The Lake Haiyaha Trail is a somewhat strenuous, somewhat easy hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. The scenic vistas that open up from the path and at the end of the journey are what makes this trail worth talking about and walking along.
Last updated: February 22, 2023
Lake Haiyaha Trail – A Moderate Hike with Breathtaking Views in Rocky Mountain National Park
A sign at a trail junction along the Nymph, Dream, Emerald Lakes Trail gave two directions. The right fork continued on to the popular alpine lakes. The left path ran straight before disappearing in a dense fir and spruce forest. In 1.2 miles, the trail would stop at Lake Haiyaha shore.
The Lake Haiyaha Trail? I hadn’t heard about this lake up to that point. The truth is, we weren’t even sure how to pronounce this name. Yet the weather in the mountains finally cleared up, just in time for our new adventure. With not many excursions planned for that day, we gave in to this hike with the mysterious name, Lake Haiyaha.
Introducing Lake Haiyaha
Lake Haiyaha is one of alpine/subalpine lakes in the Bear Lake area. Nestled deep in the woods, the place astounds with its rugged shores and remarkable views of 12,486-foot Otis Peak, 12,713-foot Hallett Peak, the Sharkstooth, and Chaos Canyon, located between the biggest summits.
“Haiyaha” (pronounce hi-ya-ha) comes from one of the indigenous languages of the Americas. It means “rock”, “big rocks”, or “lake of many rocks“. The name depicts the true nature of the place. Surrounded by the Colorado Rockies’ giants, it holds tight to smaller boulders and abundant rocks right at its edge.
Located slightly off the route to a popular trio, Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes, the Lake Haiyaha hike also feels quieter. While many Rocky Mountain’s enthusiast still march along the moderately strenuous trail every day, serenity and tranquility are not forsaken here.
- Distance: 2.2-mile, one-way hike (as the sign at the trailhead says)
- Elevation Gain: 745 feet
- Trailhead Location: Bear Lake area
- Trailhead Elevation: 9,475 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous near the second trail junction
- Time: 3 hours to complete the entire Lake Haiyaha hike
Lake Haiyaha Hike
Lake Haiyaha Trail from Trailhead to Second Trail Junction
The Lake Haiyaha hike starts at the Bear Lake Trailhead, behind Bear Lake ranger station. While the most popular lake in the area nestles to your right, the Lake Haiyaha Trail veers to the left. Here, at a trail junction, the path keeps to the right and runs uphill.
This first section of the Lake Haiyaha hike is busy. Sharing the route with the Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes Trail, the paved path sees hordes of hikers daily. 0.5 mile from the start of the hike, the Lake Haiyaha Trail stumbles upon popular Nymph Lake.
From here, the trail continues on along the northern shore of the lake and dives deeper into the woods. The path follows the shared route for another 0.5 mile. At a new trail junction, it continues straight (the left fork), but starts gaining elevation with every step. Soon the trail becomes so steep that you want to take short breaks now and then to catch your breath.
Lake Haiyaha Trail: A Hike along Cliff Edge
Immersing farther into the fir and spruce forest, the Lake Haiyaha Trail zigzags along several switchbacks, running along a cliff edge.
This part of the Lake Haiyaha hike is the hardest one. The trail steadily climbs up, disregarding the already high altitude. The vistas from the cliff edge are, however, to live for. The Glacier Basin area spreads right below you. Panoramic views of Bear, Dream, and even Bierstadt Lakes allure from afar, making you forget about the strenuous hike up to this point.
About 0.5 mile later, the hike toward Lake Haiyaha feels easy again. The trail changes its trajectory. Still running along the cliff edge, it begins to descend. Just a little bit, but noticeable for the exhausted legs…
Hiking Deeper into Forest
Assuming that you’ve had enough of the scenic views, the Lake Haiyaha Trail departs from the cliff edge and veers into the woods. Here it finally levels out and forsakes all changes in elevation altogether.
The dense forest, on the other hand, has little to offer to your panoramic-vista-thirsty eyes. The occasional boulders and footbridges interrupt the straightforward patterns of the trail. From time to time, you may encounter elk, bears, chipmunks, and other wildlife along the forested section of the Lake Haiyaha Trail.
