Twin Owls Loop, Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Twin Owls Loop - 11.05 miles
Lumpy Ridge Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||11.05 miles (data updated for 2007 trailhead relocation)|
|Start-End Elevation:||7,870' - 9,134' (max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,264' net elevation gain (+2,584' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Twin Owls Loop - 11.05 Miles Round-Trip
The Twin Owls Loop circles and scales Lumpy Ridge, a massive granite rock complex located in the NE section of Rocky Mountain National Park. It passes through ponderosa parks, riparian corridors, montane and lower-subalpine forests, making it one of the most ecologically diverse trails in the Park.
This lightly traveled loop is highlighted by abundant wildlife, terrific views, mature aspen groves and exceptional autumn foliage.
The following description travels clockwise from the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, recommended for morning light across the MacGregor Ranch meadows. Note that, regardless of direction, the trail begins outside Park Boundaries and staying on designated trails is required:
The trail undulates along the south slope of Lumpy Ridge to the National Park Boundary and Gem Lake spur (.6 miles). It winds through sculpted boulders and mixed forest to the former Twin Owls Parking Lot, past which it splits left down the Black Canyon Trail (.75 miles).
The trail drops through a broad, south-facing meadow with panoramas of Longs Peak (14,259'), Estes Cone (11,011'), Taylor Peak (13,163'), Powell Peak (13,208') and McHenrys Peak (13,327'). It passes climbing access points (The Book Area: 1.55 miles, The Pear: 1.87 miles), enters a thick ponderosa forest (2.0 miles), and re-enters the Park through a gate (2.1 miles : 7,990').
Here it begins a long, steady climb to the Black Canyon Trail split (3.88 miles : 9,092'). Note how ponderosa gradually cede to lodgepole and fir as you gain elevation. Bear right (east) toward Cow Creek Trailhead to resume the loop.
The trail reaches its max elevation at 4 miles (9,134'), then tilts on a moderately steep descent through mature aspen to the north side of Lumpy Ridge.
The trail drops gently past the Peregrine Backcountry Campsite (5.55 miles : 8,330'), a creek crossing (5.65 miles : 8,292'), Bridal Veil Falls Trail split (5.7 miles : 8,278'), and Rabbit Ears Backcountry Campsite (6.34 miles : 8,134') to the Gem Lake split (6.5 miles : 8,135'). Follow signs for Gem Lake.
The trail undulates through commingled aspen, ponderosa, lodgepole, spruce, and fir to the final crossing of Cow Creek (6.7 miles : 8,057') at the base of Lumpy Ridge, where it begins an arduous climb to Gem Lake.
A mostly unforgiving grade yields excellent views of the valley below and glimpses of Mount Ypsilon (13,514') and Fairchild Mountain (13,502') in the distant Mummy Range.
The trail finally moderates on a verdant plateau to the Balanced Rock Trail spur (8.15 miles : 8,665'), where it abruptly drops and rises to Gem Lake (9.4 miles : 8,830'). Gem Lake fills a shallow granite depression atop Lumpy Ridge - expect crowds at this popular destination.
A rough trail drops steeply from Gem Lake for 1.65 miles through an aspen-ponderosa forest back to the trailhead to complete the loop (11.05 miles : 7,870').
