Saturday, October 9, 2010

Native Lake Hike

Distance: 8.4 miles round trip
Elevation: 10,800 ft (trailhead), 11,879 ft (on the plateau), 11,293 ft (at the lake)
Elevation Gain: 1,665 ft (cumulative)
Dogs: On Leash (Wilderness)
Tags: #coloradooutdoors, #travel, #mountainlake, #leadville, #hiking

The final approach to Native Lake
The approach to Native Lake. We ate lunch on that large boulder that surveys the scene.
Native Lake in the Mount Massive Wilderness near Leadville, CO is a wonderful trail filled with variety. The initial part of the trail switchbacks 2 miles through a Spruce/Fir forest. It is damp, mysterious, and filled with pizza-sized mushrooms, many of them edible. At 2.18 miles, you break out onto a wide tundra plateau. Here the edifice that is Mt. Massive (14,443 ft) dominates the western skyline. I did this hike in the fall when the tundra grasses were golden. I can imagine them being verdant in the spring. The views of Leadville from this plateau are expansive. The western skyline is filled with 14,000 ft peaks. Across the plateau, the trail descends 500 ft to a valley. It is there that Native Lake rests.

The start of the route

Several early switchbacks are narrow and precipitous

Looking west at Hagerman Road

The lake itself is slowly receding and is being replaced by meadow grasses. The hike down to the lake was somewhat laborious too. If I were to do this hike again, I would stop part way down where you can see the lake from the ridge. That view is quite nice.

Looking down the drainage. You can see the trail far below.

Crossing a pleasant open area

The first view of the tundra

You get to the trailhead by driving west along Turquoise Lake to Hagerman Tunnel Road. This dirt road is narrow in places but is passable by a passenger car. Hagerman Pass road traces a long and narrow U. At the apex of the U is a wide area that contains 2 trailheads. Native lake is the first trailhead. It is situated slightly back from the road. The second parking area spans the road and is for ATVers heading up to the pass, and hardy hikers attempting the steep but scenic Windsor Lake. Farther up the road is the trail for Hagerman Tunnel.

Mount Massive comes into view

Looking east off the plateau towards Leadville and the Mosquito Range.

Several small ponds dotted the tundra

This trail was a treat because of its flora. There is something about hiking in a Spruce/Fir forest in the fall. This forest ecosystem is more shaded than the Lodgepole forest that dominates much of the state. As such, it was cooler, damp, and definitely fall like. At the request of my hiking partner, I started taking pictures of all the mushrooms. I have never seen so many mushrooms in Colorado before. King Boleta and Scaly Urchins were particularly common. I discovered after the fact, that King Boleta is highly prized by wild mushroom connoisseurs. That is probably why I have not seen it before. They have been quickly snatched up by fanatical fungi followers.

Heading down the other side

The first view of the lake

Looking west on the route down to the lake

The first 2 miles of the trail switchbacks up a single drainage as the trail climbs higher. It was obvious that some people chose to walk parallel to the creek and head straight up the hillside. The Forest Service has put dead fall all along this narrow social trail as a deterrent. Please stay on the trail even though it is much longer. The views of Hagerman Tunnel and pass are worth the extra effort.

A trail segment down in the valley

The lake comes into view

Grasses grow in abundance around Native Lake Colorado. Some day it will be just a memory.Admiring the grasses on the lake floor

I would recommend Native Lake to anyone. It is unpopulated and filled with changing views. If you are camping at Turquoise Lake, then you have no excuse what-so-ever!


Gary G. Simington said...

Fantastic! Love it!!! :-)

MyLifeOutdoors said...

I love the Leadville area. I'v never had the chance to spend much time there when there isn't snow on the ground. I would love to do some hiking in the area. Beautiful pictures.

Unknown said...

This is one of my favorite places to backpack into!

Anonymous said...

More like 6 miles.

sylvia murphy said...

Hmmm, I think I used my GPS on it. I will have to do it again and see!

Dorian said...

Thanks Sylvia for this trip report! I hiked Native Lake on Sunday 8/6/17 and it was lovely. Much more green then your pics from the fall. Also, the wildflowers in the valley descending to lake were very nice. I found it quite worthwhile to descend to lake this time of year. I encountered less than 10 people total on the trail, which was great and I was the only person at the lake which made my day. The road is slow going in spots due to significant potholes, but not impassable by a sedan. Per the prior comment, your mileage is much more accurate than the six mile estimate commented. :-)

sylvia murphy said...

Hi Dorian,

Thanks so much for the trip report and for stopping by my blog. I hope you found it useful. We have not been back to the lake because I have a dog that needs to be off leash.

I hiked to Thomas Lakes near Carbondale two weekends ago. Stay tuned for a post on that one!