FATMAP difficulty grade
This is an exceptional trail running loop, with easy access from Estes Park, making it one of the most sought-after runs in Colorado.
Because it’s at a lower elevation than most of Rocky Mountain National park, it has a fairly long season of good running conditions.
It’s generally best in late spring and fall, though, when temperatures are cool, yet the trail is largely snow-free. Going counter-clockwise from Lumpy Ridge trailhead, you’ll start with a short warm-up climb into a boulder-filled forest on well-traveled singletrack.
It soon turns into rolling terrain, across hillside meadows flecked with flowers, and with huge cliffs rising overhead.
Eventually, the trail enters a denser forest, and the first real climb begins.
It’s a fairly long but gradual ascent, with alternating steeper and less-steep sections, and luckily it’s well shaded. After a few miles of climbing, you’ll turn downhill through even thicker forest on a north-facing slope.
This section can be slow to melt out, so expect mud and ice in early season.
Farther down the valley, the trees open up to sunny meadows and mellow terrain.
Shortly after turning on the trail to Gem Lake, though, the trail goes uphill again.
This climb is tougher than the first and crosses some false summits along the way.
It’s still decently shaded, but on a hot day, you’ll want to save water for this section. When you see Gem Lake, you’ll know the climbing is finally through.
It comes after an especially rocky section through a notch in the ridge.
Gem is a small lake tucked against a rock wall, and has a small sand beach.
It makes a great place to rest and grab a picture.
From Gem Lake down is the home stretch, and where you’ll see the most people, because it’s the area’s most popular hike.
It’s all downhill, with some intimidating rock stairs and switchbacks.
Watch your footing and maintain control, and just a couple quick miles will deliver you back to the trailhead. Sources: https://www.visitestespark.com/blog/post/top-5-trail-runs-in-estes-park/ http://www.rockymountainhikingtrails.com/lumpy-ridge-loop.htm