DISTANCE
12.0 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
3,891 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

hiking

nature trips

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

hiking
2 months ago

Hiked 9/15. This is a hidden gem. The scenery is spectacular, and you’ll pretty much have it all to yourself (I started at 9 AM on a Saturday and only saw two other hikers during the entire round-trip). Plenty of parking at the roundabout of the trailhead. As others have mentioned, it’s not an easy hike. Most comments mention the steepness of the first mile. I didn’t think that part was too bad – seemed short-lived (with fresh legs, at least). After that, it mellows out for a stretch and follows the Roaring Fork. When the trail splits with Wantanga Lake to the left and the Roaring Fork Trail to the right, keep right. That’s where it got tough for me. It was a long and steep ascent up Mt. Irving Hale. I had to stop numerous times to take a breather. But you’re rewarded for your efforts at the top – you’ll come to a big grassy clearing with an incredible view of the Indian Peaks.

I was nervous about the descent, since I read the trail was easy to lose. There was really only one part that threw me off. You’ll crouch under the arch of a fallen tree, hang left around a boulder, then come to a spot where you can either go right or left. You want to go left – not sure where the other path leads. Shout out to the reviewer CJ below me who partially blocked the trail to the right with a rock and some sticks – I probably would’ve gone right had I not read him comment beforehand. From there, it’s pretty easy to follow down to Stone Lake (although the trail pretty much becomes matted down grass in some spots). The scenery down in the canyon and at the lake is phenomenal. I tried to follow the trail to Upper Lake, but the trail seemed to disappear…either I missed something, or the trail doesn’t quite go all the way. Saw it from afar, but decided not to go off-trail.

Going up Mt. Irving Hale again on the way back was tiring, but then it’s all downhill the rest of the way. Since you have to cross the mountain twice, be mindful of afternoon storms. I specifically picked a day without storms in the forecast for that reason.