Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Powderhorn Lakes Trail, Colorado

    • Mountain meadows
    • Wildlife viewing 
    • Alpine lakes
    • Trout fishing 

                Have I forgotten anything?  Oh yes—solitude.  
            Powderhorn Lakes Trail, near Lake City Colorado, combines the above ingredients into a delectable day hike.
We begin our trek on a cerulean Colorado morning.  The first section of trail climbs through a mature spruce/fir forest.  It’s a steady uphill and our calves are burning.  We stop several times to rest; breathing deeply we’re rewarded with the penetrating scent of evergreen—nature’s air freshener.
The trail breaks into an open meadow where golden grasses reach for the horizon.  This is a fine place to stop for pictures and Tim and I indulge our photographic passions.

"The Hills are Alive..."  Views from this expansive meadow
tempt you to open your arms and sing!

              We re-enter the forest and continue an undulating climb through the trees and past sparkling beaver ponds.  Finally the trail skirts Lower Powderhorn Lake where we stop along the south shore and drop our packs.  We set up base camp here at 11,600 feet.  Tim inflates his float tube and strings his fly line while I gather twigs for a small blaze.  The presence of fire rings alerts us to several campsites along the lakeshore—both Lower and Upper Powderhorn Lakes provide excellent backpack camping opportunities.

Beaver pond along the Powderhorn Lakes Trail.

Tim fishes while I relax by the fire and read; I can’t think of a better way to spend a morning in the mountains.  Tim hooks a few brook trout and we break for lunch.  This afternoon we hike another half mile to Upper Powderhorn Lake, nestled into a semi-circular soaring rock face.  The sparkling water entices Tim to try his luck with the fly rod, but the fish aren't biting at Upper Powderhorn today.  It’s possible the trout were killed during exposure to harsh winter conditions at this shallow high-elevation lake. 

Welcoming fire at our "base camp" near Lower Powderhorn Lake.
                  Note:  This photo was taken during a hike to Powderhorn Lakes several years ago.  Fire danger in the backcountry is extreme in 2012;  please do not build and ignite any campfires in the wilderness this summer.

Tim fishes Lower Powderhorn Lake from his float tube.

Returning to Lower Powderhorn, Tim has better luck catching small “brookies” in the beaver ponds.
We gather our belongings and leave this tranquil wilderness, our backcountry appetites sated for now.  We’ll return again someday to savor the many delights served along The Powderhorn Lakes Trail.

Looking down on Upper Powderhorn Lake.

Satisfy your taste for solitude this year.  Visit this site to plan a wilderness adventure to Powderhorn Lakes:  http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/gfo/recreation_information/hike-info/hike-trails/powderhorn.html


  1. Very good pictures as usual, Rita. Solitude is so very precious!

  2. Thanks for your comments, Manikchand.

    We have hiked Powderhorn Lakes trail 3 times during the past 8 years and each time have encountered—at most—2 or 3 other people.

    As an added bonus this trail is entirely within a wilderness area so there are no noisy machines in the forests or on the lakes.

    This is THE place to go for rare and precious solitude!

  3. Wow - that's like fishing from a Barcalounger! Looks like you had fantastic weather and the views are spectacular. Would much rather have sore calves from hiking than the weeding I did the other day around my NH place!

    1. Yes Vickie, Tim loves his float tube! For him, it's worth the extra weight to pack it in for alpine lake fishing.

      Fatique from weeding just isn't the same as fatigue from a good hike, is it? That said, I'm sure your place looks great now. Enjoy NH!

  4. Rita, your photos and narration attest to the fact that indeed "the hills are alive with the sound of music"!

    And, quoting from another line in The Sound of Music lyrics, your photos of the Powderhorn Lakes makes "my heart wants to beat like the wings of a bird that rise from the lake to the trees".

    Tim really had some great fishing there!


    1. John, I'm almost always humming a tune from "The Sound of Music" while hiking the Colorado wilderness!

      You're right-the fishing was great on that trip. But even when the fish aren't biting you can't beat that setting!

  5. Hi Rita,
    My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blog posts about Powderhorn to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you :)