Estes Park Colorado - Backpacking to Upper Chipmunk


Backpacking to Upper Chipmunk

Backpacking to Upper Chipmunk campsite was a rigorous climb up a tediously rocky trail.

Wow, the rangers weren't kidding when they said it was steep.

I don't mind an aerobic challenge, but with all the rocks I could hardly take my eyes off the trail.

Finally we stood in the basin next to the Y-shaped outline of Ypsilon Mountain. I couldn't wait to see Ypsilon Lake.

Chipmunk Lake was immediately to our right, small but beautiful.

Just up the trail we encountered the sign for Upper Chipmunk campsite.

Upper Chipmunk was tucked deep in the dense pines.

It shared its space with a massive horde of mosquitoes. I was never happier to have bug spray.

Campfires aren't allowed, so bug spray, fleece jackets, and long socks are your only guard against these persistent suckers.

An unnamed body of water rested a few yards from our tent. It was smaller than Chipmunk Lake, so we called it Upper Chipmunk Pond.

Big boulders scattered the pond's surface. We jumped between them until we stood in the middle of the water. It was an awesome spot for stargazing.

A short distance away, the trail led us to the large, luminous Ypsilon Lake.

I could hear rushing water, but could only see a small waterfall at the lake's edge.

Chris pointed to the other side of the lake.

“Let's hike over there!”

It was a mountainside of shale.

I really didn't feel like precariously making my way to the other side, but I agreed.

We began our hike through the trees, and that's when we discovered that the waterfall continued. 

Scraggy cliffs surrounded the falls.

We decided to climb.

We hiked and bouldered between pitches of rock.

This had to be the largest waterfall I had ever seen.

Beyond the first two pools, we climbed past another seven cascading levels of the falls.

When we reached the final pool, I said, “Let's choose the best one to jump into!”

We methodically decided the third level was the best.

It had the widest, longest, and most rock-free pool.

We waited for the sun to come out from behind the clouds.

“One, two, THREE!”

We lowered ourselves into the arctic water.

After one second we yelped and pulled ourselves out.

Man! I didn't go in all the way.

“We should do it again,” I said.

“This time, all the way under.”

“Go!” I yelled.

We got back in the water, dunked our heads, and scrambled out as quickly as possible.

Through chattering teeth we said, “Wow, that feels pretty good!”

On our way down we decided to use the trail, which we realized was on the other side of the waterfall. 

After a night of swatting mosquitoes under the stars, we descended the trail.

Towards the bottom we made a pit stop at Roaring River.

There's a wide, sandy beach with big, flat boulders next to the water.

We dunked our feet in cool run-off, lay next to the river's edge, and relaxed under the sun.