Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lilly Pad Lake via Meadow Creek

Distance: 3 miles round trip
Elevation: 9,155 ft - 9,915 ft
Elevation Gain: 760 ft
Date Hiked: 4 August, 2011
Dogs: Off leash until the Eagles Nest Wilderness

Lilly Pad Lake with Buffalo Mountain in the background
This short hike near Frisco, CO is popular with the locals and their kids and also with visitors.  Both groups enjoy the varied microclimates, views of Lake Dillon, and two small lakes, one of which is fact still covered with Lilly Pads.

The trailhead
Starting out on the Meadow Creek Trail, which is very rocky.
The junction at 0.6 miles
There are two ways to get to Lilly Pad Lake.  The first is via Ryan Gulch Road.  This route is longer and flatter.  The second is via the Meadow Creek Trailhead, which is found down a dirt road paralleling I-70 from the first Frisco exit (heading west).  

Heading into the Lodgepole forest

A pile of downed Lodgepoles
 I did this hike mid-day as a general work out and it suited perfectly.  The trail is steep enough that you can really get your heart rate pumping but short enough to fit into an hour if you hustle.

Heading into the Fir forest
Meadow Creek from the bridge
 The trail starts out on the Meadow Creek Trail, which goes toward Eccles Pass, and begins to climb sharply over rough rocks.  At 0.6 miles the trail splits with the route going to Lilly Pad heading off to the right.  From this point on the path is much easier on the paws.

Crossing an open Sagebrush meadow
View of Mt. Guyot from a long meadow
What I found particularly interesting about this trail is that it passes through an Aspen Forest, a mostly dying Lodgepole Forest, open Sagebrush meadows, and a mixed Fir forest.  On one trail you can experience the 4 major biomes of Colorado, all within the span of 1.5 miles.  Toss in a few lovely views of Lake Dillon and you have a very nice outing indeed.

View of Lake Dillon
Lilly Pad Lake itself is not a pleasant as it used to be.  12 years ago it was covered in Lilly Pads, which of course gave it its name.  Those are gone now, but there is a small pond just north of the lake that has them, so be sure to go far enough or you'll miss out.   Most of the Lodepoles around the lake are dead, which looks less funeral in winter.  The bottom line is that this trail is really for the journey and not the destination.

Clouds reflected in Lilly Pad Lake
Lilly Pads on the small pond next to Lilly Pad Lake
 I constantly overhear waitress recommend this trail to visitors who want a short but scenic hike.  I can not disagree.  To get your feet wet in Colorado or take an afternoon stroll, Lilly Pad Lake is a great choice.

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