Four years after a blow-down swept through part of the Mount Evans Wilderness leveling acres and acres of trees, the Beartracks Lake Trail is finally cleared.
While the trail wasn’t officially closed after the blow-down in the winter of 2011, many hikers and backpackers trying to use the Beartracks Lake Trail found the trail impassable. There were places were the piles of trees were taller than the people trying to climb over and under the debris. The Forest Service said an estimated 300-400 hundred acres of forest was flattened.
Because the blow-down happened in a wilderness area, work crews and volunteers could only use crosscut saws and hand tools to clear the trails – a process the Forest Service called, “time consuming.”
However, after years of difficult work, the Beartracks Lake Trail is cleared, open and a fascinating way to see the power of Mother Nature and the amazing work trail crews can do.
The hike starts at the Camp Rock Campground and Trailhead (directions below). There are 2 trails here – the Resthouse Meadows Trail starts near the bathrooms and the Beartracks Lake Trail that starts down the road. Just walk down the road you drove in, passing a gate and walking a short distance to the trail register. Please fill out the form so the Forest Service knows how many people are using the trails here.
It’s about a quarter mile walk downhill from the parking lot to a trail split at the creek. A sign points hikers to the right for the trail. The next section of the trail follows the creek, then crosses it on a nice bridge.
A short distance from the bridge, the forest opens up and a sunny meadow greets hikers. However, if you look closely, you’ll notice this is no ordinary meadow. This is a burn zone. The Forest Service website says, “In 1998, about 485 acres burned in the Beartracks Fire. This fire is believed to have been started by a careless hiker.”
About 0.75 miles from the trailhead, the trail starts climbing uphill through the Aspen trees that have grown throughout the burn area. You’ll climb one ridge to a second meadow, pass the Mount Evans Wilderness sign and then start a series of 11 switchbacks up a hillside. When you reach the top of the second ridge, about two miles from the trailhead, you’ll have gained about 900 feet — 300 of that is on the half-mile of switchbacks.
At the top of the ridge, it’s back into the forest. The trail steadily climbs in elevation, climbing a couple hundred feet, then mellowing out before climbing a couple hundred feet and mellowing out again. By the time you get 2.5 miles or so from the trailhead, you’ll start noticing trees that were uprooted and overturned, and piles of trees on top of trees.
Four miles from the start of the hike, the trail reaches the Cub Creek Trail. The trail was only cleared to this area in mid-July. Now you’ll really start seeing the trail work that has been done. Over the next 0.2 miles, while the Cub Creek Trail is the same as the Beartracks Lake Trail, imagine trying to follow this trail through the blow-down. One hiker carrying an axe on the trail didn’t know the trail had been cleared. However, he said he wasn’t carrying an axe to cut through the debris, he had been using the axe on past trips to help him climb over and through the downed trees and debris. The hiker, who was quite fit, explained that before the next mile or so had been cleared, the hike took him an extra 2.5 hours to get to the lake.
After the Cub Creek Trail turns off, continue hiking through the blow-down area, seeing all the recently cut trees. When the forest opens up, try to catch a glimpse to your right of Mount Evans Highway in the distance and Mount Evans itself. (Mount Evans is the one with a small white building near the top. That’s an observatory.)
About five miles from the trailhead, you’ll see a turnoff for Roosevelt Lakes. Don’t go that way, you want Beartracks Lake. Turn right and follow the trail over a bridge. While you may be tired, pay close attention to the path you take in this last 0.4 miles or so to the lake. Our group got turned around the way back and ended up climbing through the blow-down debris to find our way out. There is a good path here to the lake, make sure you use it on the way back.
At Beartracks Lake, you’ll likely spot the lake on your left through the trees. The path didn’t really go right to the lake. You’ll likely need to find a social trail to get to the lakeshore. Once you’re there, enjoy the view of the large lake, marvel at how those big boulders got in the water and enjoy the mountain peak view. While you can’t see Mount Evans from here, this is a lovely place for lunch, a nap and some exploring. If you’re feeling energetic, the map shows three more lakes above the main lake.
When you’re ready, return the way you came, doing your best to stay on the path and not getting lost in the blow down.
Details: The hike to Beartracks Lake is 11 miles roundtrip with about 2,300 feet of gain. Remember that 100 feet you dropped down at the start of the hike? You’ll have to climb back up that at the end of the hike.
Important Information: The road to the trailhead is only open from June 15 to Labor Day.
Find more Mount Evans Wilderness hikes and hikes across the state in this list of 400+ Colorado hiking trails. Don’t miss any of my trip reports, sign up for an email alert by clicking on subscribe at the bottom of this article and follow me on Facebook.
Directions: From I-70, take Highway 74/Evergreen Parkway about 7.2 miles to Upper Bear Creek Road and turn right. Upper Bear Creek Road is just before Evergreen Lake and just after the speed limit drops to 30 mph. Take Upper Bear Creek Road about 5.7 miles and veer right. The pavement ends and becomes a dirt road a short distance later. At the next road split, at a sign that says State Wildlife Area to the left, veer left. Once inside the State Wildlife Area, a sign will direct you to turn right for CapRock and says it’s 5 miles. It’s actually 4.3 miles. Note, for this next section of road, you may want a vehicle with some clearance. Also, you’ll pass a trailhead on your way to CapRock, that’s the Lost Creek Trailhead. Don’t stop there, continue on the dirt road until it ends at the Cap Rock Campground/Trailhead.