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.
Above Long Lake the trees started to thin out, giving us views of snowfields and glacial streams.
Soon we were at Isabelle Lake, which sits at tree line around 10,900 feet.
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.
The trail then kept climbing up to a gorgeous tarn at 11,400 feet.
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.
I climbed up a little higher to get a closer look at the glacier.
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.
When we reached the first steep snowfield by the trail, I set up for a fun glissade.
Once again we navigated around the swamp.
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.
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: