Basalt / Ruedi Resevoir
February 11, 2004
(B, H) This is a favorite for local mountain bikers as well as hikers. Be warned: The first mile (is it only a mile? – it feels so much worse!) of this trail is tough. Then it flattens out – but not much. The reward is a great view from the top. The trail runs along a ridgetop before ending at Sloane Peak; from there you can either turn around or, especially if you’re on two wheels, hook into one of several trails and Forest Service roads that will eventually bring you to the small town of Lenado. Definitely pick up a map for reference, or you could wander around for days. The trailhead can be accessed by foot or bike off the Basalt-Old Snowmass trail along Highway 82 (behind the Roaring Fork Club). It’s also accessible by car – drive east from Basalt on Highway 82 and take a left at Bishop Drive (you’ll see a house that looks like a windmill). Bear left and go up the hill through the Holland Hills subdivision; stay left again when the road turns to dirt. 8 miles one way to Sloane Peak.
(H) The area around Mount Yeckel, near the end of this hike, provides awesome views of the Fryingpan River drainage and the Elk Range. Follow the Fryingpan Road for about 28 miles from Basalt, past Ruedi Reservoir and the towns of Meredith and Thomasville. At Norrie, turn right on Forest Road 504. Take this gravel road three miles uphill, then turn right onto the first road fork. The trailhead bulletin board is visible as soon as you enter Twin Meadows. From the trailhead, hike west along Deeds Creek. The trail is marked with blue metal tags on trees for cross-country skiers in the winter. It’s about 3 miles to Sawmill Park (a large meadow) and Mount Yeckel. If you wander around Sawmill Park, you’ll find the remains of an old fire lookout tower and cabin. Margy’s Hut (one of the 10th Mountain Division backcountry huts, which must be reserved in advance) is also nearby. 6 miles roundtrip.
(H) This heavily wooded trail accesses a pretty mountain lake that’s popular for its fishing and easy access. The trail gains only 300 feet in elevation, following the mountainside contour and topping off on the bench where the lake sits. It smells of pine and in late summer has plenty of mushrooms for shroom-hunters. Follow the Fryingpan Road for about 28 miles from Basalt, past Ruedi Reservoir, Meredith and Thomasville. Turn right on Forest Road 504 at Norrie. Drive across the river and climb the road’s rough switchbacks for about three miles. Take the left fork, continue for one mile and take the right fork to the trailhead on the left side of the road (about .5 miles). 1.5 miles roundtrip.
(H) This hike to an alpine lake is in an especially beautiful area adjacent to the Holy Cross Wilderness. Drive 22 miles from Basalt up the Fryingpan Road, then just past the second bridge after the reservoir, make a left on Forest Road 400. After a steep climb of about five miles, the road goes through Lime Park. At the upper end of the park, turn right onto road 506. When the road forks again after a mile, take the left fork for about three miles to the trailhead bulletin board. As you begin hiking, you’ll notice what was one of the first hydroelectric plants in the country; it provides power for the private Woods Lake Resort (please respect private property signs in this area). The trail travels through aspen stands along the edge of the resort. It’s then a gradual climb to Eagle Lake, just within the wilderness boundary. 6 miles roundtrip.
(H) This trail is an easy walk for most of the way. Drive 27 miles up the Fryingpan Valley from Basalt; about 2 miles past Thomasville, take a left onto Forest Road 501 and follow the signs to the Elk Wallow Campground. Before you reach the campground, make a left onto Burnt Mountain Road (Road 506) and follow it for about three miles. The trailhead is on the right side of the road. The trail follows Last Chance Creek for a little over two miles until intersecting with Trail 1917; a left turn at the intersection will bring you to Tellurium Lake in another 1.5 miles. 7 miles roundtrip.
(H) This trail off Crooked Creek Pass gets low use, perhaps because the first 1.5 miles of it are moderately steep with switchbacks. You can expect some spectacular views. As the trail then levels out, it follows the Red Table Mountain ridge, climbing both Mount Thomas (11,977 feet) and Ruedi Mountain (12,037 feet). At this point, the route becomes more rocky, traveling through an alpine zone with little vegetation. The worn path is well-marked with large rock cairns. After about seven miles, the trail descends into sparse stands of spruce and fir forest and eventually ends in a large meadow that leads into Forest Road 514, a four-wheel-drive route on Red Table Mountain. Drive 22 miles up the Fryingpan Valley from Basalt, past Thomasville. Make a left onto Forest Road 400 and follow that to Crooked Creek Pass (about 8 miles). Just before crossing a cattleguard turn left and drive a half mile on a short, rough road. You’ll see a powerline; the trail begins on a ridgetop just west of the powerline. There is limited parking at the trailhead. Up to 18 miles roundtrip.
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(B, H) Drive up the Fryingpan Valley to Ruedi Reservoir, about 14 miles from Basalt. Soon after you see the reservoir, pull off at the Ruedi boat dock and campground road, where you can park (it’ll cost you $6, though). The Ruedi trailhead is across the highway and about 200 feet up the road. The first two miles are very steep and cut under a powerline. Once you reach the summit of Red Hill (about 9,000 feet), follow an old jeep track north for about one-quarter mile. From that point on, follow a trail (not a jeep trail) to the summit of Red Table Mountain. The view from top provides a spectacular 360-degree look at the Fryingpan Valley and the Hunter/Fryingpan Wilderness. Mountain bikers often access this trail from other routes and ride downhill from here to the Fryingpan Road. Up to 16 miles roundtrip.
(H) This well-marked route follows the South Fork of the Fryingpan River. From Basalt, drive the Fryingpan Road for about 28 miles to Norrie. Turn right on Forest Road 504 . After three miles uphill, take the left fork. After another mile, take another left fork and follow this road for about six miles to its end, and the trailhead. The hike is fairly easy and stays in the trees for most of the trip. At the four-mile mark, as you come to a second clearing, you’ll pass Deadman Lake. From here on, the trail becomes tougher to follow. To get to South Fork Pass, stay on the trail and climb about 600 feet in your last mile of travel. If you’re up for a longer hike, you can hook into the Lost Man Trail; either direction will bring you out on Highway 82 near Independence Pass. 10 miles roundtrip.
(H) If you want a moderate trail through open meadows with lots of wildflowers, try this hike. Like the Last Chance Trail (see above), this one also provides access to Tellurium Lake. You could even combine the two to make a loop hike (with about 1.5 miles of walking required on the dirt Burnt Mountain Road). From Basalt, drive for 27 miles up the Fryingpan Road; about 2 miles past Thomasville, make a left onto Forest Road 501 and follow the signs to the Elk Wallow Campground. Before the campground, turn left onto Burnt Mountain Road (Road 506). Follow this road for about five miles. As the road makes a sharp right on a second ridge, you will see an old logging road on the right, with a cable across it and some rocks to block vehicle access. The trail begins here. Parking is available about one-eighth mile down the road. 6 miles roundtrip.