Colorful Colorado and beyond…
One of the great things about living in Colorado is the plethora of hiking choices this state has to offer. And I am not even talking about the trails and state parks in town. I am talking about high country Colorado.
This past weekend we headed off in search of Silver Dollar Lake near Georgetown in Arapaho National Forest. Now, some websites have rated this trail is rated “easy”, others rate it as “moderate”. I would definitely rate it as moderate, especially if you are more accustomed to state park hiking or are a flat-lander tourist.
Silver Dollar Lake is an alpine lake located on a sometimes steep and rugged trail. This trail offers stunning views of Square Top Mountain, Argentine Peak, and Mt. Wilcox.
The Silver Dollar Lake Trail offers up 3 lakes: Naylor Lake, Silver Dollar Lake and Murray Lake. Naylor Lake is privately owned (lucky for the owner) so you may look but don’t touch, or in this case, hike down for a closer look.
Now this is where I tell you we only made it to Naylor Lake. A couple of reasons for this is there were five of us in the group and not all are accustomed to the thin, high altitude air (or lack there of). After catching our breath at Naylor Lake I was out voted into going further up the trail because of the thunderstorm threatening to rip open the sky. Afternoon thunderstorms can be wicked on Guanella Pass. And, there was snow…on July 8th, so the next leg of the trail included hiking over a snow/ice field. Again, I was out voted. I guess no one wanted to fall off the snow covered trail to their death. But the climb was still worth it.
Here are some things I know: Getting there, take I-70 to Georgetown, follow the signs through historic downtown to Guanella Pass. Up the mountain and after many switchbacks look for Guanella Pass Campground. Right after the campground is the dirt road for Silver Dollar Lake Trail (on the right). You can park here and walk about 1 mile up to the trail head, or if you have a vehicle with the ground clearance, you can drive up to the trail head and park. Four-wheel drive is recommended, however I have a front-wheel Jeep and it handled just fine.
The trail to Silver Dollar Lake is a 3.3 mile trek round trip (11,950′ elev.). Naylor Lake is a little under 2 miles round trip (11,605′ elev.). Murray Lake is about .5 mile past Silver Dollar. I would not recommend this hike for small children. I am just saying I could see on many of the children’s faces that they were not happy to be there. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on leash (which many hikers did not.)
Even though I don’t think this is an easy trail, it’s a good beginner trail that will challenge you in spots. And is worth it for the views.
There were mosquitoes! Lots and lots of mosquitoes on the trail until we reached Naylor Lake. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the time of year. I will pack bug spray next time. The wildflowers were in full bloom too!
Don’t forget: water, wear hiking boots, the walking sticks we brought were helpful, a light jacket, sunscreen, bug repellent, snacks, a camera, hat, and use the bathroom before you head up Guanella Pass as there are none at the trail head.
Use mountain etiquette: those hiking up the mountain have the right of way. They are working harder to get up the trail than those coming down. For the safety of everyone on the trail keep your pooch on a leash, pick up after him and pack it out. Finally, say “hello” to your fellow hiker. It just makes your hike friendlier and fun.
On your way down the pass don’t forget to stop and enjoy the waterfalls.
This time of year means high fire danger. CDOT had a little fun on the highway signs.