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Lake Haiyaha Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Hallet Peak from Lake Haiyaho Trail
Photo by Elderhiker via flickr used through creative commons license

Lake Haiyaha Trail, located on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park, is important in the history of landscape architecture and recreation. Even before the trail, tourists would trek through the country around Nymph, Dream, Emerald and Haiyaha lakes. This easily accessible area offered classic mountain scenery, where picturesque lakes were nestled below the lofty eastern walls of the Continental Divide. As early as 1910, visitors made the trek from Bear Lake into Tyndall Gorge and Chaos Canyon. Local lodge owners did not build any trails due to the short distance from Bear Lake up to the lakes.

The ease with which these lakes could be reached seems to have contributed to their anonymity. In 1915 they existed as unlabeled lakes on the local hiking map; in 1917 only Dream Lake was labeled on a map created by Robert Toll called Mountaineering in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Indeed, Dream Lake emerged as the most picturesque and best-known lake in the area. With the growth of the automobile industry in America, transportation improved in the area and visitation increased. A summer camp for boys and fathers opened in 1924, which advertised activities in a new trail school “located on the shores of Bear Lake, which is almost the exact center of the Rocky Mountain National park, a wild but beautiful and now accessible spot at the foot of Halletts Park.”

[Photo] Looking down to lake Haiyaha
Photo by Schmeckbeck via flickr used through creative commons license

Between 1930 and 1935, the park acknowledged the growing popularity of the lakes by building a formal trail up to Lake Haiyaha. Construction progressed in stages. In 1930, the park built the first section up to Nymph Lake. The next half-mile, up to Dream Lake, was completed in 1931. The final section between Dream and Haiyaha was initiated in 1933, under the supervision of Rocky Mountain National Park’s first landscape architect to specialize in trail work-Allison van V.Dunn. The extensive dry laid rock walls in the switchbacks south of Dream Lake utilized Dunn’s technical background. Today, the rockwork in this section appears old (covered with lichen and settled into the surrounding dirt) yet is still very functional; it is likely that these walls are the original 1930s construction. Completed in 1935, the project went well over budget.

Lake Haiyaha
Photo by Navin75 via flickr used through creative commons license

The new trail made the lakes significantly more accessible, further encouraging the visitation of more hikers. The trail begins alongside Bear Lake and ascends westward towards Tyndall Gorge, passing Nymph Lake along the way. Upon reaching Dream Lake, the trail moves up a southward slope, into the Chaos Canyon drainage, and arrives at Lake Haiyaha, located at the timberline along Chaos Creek. With a length of 2.1 miles and a view of many picturesque natural features including Flattop Mountain and Hallett Peak, the trail possesses a width ranging from two to five feet. Constructed from earth, local rock, wood and asphalt, the trail offers a backdrop which looks upon the sheer eastern slopes of the Continental Divide. The surroundings are lush well into summer. Nymph, Dream, Emerald and Haiyaha are a string of lakes breathtaking in their beauty, and all are higher than 9,500 feet in elevation. Today, Lake Haiyaha and the surrounding area remains a favorite with park visitors. Lake Haiyaha Trail was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on March 5, 2008 and is part of the Rocky Mountain National Park Multiple Property Submission which covers the manmade historic sites in the park.

Read our entire file on this property: Lake Haiyaha Trail

Lake Haiyaha Trail | North Inlet Trail
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