Right before you reach the lake, the large boulders slow you down once again. The trail gets lost among the massive rocks. All you can do at this point is to scramble over them. Lake Haiyaha sits right on the other side of this barricaded area, marking the successful completion of this section of the hike.
Ending Lake Haiyaha Hike
Return back to the trailhead following the same route or prolong your adventure and tread to Alberta Falls before completing the hike.
Why to Hike to Lake Haiyaha
With enough scenic alpine lakes in the area, you can’t help but wonder what makes the Lake Haiyaha hike special. Here are a few points to answer your queries and persuade you to conquer the steep incline.
While all other lakes in the area boasts equally remarkable views, Lake Haiyaha outperforms them with the sweeping vistas of the Glacier Basin area along the way.
Bears seldom roam in the Bear Lake region. Yet your chances of spotting the black mammals are greater in the forested areas of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Lake Haiyaha Trail is just one of them.
Ditching sandy coves and adopting the rocky shores, Lake Haiyaha indeed stands out from the majority of the alpine lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Less Crowded Trail
Whether it’s due to the steep ascent or the off-the-popular-route location, fewer people hike to Lake Haiyaha. Thus, finding serenity is not something you have to strive for desperately on the trail or at the pristine lake itself.
Lake Haiyaha Hike: Location and Direction
The Lake Haiyaha hike starts at the Bear Lake Trailhead in the Bear Lake Road Corridor. If you enter Rocky Mountain National Park at the Beaver Meadows Entrance, located approximately 4 miles from Estes Park, follow US-36 W for 0.2 mile. Then turn left onto the Bear Lake Road and drive for nearby 10 miles. Bear Lake parking lot sits at the end of the route.
Lake Haiyaha Trail: Map with Directions from Estes Park
When Can You Hike to Lake Haiyaha?
The Lake Haiyaha area is open for hiking all year round. The best time to hit the trail is between April and November when it’s free of snow. If the white blanket on the path and a winter wonderland around you inspire all your outdoor adventures, “hike” to Lake Haiyaha with snowshoes on your feet.
Fall foliage that transforms Rocky Mountain National Park eludes this area, dotted mostly with the evergreen trees. The bright colors popping up sporadically in the Glacier Basin area, however, remind of the golden time of the year from the cliff edge the Lake Haiyaha Trail runs along.
Prepare for Your Hike to Lake Haiyaha: Things to Know
No Dogs on the Trail
Pets are normally not allowed on the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Park and Ride
If you can’t find a parking spot at the Bear Lake parking lot, drive back to the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, leave your car here, and use a park shuttle to get back to the Bear Lake area. The shuttle operates daily from late May until mid-October.
Hike to Lake Haiyaha Early in the Morning
Your chances of sharing the place with as fewer people as possible and claiming a parking spot are greater at this time. Furthermore, the early morning hours usually pamper the hikers with the gorgeous images of the surrounding mountains reflecting off the lake.
While the snow makes hiking to Lake Haiyaha difficult in winter, afternoon thunderstorms with lightning keep the hikers away from the trail in summer. Ideally, you should be back at the trailhead before noon to avoid any nature surprises.
What to Pack for a Hike to Lake Haiyaha
- Water. You may need to drink extra water while hiking along the steeping section of the Lake Haiyaha Trail.
- Hiking Poles. These are of most help while hiking uphill.
- Shoes with Excellent Traction. After the rain, the steep, dirt path may be slippery. Same goes to the massive rocks near the shore at the end of the Lake Haiyaha hike. So be sure to wear good hiking shoes with excellent traction.
- Snowshoes. Bring these along if you hike to Lake Haiyaha in winter.
- Bear Repellent. Although your chances of encountering a bear in Rocky Mountain National Park are slim, better be well prepared. With that said, only black bears roam in the forested areas of the park. And if one of these attacks, it means to kill its victim.
READ MORE: How to Protect Yourself from Bears in the Wild: Tips and Myths
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