- N40 24.107 W105 31.218 — Lumpy Ridge Trailhead
- N40 24.081 W105 31.197 — .55 miles : Enter Rocky Mountain NP
- N40 24.028 W105 31.591 — 1.0 miles : Open meadows above MacGregor Ranch
- N40 24.089 W105 32.113 — 1.5 miles : Climbing Access - The Book
- N40 24.236 W105 32.398 — 1.8 miles : Climbing Access - The Pear
- N40 24.289 W105 32.545 — 2.0 miles : Leave meadows, enter forest, begin climb
- N40 24.489 W105 33.038 — 2.52 miles : Climbing Access - Sundance
- N40 24.719 W105 33.521 — 3.0 miles : Steady, steep climb in thick forest
- N40 25.340 W105 33.758 — 3.88 miles : Black Canyon Trail split
- N40 25.394 W105 33.488 — 4.2 miles : Steep, winding descent to Cow Creek
- N40 25.516 W105 33.071 — 4.7 miles : Grades moderate near creek into meadows
- N40 25.647 W105 32.281 — 5.55 miles : Peregrine Backcountry Campsite
- N40 25.636 W105 32.092 — 5.7 miles : Bridal Veil Falls trail split
- N40 25.631 W105 31.436 — 6.34 miles : Rabbit Ears Backcountry Campsite
- N40 25.660 W105 31.256 — 6.5 miles : Gem Lake Trail split
- N40 25.625 W105 31.088 — Cross Cow Creek, begin climb
- N40 25.489 W105 30.567 — Grades steepen up north side of Lumpy Ridge
- N40 25.348 W105 30.350 — Steep, winding climb in thick forest
- N40 25.144 W105 30.504 — 8.15 miles : Balanced Rock spur split
- N40 24.931 W105 29.983 — Travel moderates in diverse forest
- N40 24.676 W105 30.217 — 9.4 miles : Gem Lake
- N40 24.467 W105 30.363 — 9.7 miles : Steep, winding descent from Gem Lake
- N40 24.107 W105 31.218 — Twin Owls View Trail split
- N40 23.792 W105 30.791 — Lumpy Ridge Trailhead
- The trail's lower elevations and far-east location make it an ideal 3-4 season hike, with autumn being an especially nice time of year to visit.
- Bridal Veil Falls is a worthwhile 1.9 roundtrip excursion if time permits. Be cognizant of time and approaching weather, as you must climb through higher, exposed elevations on the return to Lumpy Ridge Trailhead.
- The Twin Owls Loop passes through transitional ecosystems, which typically host a greater abundance and diversity of wildlife.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Rabbit Ears Backcountry Campsite
- The Rabbit Ears campsite is located at 8,100', 1.4 miles from the Cow Creek Trailhead and 5.5 miles from the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. There is 1 site and a bear box. Water is available from Cow Creek. The site is located south of the Cow Creek Trail in an open area surrounded by trees. It sits below the ridge where two upright rocks simulate rabbit ears. A rock bench behind the site makes a natural seating area.
- Peregrine Backcountry Campsite
- The Peregrine campsite is located at 8,480', 2.0 miles from the Cow Creek Trailhead and 5.2 miles from the Lump Ridge Trailhead. There is 1 site and a bear box available. Water is available from Cow Creek. The site is located off the Cow Creek Trail, approx. 100 yards past the Dark Mountain Trail junction.
- McGregor Mountain Backcountry Campsite
- The McGregor campsite is located at 9,040', 4.1 miles from the Cow Creek Trailhead and 5.1 miles from the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. There are 2 sites available; no bear boxes are provided. Water is available from Black Canyon Creek. The site is located in a thick pine forest south of Black Canyon Creek off the Black Canyon Trail.
- Wood signs mark campsite spurs, which may also be marked by red arrowheads on trees. Pitch tents as close to the indicated site as possible, safely away from standing dead trees. Boil or adequately treat all water. Stoves only. Fires are prohibited, unless staying in a wood fire site with visible metal fire ring.
- Only catch and release fishing is permitted along the Cow Creek and Bridal Veil Falls drainages. Brook Trout are most commonly caught in these smaller streams.
Directions to Trailhead
From downtown Estes Park, turn north on MacGregor Ave, which becomes Devils Gulch Road shortly after crossing US Highway 34. Continue on Devils Gulch Road past MacGregor Ranch. The turn off for the trailhead is less than a mile ahead and marked by an NPS sign. Turn left (north) on the trailhead access road, which dead ends in several hundred yards. The trailhead has pit toilets.
Rocky Mountain National Park
1000 Highway 36
Estes Park, CO 80517-8397
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