Hiking to the jewel of the Medicine Bow Mountains
The Rocky Mountains become a bit less rugged the farther north you go. That's the case in Colorado's Medicine Bow Mountains, which are roughly split in half by Roosevelt National Forest and the Rawah Wilderness in Larimer County east of the Medicine Bows' crest, and Colorado State Forest State Park in Jackson County west of the crest.
Below the Clark Peak, the highest point in Colorado's share of the Medicine Bow range, is Jewel Lake, a rocky tarn nestled deep within a glacial cirque below several rounded peaks, all easy to climb. The lake is in State Forest State Park, which sprawls across the western flank of the Medicine Bows and borders Rocky Mountain National Park to the south.
If you're accustomed to hiking in a national forest or national park, visiting State Forest State Park is a wholly different experience. Full of ATV-riding off-roaders and pistol-toting fishermen (!), the people you'll find on the trails and four wheel-drive roads here aren't the folks you'll run into in the Comanche Peaks Wilderness or Rocky Mountain National Park. State Forest is really a local's affair, but the scenery (and the rental yurts) are well worth the trek over Cam Pass to get here.
Without a four wheel-drive high-clearance vehicle, you have to park 1.5 miles from the Ruby-Jewel trailhead, making the short hike to the lake a six mile roundtrip trek.