Lake Helene – 6.1mi / 9.8km
The hike up from Bear Lake to the sparkling Lake Helene features a dazzling array of mountain terrain, forest types, and sprawling views.
You’ll start along the eastern shore of the gorgeous Bear Lake before taking a right and climbing through a grove of aspens embedded in a boulder field. Views look south towards summits including Longs Peak towering over dramatic drainages. Take a left as you approach the top of Bierstadt Moraine to head towards Odessa Lake.
The climb through the forest eases as you pass the trail that breaks off for Flattop Mountain. The forest begins breaking with occasional views and flowering sub-alpine meadows. As you cross a large, pika-filled boulder field, you’ll get your first look at the craggy ridgeline consisting of Notchtop, Knobtop, and Gabletop mountains.
As you reach the apex of the climb, follow a large path up the stoney ridge for a jaw-dropping vantage of the area including Lake Helene. Continue a short way to the bend in the trail for the unsigned trail down to the lake. Flattop Mountain towers high above this quaint, mountain lake.
Return back to Bear Lake or consider heading out to the Fern Creek Trailhead for a longer 8.9mi/14.4km day (see Odessa Lake in 5-10 Miles for description).
Trailhead: Follow Bear Lake Road to the Bear Lake Trailhead, or park at the Park & Ride and take the park’s free shuttle to the trailhead.
Elevation Gain: 1,250ft / 375m – Elevation Loss: 1,250ft / 375m