Mileage: 2.49 to Lake Evelyn one-way; 6:10 to Horseshoe Lake one-way
Elevation:10,023 feet at trailhead; 11,158 feet at Lake Evelyn; 11,245 feet at Horseshoe Lake
To get there: Take Hwy 40 out of Winter Park toward Kremmling. Turn south on CR 3, then head left (east) on CR 32 (FSR 139). Follow CR 32 for 4.7 miles. Turn right at the sign for the Lake Evelyn trail, FSR 136. Follow the dirt road for 3.9 miles to the trailhead. CR 3 and CR 32 are well-maintained roads, and the road to the trailhead can be slightly rougher and rockier (still do-able in a Subura Legacy!)
With energy and momentum and five days in a row to play outside, we set out on our first backpacking trip of the year.
It seems to me that no matter how many times I go backpacking, the first trip of the year still finds me awkwardly packing, overpacking, and just plain forgetting where things fit best. So it was with slightly overloaded packs that we set off from the Lake Evelyn trailhead.
Our original intention was much loftier: to start from the Byer’s Peak trailhead, cut off at the Bottle Peak trail and drop down to Keyser Ridge and then Lake Evelyn. As we got glimpses of the backside of this route on our way up the Lake Evelyn trail, we were glad we took the easy route this time.
To reach Lake Evelyn, we climbed steadily for more than two miles through lush, green forest. This, and the wildflowers that are starting to pop out, are the result of an unusually wet Colorado summer. We could feel an unfamiliar humidity around us, and the shade of dark clouds passing overhead.
Upon arrival at the lake, we quickly realized we had it all to ourselves and took the long away around to find the designated campsites. This small lake is not Grand County’s most charming, but cozy and scenic nonetheless. The lake is backed on one side by Keyser Ridge, graggy and gray, and is otherwise surrounded by healthy forest.
Hearing early thunder, we quickly set up a tarp shelter and strung the hammock up below. Alex, excited at having seen quite a few fish in the lake, went off to fish while I took out my book. We were starting to understand why our packs were so heavy: a tarp, a hammock, books, fishing gear. But we can carry just about anything for two miles, we figured :).
Hanging out in the hammock with some hot tea, watching the rain fall.
We listened to this thunder roll for hours before sprinkles, and a subsequent 4 hour drizzle, came our way. Now the extra weight of that tarp and hammock were well worth it. Instead of laying flat on our backs in our little tent, we passed the hours swinging in the hammock, mosy-ing around under the shelter, attempting to perfect the angle of every rope and anchor so as to drain the rain properly off the tarp (Alex), and trying to stay warm with hot tea and whiskey. We hoped for sun; we looked for bright spots through the trees, but none ever came. A miraculous fire was started- three cheers for waterproof fire paste- , dinner was made, and then it was off to bed.
The view from Keyser Ridge, above Lake Evelyn.
We were lucky to have a dry night, and woke up to early sun coming through the trees, only to watch it disappear behind early clouds. A pancake breakfast, things shaken dry, packed up, and stashed in the woods. By mid-morning we were searching for the trail to Horseshoe Lake.
The trail from Lake Evelyn to Horseshoe Lake begins at the far end of Lake Evelyn, almost directly across the lake from where the trail to Lake Evelyn ends. It is faint at first as it climbs steeply away from the lake, but becomes more defined as it winds and climbs toward Keyser ridge. There is a sign on the ridge indicating the Keyser Ridge trail to the left and right and the Kinney Creek and Horseshoe Lake trail straight ahead. The Keyser Ridge trail is well-defined and easy to spot but the Kinney Creek/Horseshoe Lake trail is faint near the sign. Look directly behind the sign, walk from there and the trail become more defined. The first portion of this trail drops with no thoughts of hiking ease and liesure; we knew it was going to be a steep climb out. Dropping, dropping, dropping down the face of the hill, the trail eventually follows Kinney Creek. At the bottom of the hill, there is a sign indicating Kinney Creek trail, but no sign for Horseshoe Lake. However, there is a clearly defined trail to the left of the end of the Kinney Creek trail; this is the trail to Horseshoe Lake. For all of that coming down, we are now made to go back up to get to Horseshoe Lake! Ascending aside, this was slow-going due to the great amount of horsey damage done to the trail: erosion and mud and holes deep enough to swallow half a human leg. This trail climbs through lush, healthy forest as well, passes by multiple rock fields, and through two meadows that look up on the backsides of the mountains we look at from our porch. We sat only briefly at the lake to snarf lunch and wonder about the intent of yet another set of dark clouds.
Lunch at Horseshoe Lake
But with our days in Grand County dwindling, we didn’t need the lure of perfect weather to get us out for this trip. We didn’t have a desire to accomplish anything, to conquer a peak or rack up miles. We just needed that faint promise of the mountains, that familiar feeling of being so in the mountains we forget about all the changes coming up, all the items on our to-do list. How lucky we are to just sit and watch the rain, listen to the thunder, hope for sun, and soak up the mountain magic.
Hiking Info from Hiking Grand County, Colorado by Deborah Carr and Lou Ladrigan. And some photo cred to the wonderful Alex Romanyshyn!