On the trail: Lyle and Mormon worth the drive | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: Lyle and Mormon worth the drive

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

BASALT – I routinely suggest a hike to something other than Lyle and Mormon lakes in the upper Fryingpan Valley simply because I’m the impatient sort.

Though the hike to Lyle Lake and Mormon beyond is only about 6 miles round-trip, the drive feels like it takes forever. To get there, drive up the valley until the pavement ends (about 30 miles east of Basalt) then keep going for about 11 miles on an increasingly rough and narrow dirt road (yes, you can do it in a passenger car). When the road forks and the upper fork heads to Hagerman Pass, you’ve reached the trailhead.

The length of the drive must discourage others, too. We didn’t start hiking until midmorning on Saturday, but we had Lyle Lake to ourselves both coming and going, but for a group of backpackers passing by. I spied only a couple of other folks at Mormon Lake. We got back to the trailhead as the threatening clouds gathered momentum, having passed more than a dozen other hikers who were scattered below Lyle Lake or grouped at the trailhead, just starting out.

These are high lakes – the starting elevation is about 10,300 feet – and the wildflowers were worthy of all the requisite superlatives: stunning, gorgeous, breathtaking, stupendous, etc. Verdant meadows near both lakes have that look about them that leaves me half-expecting to see a joyful Julie Andrews come spinning through the splendor, arms spread, bursting into song. Alas, she did not, and it’s a good thing. She might have trampled the most lush and vibrant bunches of fuchsia paintbrush that I think I’ve ever seen.

We didn’t take fly rods, for a change, and though we spied fish in both lakes, I was actually content to enjoy the hike for no greater purpose than hiking. The grassy shore of Mormon provided a picture postcard spot for a leisurely lunch before we headed down.

I was glad for my companion’s choice of lakes, even as I endured the ride back down the valley.


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