Serenity and something to take your breath away. That’s all anyone wants when they adventure into the great unknown. Summit Lake Trail offers all that and a bag of chips, and if you’re searching for a glimpse of a memory to carry with you till your death bed, you won’t regret this hike. We’d been planning to summit Mt. Evans that morning, a leisurely morning drive with views just good enough to make our 3:30am wake up call worth it. However, the road was blocked off around the 13000′ mark, so we pulled over in a dirt-road parking lot overlooking a frozen lake, zipped up our coats and started walking. This was June 6th. The path was blanketed in snow and ice-extremely treacherous. Between me, my sister and my husband, we only had one pole and two sets of microspikes. It would be borderline impossible to get more than a quarter mile without one of the two, and difficult with just one or the other.
Disclaimer-a good set of microspikes is the best investment you will ever make for winter hiking. At first we got little cheap-o’s at Dicks, but when these broke or went missing on the trail, we bit the bullet and signed over 60$ each on two very high quality sets from REI. Never look
ed back. The spikes make a world of difference, not only offering stability and incredible traction but also just making the hike less strenuous.
ANYWAY. On June 6th, clad in North Face down, a hundred layers of leggings between the three of us and spare hand warmers, we made it a mile in or so. The trail was straight ice in parts. Very steep inclines that would lead to a messy death onto the jagged rocks below if you happened to lose footing in some areas. All we had to follow was the footsteps of those who went before. Had we each had our own set of poles and spikes, we probably would have gotten further; still, the hike was 100% more enjoyable (not to mention much less life threatening) two weeks later, which is why I would recommend waiting until the majority of snow has melted.
This is what the trail looked like. We got there around 7-7:30 and so the sun had already made its grand appearance. It wasn’t cold or windy. Just treacherous.
NOW, fast forward a couple weeks. June 21st. Jake and I decided to go back and conquer. This time, we wanted to see the sun rise over the Denver skyline from 14000 feet up. We left from Arvada, CO around 3:30am after stopping for snacks and chapstick at a local 7-11, and arrived at the trailhead around 4:30. The drive up was phenomenal, looking at the sparking lights of Denver in the dead of night is a sight you won’t soon forget. By the time we started walking, the first musty light of dawn had already began to peek over the vast ocean of glittering light. It was quite windy, and let me tell you, that wind was VICIOUS. It bit right through my tank top and Spyder jacket, my legs were freezing in nothing but a pair of 10$ leggings from American Eagle. Now, it wasn’t completely and utterly miserable. Just uncomfortable. I should have known to dress a little more snugly, because morning mountain winds are not a force to be reckoned with. My feet were nice and cozy in two pairs of socks and my Solomons. My fingers were chilly in a base layer of Outdoor Research ski gloves and a giant, waterproof pair of North Face gloves. I also had on a scarf and hat. My legs, torso, and fingers felt the brunt of the cold though, because I didn’t dress accordingly. Anyway, we made it to the first peak and were met with incredible sunrise views. I’m so sorry, I didn’t even take any pictures at this time because I was so in awe. We kept walking and got a lovely view of the lakes on the right surrounded by deep canyon walls.
You can see all the snow and ice has melted from the trail. While steep and strenuous, it was a moderately easy climb and I was not fearing for my life this time.
As amazing as they are, the pictures taken on an Iphone 7plus and Samsung Galaxy s7 do not do it justice, please go see for yourselves.
There were a few icy patches, but definitely not walking through straight snow like last time. We turned around shortly after the colors of the sky had turned from pink, purple, and vibrant orange to a mid-morning dusty blue and yellow, around 6am. You could hike for miles and miles, though, with panoramic views in every direction. We turned around because the wind was getting very brutal and as I already mentioned ~50 times, I was not dressed appropriately. Jake was definitely chilly as well in thermal leggings, a pull over, and a Northface windbreaker. The rocks at top are pink and you can see for miles. No words or pictures can describe what we experienced this morning.
Jake took this candid of me when I when I was just in awe, speechless, feeling on top of the world. This was just after turning around.
Now for the hike down.
We had almost made it back the car when we spotted mountain goats gazing down on us from one of the closer canyon walls! Not gonna lie, I nearly had a panic attack because they looked like wolves in the silhouette. We drove up the rest of the way to get to the peak of Mt Evans and saw several more mountain goats, so cute!
Here is a smaller one with no winter coat! The ones we saw while hiking were ginormous with massive coats, giving them the appearance of giant dogs from afar.
Some Helpful Tips:
The earlier the better. We didn’t see our first fellow hiker till about 6. Although there were cars pulled over here and there on the drive up, we had the mountain to ourselves for the ascent. Coming down, we passed a couple more groups making their way up at about 7:00. The earlier you go, the more serene and secluded it will be.
Take snacks (we were too chilly to eat but its always nice to have them) and
Plenty of water.
Microspikes aren’t necessary at this time but we used them here and there and they definitely helped. While the trail is still covered in snow and ice you will NEED them.
A pole will just make your climb easier and less strenuous. During more wintery climbs the pole will help you keep your balance and footing and you will thank yourself a hundred times over for brining one.
Bring a face mask or scarf and some heavy duty gloves in case that wind is out, which it probably will be.
If you are vacationing in Colorado, I highly, highly recommend waking up early to do this hike. It will probably be the highlight of your trip. It’s a good starter trail once the snow has melted because there’s really not a lot of technical climbing. If you live around and are looking for some phenomenal views, please check it out. Even without the sunrise, the views will still steal your breath away. However, that early morning magic is completely worth a 3:00am alarm and the chilling wind.