On the trail: Lake Creek – don’t pass it up
August 4, 2009
ASPEN – I’ve been passing up an obvious hiking opportunity for more than a decade for no better reason than because I was always on my way to somewhere else.
Sunday, I made the trailhead at the North Fork of Lake Creek my destination.
Every local resident who’s been over Independence Pass east of Aspen has likely passed this one by, literally. For those who are headed toward Twin Lakes and beyond, the trailhead is at the base of the far side of the pass, at that point where Highway 82 curves around a hairpin turn at the very end of the final, steep descent. A short gravel road on the left, just beyond the hairpin, leads to a parking area and the trail follows the creek north up the valley, while the highway turns toward the south.
The trail leads upward through a scenic, U-shaped valley. The climb is easy to moderate and the handful of stream crossings were no sweat, at least at this time of the year. Judging from the map, it’s a tad more than three miles to a saddle where the trail crests the Continental Divide at about 12,500 feet. Beyond it, Fryingpan Lakes, located in the upper Fryingpan Valley, are visible to the north. I turned around there.
The hike didn’t get difficult until after mile 2, where the trail wanders into what looks to be a dead-end basin above timberline, but faint trails go both toward the Marten Creek drainage on the opposite side of the Divide, and toward the upper Fryingpan River drainage. Nestled at the base of the Divide on the route toward Fryingpan Lakes was a small lake I didn’t fish, but I will next time. The map shows another nearby lake to the west, but I didn’t make that climb.
All in all, it was a perfect Sunday outing – not too long, not too short, not too easy (thanks to that last part) and not too difficult. I’ll make a point not to pass this one up again some day.