Missouri Lakes Trail - All the Best of Colorado
Missouri Lakes Trail - All the Best of Colorado
There are 15 national forests contained within Colorado and portions of two others that are shared with Wyoming and Utah. This accounts for over 13 million square acres – 20% of the total land mass of the state. That’s a lot of land to explore and enjoy!
Among these national treasures is White River National Forest. It is the most visited national forest in the U.S, mostly due to its 11 ski resorts, and it covers an area of 2.3 million acres. This forest claims eight wilderness areas, 10 mountains over 14,000 feet, and 2,500 miles of trails.
One of those trails is the spectacular Missouri Lakes Trail. It offers all the best you would expect of an outdoor Colorado experience: rushing creeks, waterfalls, alpine lakes, an easily achieved mountain pass, wild flowers, meadows, towering mountain peaks, and plenty of solitude.
On this trip I would go solo. I half-heartedly tried to get others to come along, but for various reasons no one took the invitation. I was secretly hoping I would have a chance to spend the day alone with my camera, meandering as I pleased without constraints or expectations.
I left work at noon and headed west on I70 and then south along Highway 24 for 13 miles to county road 703 and then 704 to the trailhead. By 3:30 I was out of cell range heading up the trail to any place I felt like hanging my hammock for the night.
There are plenty of route descriptions on the Internet. And so instead of echoing others, the rest of this post is a photo narrative. Enjoy!
Now entering awesomeness!! A hundred feet beyond this sign is a registration stand. For those staying overnight, the Wilderness Area requires campers to register. This is primarily for safety reasons. No fees are required.
It's a nice trail starting out wide and eventually narrowing as it goes up above a canyon.
The trail essentially follows Missouri Creek. Not long after starting the trail you will see a waterfall and a small pond.
The creek rushes through a canyon. At one point there is a creek crossing with this view. This pic is available on this site for sale.
The trail is well marked and quite obvious.
There are several plank bridges along the way.
The creek opens up into marshy areas in a few places. I didn't see any moose... bummer!
Getting closer to treeline the forest starts to thin.
Savage Peak comes into view. This pic can be purchased on this site.
Right next to this lake seems like a perfect place to set up camp! This pic is also available for sale on this site.
Hammocks are great! This was my camp for the night.
I need to write a blog or two on hammock camping. In this pic you can see I have a tarp over my hammock to keep the wind and rain out. What you can't see is that I have a bug net; it's built into this model of Hennessy Hammock. And then I have an under-quilt which helps keep my bottom side warm without the annoyance of a mat under a sleeping bag inside; mats don't stay in place very well in a hammock.
Is it comfortable? Absolutely! When sleeping on a diagonal you sleep flat and it forms to the natural curves of your body - unlike the rocky and often uneven hard surface of the ground. Yes, it's comfy!
After setting up camp and eating dinner I sat in my lightweight backpacking chair with a cup of chamomile tea and watched the sun set over the range. Sun beams formed a sweet-dreams-canopy. There's not a whole lot of other things in life more peaceful than this! (pic available on this site)
And the morning view was spectacular too! (see pic for sale)
After breakfast I headed toward Missouri Pass - this was one of the small lakes (pond, really) along the way, maybe a half mile from camp.
These run-off streams as I started climbing up the pass provided the perfect habitat for a bed of brilliant white mountain flowers. (see pic for sale)
Reaching the top of the pass and looking back is a full-face reminder of why I came here.
The view here is looking over the pass onto Treasure Vault Lake. In the distant left is Middle Mountain. (pic for sale)
And now... the flowers. Flowers in rugged terrain - for me, it's beauty in an unforgiving world - it's beating the odds - it's natures balancing act - it's the mountain saying, "you can do it!".
Taking in a little more of the lake was all I needed before breaking camp. Yes, the fishing is great here!
I had hoped to stay another day. There was lots more to explore. But, there were some domestic things I needed to tend to before the weekend was over. So, I packed up camp and took my time heading back down. This is one place I definitely need to come back to. Happy trails!!
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