Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lilly Pad Lake from Ryan Gulch Road

Distance: 3.4 miles round trip
Elevation: 9,619 ft - 9,915 ft (high pt is 10,003 ft)
Elevation gain: 314 ft (net), 900 ft (cumulative)
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Date Hiked: 25 July 2012
Dogs: Technically on leash (wilderness)

Lilly Pad Lake
For those who live on the slopes of Buffalo Mountain in Silverthorne, an evening stroll to Lilly Pad Lake is a delightful way to escape the heat. Located at the far "up mountain" extent of Ryan Gulch Road, the trailhead with its large kiosk is impossible to miss. 

Fireweed and blue skies greet the hiker starting out for Lilly Pad Lake
If you have never done this trail before, be forewarned, the trail starts out heading sharply upwards along a wide dirt road. The angle of ascent will make you feel like you are climbing Buffalo Mountain and you will wish you had brought along your supplemental oxygen. Don't worry though, while steep, this section is short and the trail soon levels out before crossing a large clear-cut meadow with spectacular views of the Lake Dillon and the continental divide.  While shocking to some, this clear cut area is a necessary consequence to the ongoing Pine Bark Beetle infestation and without it, we would have no views on this trail. 

Where's the Moose? 
Typical crossing of one of the swampy areas of the trail
Once past the meadow, the trail dives into the trees and gets swampy.  You won't need fishing gaiters, however because there are wooden bridges or stones to keep your feet dry. In the same area are several Moose-friendly ponds to capture your interest. Do keep your eyes peeled for these tough-guys of the forest. They have been spotted more than once in the area. If you don't see a Moose, you'll for sure find wildflowers blooming in the damp soil and birds chirping melodiously from every shrub. 

Crossing a large talus pile
Typical dry segment in Aspens
For the remainder of the trip, the trail dries out and meanders up and down gracefully through Ponderosa or Aspen forest.  At times the shallow roots of the Aspen trees are exposed creating trip hazards so look down every once in a while or your'll find yourself admiring the roots up close! 

The junction with the Salt Lick Trail, which heads straight down Buffalo Mountain. 
A Clark's Nuthatch watches over the trail.
There are actually two lakes at the culmination of this trail. Lilly Pad Lake is large and shallow and shaded by many less-than-perfect Ponderosa Pines. There is also a smaller lake or pond that is actually covered in Lilly Pads and on this route is arrived at first, so don't be fooled. Head a little further down the trail and you'll come to the main lake.  The smaller lake is the more attractive, but be sure to visit both. 

The smaller lake filled with Lilly Pads 
A close up of some Lilly Pad flowers
Recall that you can also get to Lilly Pad Lake from the Frisco side. If you are new to the area or just visiting, take that route. It is far more scenic and will introduce to several of the biomes in the area. On the other hand, denizens of Wildernest will need no encouragement to take this route since it is literally out their back door.  


mtnrunner2 said...

Like the lake, I don't see too many Lilly Pads in my travels (based in the Front Range). I'll have to check that out some time.

I set foot on the Buffalo Mtn. area trails for the first time last summer, and really enjoyed it. Must be nice to have those in the neighborhood. I ended up going a little ways up Buffalo Mtn. Great trail, but rugged!

Linda W. said...

Love your photos! Looks like a great hike.