Things To Do

The 4.4-mile, round-trip hike to Lake Haiyaha climbs from the Bear Lake Trailhead to an alpine lake at the mouth of Chaos Canyon in Rocky Mountain National Park. The lake, surrounded by jumbled boulders just below timberline, is dominated by 12,713-foot Hallett Peak on the north and 12,486-foot Otis Peak on the south. Haiyaha itself is a Native American word roughly translated as “lake of many rocks.” The popular trail, gaining 745 feet in 2.2 miles, takes two to three hours to hike round trip. The trail, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built between 1930 and 1935 and remains a favorite hike for visitors.

Pro Tips

  • Begin the hike at Bear Lake Trailhead. Follow the Emerald Lake Trail for 0.5 miles to Nymph Lake, and then another 0.6 miles to a junction with the Lake Haiyaha Trail at Dream Lake. Bear left and ascend the trail up a steep spruce- and fir-covered mountainside to Haiyaha Lake. Sit on rocks along the edge of the peaceful lake and enjoy the stunning scenery. Reverse the route to return to the trailhead. It’s worthwhile to also jog over to Dream Lake on your descent.
  • Bear Lake Trailhead at the end of Bear Lake Road is busy most of the year. Arrive early to get a parking spot, especially in summer and on autumn weekends. To avoid parking and traffic hassles, take the free park shuttle to the lake. Park across from Glacier Basin Campground in a Park & Ride lot and catch a ride. Shuttles run often in summer so you won’t wait long. Shuttle schedules, maps, and details are found at the park website, visitor centers, shuttle stops, and park newspaper.
  • Summer weather quickly changes from sunshine to storm. Be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms accompanied by lightning. Snow, frigid temperatures, and high winds can occur in the summer. Bring a rain jacket and extra clothes. Don’t forget a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses to protect from bright sunlight. Also carry snacks, water, and a map. Cell service is spotty so don’t rely on your phone.
  • Lake Haiyaha is at 10,240 feet so you can get altitude sickness if you’re coming from lower elevations. Symptoms include headache, nausea, and shortness of breath. The best cure is to descend to a lower elevation, so turn around and hike downhill to breathe more oxygen.
  • Recommended season(s): Year-round.

    –Stewart M. Green


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