Round Trip Distance: 1.3k or 2 miles
Elevation: 10,137 - 10,266 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Usage: Snowshoeing - Cross Country Skiing - Dogs
Time: 1 hr. 30 mins.
Facilities: none (flush toilets at Visitor Center)
Trailhead: Ward Lake Nordic Area
Fee: none (trail grooming donations appreciated)
Attractions: Solitude, scenic forests
View Ward Lake in a larger map
Ward Lake is located just off Baron Lake Drive, across from the Thunder Mountain Lodge, on the Grand Mesa. Turn east off Highway 65 and proceed past the Grand Mesa Visitor Center. The trailhead is on the right side of the road before you get to the driveway for the lodge. There are heated restrooms at the Visitor Center that are opened 24 hours a day and a gift and fly shops that are open during business ours.
There isn't an official Nordic trail to follow that will take you all the way around Ward Lake but it isn't too hard to connect a couple of the official trails to come up with a short and fun excursion around the lake. For my purpose I followed the Skinned Horse trail till I was just past the ranger station where I cut through the trees to the south shore of Ward Lake. I followed the shore around the lake to the dam where I took the Ward Lake Nordic trail back to the trailhead.
Within 20 feet of the trailhead the Skinned Horse trail takes off to the left. There is a blue diamond marker on a tree to mark the spot. The trail angles down the hill to the east end of Ward Lake. The scenic jaunt through the trees is pretty easy. If there are ski tracks visible good trail manners dictate that snowshoer's should make their own trail and try to preserve the ski tracks. It had dumped about 5-6 inches of fresh snow overnight so I had the pleasure of blazing a whole new set of tracks.
A look across the lake shows that another snow storm was closing in. Since this is just a short hike around the lake I wasn't too worried about the weather. The pictures don't turn out all that great but everything else is still pretty fun.
When the trail reaches the edge of Ward Lake it crosses the Alexander Lake dam. In this picture looking east Alexander Lake is just beyond the large pine tree in the foreground and Baron Lake is on past that. The trail goes off to the right just beyond the post that is sticking up out of the snow.
The ranger station had enough snow around it that you could walk right up onto the roof.
I cut through the trees and headed back towards Ward Lake after passing by the ranger station. If I would have gone a little further toward Skinned Horse Reservoir there was a better spot where I could have followed a road. There were some fairly fresh moose tracks going this way so I decided to take this route.
After working my way down the hillside I made my way to the south shore of Ward Lake and began breaking my own trail heading west toward the dam.
Here is another look back across the lake. As you can see the snow turned into a blizzard with whiteout conditions. The visibility was so bad that I couldn't tell the flat ground from the 'not so much' and that is why I stepped off dam into the spillway and buried myself up to my waist in snow. I thought it was all pretty funny myself. I guess snowshoes don't hold you up much when you are falling points first into a ditch.
When I made it to the groomed section of trail it was totally buried in the fresh snow. There were a few places where the trees protected the trail enough that you could make out the outline of it.
Snowshoeing around Ward Lake turned out to be pretty enjoyable. It was a little hassle trying to keep the snow off the camera lens but it's nice to go somewhere that you can make your own trail without having to worry about getting lost. This is definitely a good place to avoid the throngs of skiers that you run into on top of the mesa although the terrains is a little more challenging. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.