Gibson Lake Trail is a 2.2 mile lightly trafficked point-to-point trail located near Jefferson, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is accessible from June until October.
Directions from Bailey: From Bailey drive west on Highway 285 for 14.3 miles. Turn right (north) on to Park County Road 60. This road is also designated as Forest Service Road 120, and commonly called the Hall Valley Road. Travel on 120 6.5 miles to the trailhead. At mile 5 immediately before Hall Valley Campground bear left at the fork in the road. The last 1.4 miles above Hall Valley Campground are very rough, and may be classified a four-wheel drive road.
This trail is not for the faint of heart. It is a 12% grade climb all the way up. The mileage is off a bit, I GPS'ed this at about 3.25 miles 1 way from the trail head. It is a challenge and I do not recommend this if you are out of shape. The road to the trail head requires a high clearance 4WD vehicle. It is very steep, rocky and rough on the last 1.6 miles up to the Trail head via the road with a small parking lot at the trail head. 4-5 cars max. I had a 30 lb pack and it took 2.5 hours up and 1.5 down. Well worth the time and effort to get there. All in all a great trail but definitely not an easy one. Gorgeous backpacking camp sights at high altitude.
We are new to Colorado; only lived here a week, but we consider ourselves in-shape. This trail gave us a small run for our money. Being from Eastern South Dakota we are definitely not used to the elevation. That said we loved this hike. The Gibson Lake and the views that accompany it are amazing. This was a good way to get our feet wet in the elevation game; with a goal of a 14er in the not too distant future. Gibson Lake is at 12,000ft. We parked 1.6 miles down the road from the trailhead to avoid the rough road.
I've seen varying info on trail length. Sign in lot says 3 miles. Alltrails says 2.2. Somewhere else online mentioned 2.4. My GPS said 2.97. Road was pretty rough but not technical. There was Subaru Outback parked next to us but I'm guessing they scraped a bit.
Hike was fairly steep and rocky. Beautiful views at the top. Next time I'll aim for Whale Peak summit.
Unbelievable view at the top of the lake! Highly recommend -
Beautiful day to hike this trail . We parked down the road from the signs for the camping fees so we had quite a long walk round trip. The creeks were running and there were still some leaves on the Aspens. Lovely little lake with fish jumping to snatch insects.
Pretty hike but I would rate it more moderate than easy. Lots of loose rock makes it a bit challenging. Most of the trail follows a creek up to the top where the lake is.
With another adult took 4 Scouts with back packs to spend Saturday night. Found a suitable campsite at about the 11,000' elevation, below timberline of course. We hiked up to the lake Sunday morning before breakfast. I, being the slowest took about 2 hours to get to the lake and well worth it. Beautiful views and flowers were gorgeous. Bugs weren't too bad but repellant still required.
We parked near the split in the road to Handcart Gulch, so added about an additional mile to overall hike.
Great day hike up to Lake Gibson. Road is rough after the last fee area camp ground. Advised high ground clearance vehicles to the trail head. Some fallen tress across the trail up to the lake but all were very manageable.
Snowshoed to top. cold and windy 2004-March
Gibson Lake Trail has some nice things to offer if you are a photographer, fishermen or simply out for the spectacular views. The trail starts just above Hall Valley Campground off the rough 4x4 road leading up to the abandoned Missouri mine. We have had several heavy rains that have continued to wash out the road exposing more rock making the trip more difficult each time. You do have to cross one small creek so make sure you are in a 4x4 with good ground clearance.
Several tributaries feed the main creek, which are the headwaters of The North Fork of the South Platte River and if you are a fisherman hitting the pocket pools can bring in a wonderful meal in the form of 8-15 in Brooke Trout. Be prepared with light tackle as most areas are tight, brushy and hard to get into but the reward is worth the trouble.
From the parking area the starting elevation is 10223ft, the lot can only hold about 6-8 cars so get there early. You head SW down to a bridge that used to be a water crossing for the 4x4 forest service road that is the first portion of the trail. This trail is very steep and rocky and doesn't waste any time with the climb. Just about a half-mile in you start to follow the creek, which rolls nicely down the gorgeous terrain offering great fishing opportunities for colorful Brooke Trout from 6-14 inches.
The area is full of biting flies and serious mosquitos, even with 100% Deet I was getting tagged and still have the welts to prove it, and it only gets worse the higher you go up. Most of the early climb is shaded by the awesome pines that flourish in the region but even with this get an early start to avoid the sun, at this altitude you will bake up quite nicely in a very short period of time. Stopping in the shade is the trap that gets you eaten alive by the wonderful airborne residents so beware.
Eventually the nice wide 4x4 road is swallowed up by the natural over growth that will consume any trail that is not maintained, another shame to the forest service of Colorado. Once you make it out of the trees you get to a more open, rocky area where the trail is only about 6-8 inches wide, this makes for a difficult walk if you try to stay on the path. Near the top you come to a brushy area that completely overcomes the trail, at 5-9 it was up to my chin and it slices you up in an unforgiving fashion. Where you are not cut you will no longer have bug repellant on so make sure you bring enough with you to re-apply. Once you make it through the rough brush you come to the muddy bogs, make sure your boots are waterproof or the trip home will be miserable. There are also three areas where you have to cross the creek so hiking poles along with the good boots are strongly recommended, this will also make your navigation through the rocks much easier.
Out of the brush, past the bogs and the over last hill and you are at the lake which according to my GPS (Garmin Montana 600T) is at 11883ft. It is quite scenic and the fishing is spectacular with a fly and a bubble. Hungry Brookes were gobbling up everything I threw at them which for me made the trip worth the anguish.
Overall the trip was ok but this is only for the extreme hiker, photographer or backpacker. If you are a novice or a slow mover this is not the hike for you and especially NOT for smaller children. The region has a lot of wildlife so mind your kids and pets should you decide to bring them. This is a one time trip in my book, I personally wouldn’t make it a second time simply because there are other nice places to see without all the trouble. For fishermen if that is the only reason you are making the trip stick to the lower portions of the creek, as you will be better served. This area has frequent thunderstorms that can be very dangerous so again, get an early start. Bring plenty of water, I ran through 2.5 liters and had to use my water filter to refill my hydration pack so be prepared.
Always enjoy the vast treasure we have before us, but do it responsibly and cautiously and with all due respect to the kings of the forests that live there. Remember to be safe, always pack the right gear and never ever go into their domain up prepared, not ever for a minute. Until the next time if you ever come across a trail jumping flesh-eating creek-vaulting gun-toting knife wielding stick swinging Metal Chef-ing banjo pickin' guitar playin' owner of a face you'll never forget and one only his mother could love scarier than your mamma could ever warn you about spooky dude who might just cook and eat you, NEVER, EVER, use the term bushwhacking in his un-holy presence…
This is THE American Wolverine