Thursday, June 12, 2008

Silver Dollar and Murray Lakes

Distance: 3.2 miles round trip to Silver Dollar Lake, 4.4 miles round trip to Murray Lake
Elevation: 11,600 ft to 12,400 ft
Elevation Gain: 800 ft
Dogs: Off leash
Tags: #mountainlake, #hiking, #coloradooutdoors, #gearguide
Nearby hikes: Squaretop Lakes, Squaretop Mountain, Shelf Lake, Mt. Beirstadt

Silver Dollar Lake is close to Denver but beware of afternoon thunderstorms
Silver Dollar Lake looking east
At least once a year we try to pop up to Silver Dollar Lake off of Guanella Pass. You won’t burn off last night’s overindulgence on this hike, but will get a chance to enjoy three alpine lakes nestled within the jagged rocks of a couple of Colorado’s lesser known peaks: Square Top Mountain, Argentine Peak, and Mt. Wilcox. We have hiked this trail in late May, July, and September. On the early season outing, there were still large drifts of snow that impeded our progress with occasional waist deep post holing. I would recommend waiting until late July or August to try this trail. While I have yet to time it right, this trail is supposed to be excellent for wildflowers at that time of the year. In autumn the grasses are golden brown, which creates both texture and contrast with the still green shrubbery.

Naylor Lake from higher up the trail
There are three lakes on this trail. The first and largest is Naylor Lake. It is privately owned, and hikers are requested and advised to stay on the trail, which skirts the property. The trail quickly rises above this lake providing the hiker with ample views.

Silver Dollar Lake is the second lake and the final destination for most hikers. It is a small lake at the base of Square Top Mountain. On the plateau to the north is Murray Lake, the third and final lake. There is an obvious trail heading past Silver Dollar Lake up to Murray Lake. Since the trail to Silver Dollar Lake is so short, continuing to Murray Lake is a must. The trail is steep and rocky but very short (0.6 miles). There are large boulders near the lake that make great backrests. Argentine Peak is visible to the northwest.

Silver Dollar Lake looking southwest
Murray Lake
Be advised that Guanella Pass is prone to wicked afternoon thunderstorms.  I have been chased down the trail by lightening at least once if not twice at Murray Lake and another time at Square Top Lakes just on the other side of the ridge. The first time this happened we were lounging at Murray Lake against one of the afore-mentioned boulders. The sky above us was blue and there was not a cloud in the sky. We were startled out of our peaceful revelry by a clap of thunder so deep and nearby that it made our kidneys vibrate. We turned around to see a massive storm that was coming UP the valley from the east. It is a long way down to tree line from Murray Lake and lightening looks a lot thicker when viewed close up. Learn from our mistakes and always get a very early start when hiking off Guanella Pass, scan the sky in all directions, and don’t wait until you think the clouds are suitably gray before leaving. I can guarantee you your timing will be off.

The road to Silver Dollar Lake begins near the Guanella Pass campground, nine miles up from Georgetown. The road itself can be very rough. You can park one mile below the trailhead, but the route up would be a mundane jeep road through the trees.


Charles said...

We just did this hike 7/18/2010 and the wildflowers were in full bloom. have never seen a larger field of red Indian Paintbrush!

Anonymous said...

Do you know if you can disburse camp anywhere up there? Looking for somewhere without a ton of ppl?

Cycotek said...

There is Camping down by the trail head but unfortunately you are not allowed to have a fire.. anymore. We have seen people camp at Silver Dollar but with no trees and no campfires I could see it getting very cold very fast and like above, being caught in the late afternoon storms would be tragic. I have been camping these lakes for over 25 years, there is just no place like it.

If you want to have the campfire and stay close, about half a mile prior to the trail head there is a camp ground + fee and firewood collection is cake up in the old campground area (past the trail head)fallen trees and old firewood caches. I found the best time (lack of crowds) very early summer and later on before it snows.

Be careful because the temp can drop on a dime! I have been at the camp grounds having long evening chats with friends, sitting around in shorts stand up to walk away from the fire and Bam its 29 degrees.

Have fun!

Anonymous said...

Made this hike on 9-10-2011 and there were still fields of wild flowers. The views were fantastic and worth the effort.

Anonymous said...

Yes. If you want to car camp or hike it in there is plenty of dispersed camping in the area.

Anonymous said...

can you fish on any of the lakes?

Anonymous said...

I was there today and there were people fishing in Silver Dollar and Murray

Anonymous said...

Just fished silver dollar yesterday, and definitely didn't leave without a thrill or two

Josh said...

Question: What is considered "high clearance" vehicle? I have a Subaru Outback, but I'm not sure if its 9-inch clearance counts. Thanks!

era416 said...

Let's put it this way, my Toyota Prius made the trek up the gravel road (albeit very slowly), but I can assure you the Outback will have no issues.

Anonymous said...

July 20, 2013
Hiked to Marray Lake. The wildflowers were abundance of a large assortment of flowers. Must be at peak for the flowers or close to it.

Anonymous said...

Just returned from Murray Lake 8/14/15 What a beautiful place. The flowers were spectacular as were the views. Highly recommend.