Lake Haiyaha Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park
Lake Haiyaha, also known as “Rocky Mountain National Park’s most playful lake,” is named after the Arapaho word for “big rocks” or “big boulder.” The lake is located in a boulder-strewn area at the base of Chaos Canyon, which is fitting since the lake is surrounded by large boulders and cliffs, mostly amde from granite.
The trail to the lake is considered moderate to strenuous. It will take anywhere from 2-3 hours to hike the 4+ mile trail that gains about 750 feet as you ascend to Lake Haiyaha.
Where is the Lake Haiyaha Trailhead?
The Lake Haiyaha hike is located in Rocky Mountain National Park, which is about an hour and a half drive northwest of Denver. You’ll need to enter the park in one of it’s northeast entrance stations, near Estes Park. The trailhead is then located at the end of Bear Lake Road, which is one of the main roads that traverses through the park.
To get to the trailhead from Denver (which is about 80 miles in total), you would take I-25 north to US-36 west and then enter the National Park at the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station. Once in the park, hang a left onto Bear Lake Road, which the trailhead is located at the end of.
The coordinates to the trailhead are 40.311933, -105.645635, or you can click here to view the Google Map link to it. The two park entrance stations that will work to access this hike are either:
- Fall River Entrance Station: Fall River Rd, Estes Park, CO 80517
- Beaver Meadows Entrance Station: 1000 US-36, Estes Park, CO 80517
Timed Entry Requirements
Rocky Mountain National park has timed entry requirements during their busy season. Getting one of these tickets will be needed between May and late October unless you get into the park before 5am.
The cost of the ticket is $2 per vehicle, and you can purchase the tickets up to two months in advance. RMNP offers two different tickets, so make sure you choose the one that allows access to the Bear Lake Corridor.
Avoiding Crowds at Lake Haiyaha
The trailhead to Lake Haiyaha can get crowded during peak season, which is typically during the summer months of June through September. During this time, the Bear Lake Road, where the trailhead is located, can get busy and parking can be limited. It’s best to arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowds and to increase your chances of finding a parking spot. When I was there, I arrived at 5:30am, and the lot was already half way full. By sunrise, there were no parking spots left. Getting to this trailhead early is essential.
The parking lot near the trailhead is relatively small and fills up quickly, especially on weekends and holidays, so it’s important to plan accordingly. If the parking lot is full, you may have to park at one of the overflow parking areas and walk to the trailhead.
While the Lake Haiyaha trail itself isn’t usually too busy due to its difficulty level, the parking lot services plenty of other trails, which is why you’ll see them full almost all the time.
Alternatively, the park’s Bear Lake shuttle bus service runs from mid-June through October, and it can be a good way to avoid the crowds and parking issues. The Hiker Shuttle (reservation needed) service takes visitors from the Estes Park Visitor Center to the park and ride at the end of Bear Lake Road. The Bear Lake trailhead (where this hike is located), is a short walk from this parking lot.
The Lake Haiyaha Hike
The hike to Lake Haiyaha is a moderate to difficult hike that is a little over 4 miles round trip. The trail is considered a backcountry trail, and is a more strenuous hike.
It begins at the Bear Lake Trailhead, which is at the end of Bear Lake Road inside the park’s boundaries.
|Hiking Distance||4.2 miles (6.8 km), round trip|
|Difficulty||Moderate to Strenuous|
|Trail Type||Out and Back|
|Hiking Duration||2-3 hours|
|Starting Elevation||9,475 feet (2,888 m)|
|Elevation Climb||745 feet (227 meters)|
|Ending Elevation||10,220 feet (3,115 m)|
|Dogs||No dogs allowed in RMNP|
|Fees||Timed Entry Pass Required before 5am|
The trail sees about 800 feet of elevation gain and has some rocky sections and steep inclines. The trail starts at Bear Lake and follows the Glacier Creek Trail for a short distance before turning off onto the Lake Haiyaha Trail. Along the way, hikers will pass Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and cross Tyndall and Chaos creeks before reaching the lake.
Typical Weather at Lake Haiyaha
Rocky Mountain National Park is known for its variable weather. The park is located at high elevation, which means that the weather can change rapidly and temperatures can be quite different from those in the surrounding low-lying areas.
In the Summer, (June to September), the weather is generally mild and comfortable. Daytime temperatures range from the low 70s to low 80s Fahrenheit (around 20-30°C). Evenings can be cool, with temperatures dropping to the 40s (around 5-10°C) at the highest elevations. Thunderstorms can develop quickly and unexpectedly in the park, so hikers should be prepared for sudden changes in weather.
In the Fall (September to November), the weather becomes cooler and drier, with daytime temperatures in the 60s (around 15-20°C) and nighttime temperatures dropping to the 30s (around 0-5°C) at higher elevations. This is also the best time for viewing fall colors, as the aspens turn golden yellow and the other deciduous trees turn red, orange, and purple.
Winter (December to April) brings deep snow to the park, with temperatures dipping well below freezing. The main Trail Ridge Road is closed in winter and only accessible by cross-country skis or snowshoes. However, the Bear Lake Road remains open year round, except for the days when winter storms force it closed until the snow plows do their thing.
The trail in the wintertime will be snowy and steep. Snowshoes will probably be your best bet if you’re hiking this trail in the winter.
Spring (May to June) brings milder temperatures and less snow, with daytime temperatures in the 50s (around 10-15°C) and nighttime temperatures in the 30s (around 0-5°C) at higher elevations. The snow melts rapidly, and wildflowers start to bloom.
Other Nearby Hikes & Trails
There are several trails that are nearby to the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. Some popular options include:
- The Bear Lake Loop Trail: This is a short, easy hike that encircles Bear Lake and offers great views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. It’s a great option for families and visitors looking for an easy hike. You start out on this trail, but quickly bypass Bear Lake and continue south towards Dream Lake instead when hiking the Lake Haiyaha trail.
- The Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lake Trail: This is a moderate hike that starts at Bear Lake and leads to a series of beautiful subalpine lakes, notably Dream Lake. You pass the entrance to this trail about halfway into the Lake Haiyaha trail.
- Glacier Gorge Trailhead: This is the start of quite a few trails, including those that take you to Alberta Falls, Mills Lake, Loch Vale and Sky Pond. The start of this trail is about a mile back from the end of Bear Lake Road.