Saturday, August 16, 2014

Dumont Lake and the Continental Divide Trail

Distance: 5 miles round trip
Elevation: 9,620 ft - 9,940 ft
Elevation Gain: 505 ft (cumulative)
Bathroom at trailhead: Yes, within the Dumont Lake Campground
Dogs: Off leash
Date Hiked: 5 July 2014
Critters: Mosquitoes by the swarm

Dumont Lake, on Rabbit Ears Pass will make your eyes pop!
In spring, the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) near Dumont Lake is a study in the primary colors of green and blue. The wide open meadows surrounding the lake are off-to-see-the-wizard green while the sky above is that deep Colorado blue that is the envy of much of the world. Together they are almost too dazzling to behold, a summer tableau that will make you forget that winter is only six months away.

Satellite image of the area showing the lake, picnic grounds, campgrounds, and trail (starts near the tent icon)
Small parking area at the nondescript trailhead
Heading out on the double track trail that parallels the lake
Dumont Lake is located 22 miles southeast of Steamboat Springs on Highway 40 in the wide open expanse of Rabbit Ears Pass. Turn north on Forest Service Road 315 and follow the signs to the Dumont Lake Campground, about a mile off the highway. Note the lake itself is in the picnic grounds, but the trail starts in the back loop of the campground. There is a small trail sign and parking for two cars parallel to the road.

Green and blue are the dominate colors of Dumont Lake.
Lupine
From this nondescript beginning, follow the double track trail that parallels the lake. You can't get to the shore, unless you want to slog through knee-deep marsh for 50 yards or so, but the views of the lake and the sky are worth staying back a little.

Heading up into the trees
Out of the trees and entering another large meadow
It takes a mile to traverse the shoreline to where the aptly named Muddy Creek flows into it from another large bog. Don't be surprised when the trail crosses the creek and heads sharply uphill into the trees, it will soon head north again.

The trail skirts the edge of this endless meadow that could hold a couple of herds of elk!
Glacier Lillies, a moisture loving flower covered the meadow so we knew the snow had just melted.
From this point on the trail wanders in and out of meadows and stands of pine that even in early July were filled with snow drifts, dead fall, knee-deep puddles, and obligatory mosquitoes. It wasn't until 2.5 miles in that we finally gave up. I don't know how all the mountain bikers were managing given that we were detouring every 30 yards and climbing over downed trees. Later in the year, when the Forest Service has cleaned up the trail, you can continue northwards on the CDT towards Steamboat Springs or turn right off onto the Forest Service Road 315 for a loop hike. Most of the bikers were attempting this route. They seemed to be happier the more heavily coated in mud they were.

An easily passable section where the trees across the trail had been cut and the snow had melted. Deeper in the forest that was not the case.
Our turn around point. That is the trail ahead, both underwater and blocked by a snow bank with a Fir tree on top of it.
In winter, Rabbit Ears Pass is a snowmobilers paradise but in summer it is a haven for campers and the occasional Moose. The CDT here is easy and suitable for novice hikers. Just be prepared to have company. With this kind of scenery next to a campground, you won't be alone! If you want to spend time at the lake, visit the picnic grounds. Be advised there is a day use fee there.

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