Isabelle Glacier

Isabelle Glacier Trail
(11 miles, +2,500/-2,500 feet).

It was great to have a zero day yesterday after our backpack around the Maroon Bells!  But since we finished a day early, we had a chance to do a day hike today.  We decided to hike up to one of Colorado’s disappearing glaciers, the beautiful Isabelle.

The parking lot at the trailhead was already full at 8am, so we had to backtrack to the Mitchell Lake Trailhead.  We thought we would have to do a road walk, but after not too long there was a trail that ducked right into the forest to take us up to the Isabelle Lake Trailhead.

It was really great to hike without full packs, and we were already acclimatized to the elevation so climbing was a breeze!

The first part of the trail was in the woods, but a breeze kept the bugs at bay.

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Here we go
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South St. Vrain Creek
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Welcome to the Wilderness
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Long Lake
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MixMaster rounds the bend

Above Long Lake the trees started to thin out, giving us views of snowfields and glacial streams.

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Pretty!

Soon we were at Isabelle Lake, which sits at tree line around 10,900 feet.

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Isabelle Lake
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MixMaster looks up towards the glacier
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The trail follows right next to the shore of the lake
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Looking back on Lake Isabelle
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Into the talus
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Almost done with the lake…
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…but then ducklings!
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MixMaster loved the cascades
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MixMaster’s photo
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Hmmm…. That looks like it might be fun.
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Chia shoots a marmot

Above Isabelle Lake we climbed up to a flat swampy area where we had to cross the stream twice where it was thick with willows.

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Looking back on the swamp

The trail then kept climbing up to a gorgeous tarn at 11,400 feet.

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Up, up
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Chia and the tarn

Above the tarn we continued climbing.  We didn’t know it until later, but we took a wrong turn near the top.  Instead of following a dry switchbacked trail all the way to the glacier, we ended up doing a bit of a talus scramble and then crossing a snowfield.

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Lovely waterfalls
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Navajo Peak 
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MixMaster and Chia cross the snow
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Isabelle Glacier!
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A lovely pothole tarn below the glacier
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Time for lunch

I climbed up a little higher to get a closer look at the glacier.

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Another view of the pothole tarn
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JimmyJam vs. the glacier!
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JimmyJam’s view

We eventually had to come back down, and the timing was great.  We had the place all to ourselves and then passed about a dozen people on the way up who would have arrived shortly.

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Mixmaster and Chia circumnavigate a snowfield
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Columbines everywhere!
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Another look at the tarn at 11,400 feet
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What a great hike!
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Yes, definitely too cold for a swim (just checking)
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Back in the tundra

When we reached the first steep snowfield by the trail, I set up for a fun glissade.

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We’ll keep our butts warm and dry, thank you
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Not me!

Once again we navigated around the swamp.

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This is even prettier going down!
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Crossing the stream

Instead of crossing, I went cross country to the top of another large snowfield.  I glissaded it, too, but it wasn’t really steep enough.  Half the time I used my feet to inchworm myself forward down the snow.

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From above
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From below after my very slow slide
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Here come Chia and MixMaster to rejoin me
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Almost back to Isabelle Lake
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The edge of the world
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So much talus!
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Our guide through the rocks
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Rounding the lake
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MixMaster finds a comfy chair
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Wait, why are we going up?
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That’s better
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Last look back at Lake Isabelle
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My last mountain water for this trip – yum!
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A meadow near Long Lake

When we got back to the car, we headed over to nearby Brainard Lake for a group photo.  We spent a lot of time riffing on a famous line from the movie Fargo:

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“Geez, I’m going crazy out there at the lake!”

One Comment Add yours

  1. Jawbone says:

    Stunning photos, one after another!

    Liked by 1 person

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