth the side trip

Another view of Dream Lake

Pine forest upon leaving Dream Lake and headed towards Lake Haiyaha

View of the infamous Hallet's Peak admidst the Pines

The views along this part of the trail are unbelievable

The trail opens to a beautiful aerial view of Bear Lake and Nymph Lake

Keep a close eye out for numerous chipmunks along the way

Finally arriving to Lake Haiyaha

Giant boulders line the shoreline

Beautiful ice waters

Sprague Lake, located directly off of Bear Lake Road

Picturesque Sprague Lake

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