Little Trappers Lake

Round Trip Distance: 4 - 9.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 9,577  -9,950 (lake)
                 11,300 feet (Chinese Wall)
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 4 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Trappers Outlet
Fee: none
Attractions: Alpine lakes, scenic views

The Little Trappers Lake trail is located in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area of the White River National Forest east of Meeker, Colorado. The trail branches off of the Carhart trail about 3/4 of a mile from the Outlet trailhead where it climbs for just over a mile to Little Trappers Lake. From there it continues around the east side of Little Trappers for a couple more miles, gaining another 1,500 feet or so of elevation, until it comes to an end at the China Wall trail. For this post we followed the trail to where it begins climbing past Little Trappers Lake before turning around.

To get there from Meeker head north on Highway 13 for 1 mile and turn east toward Buford on County Road 8. Continue for 38.7 miles and turn right onto the Trappers Lake Road. The Buford Road, CR #8, is paved up to the Forest Service boundary where it turns to gravel.

The Outlet trailhead is 8 miles from County Road 8. There is a restroom at the trailhead as well as a restaurant and general store at Trappers Lake Lodge.

From the parking area the route follows the Carhart trail by making a short climb up to the level of Trappers Lake where it levels off and crosses into the Flat Tops Wilderness Area before continuing around the east side of the lake.

Near the 3/4 mile point the route passes a rustic cabin where the Little Trappers Lake trail begins by branching off on the left. The Carhart trail continues for another 5 miles or so as it makes a big loop that takes it all the way around Trappers Lake.

The Little Trappers Lake trail begins with a moderate climb but quickly becomes much gentler after an initial 50-60 feet of elevation gain. The views looking back over Trappers Lake and the surrounding basin are striking.

Near the 1 mile point from the Outlet trailhead there is an unmarked trail that branches off on the left leading to Coffin Lake.

It is only about 150 feet on the side trail before it reaches Coffin Lake where there is a nice unobstructed view of a section of the Chinese Wall. The Chinese Wall is a prominent ridge that snakes its way through the area separating the north and south drainages of the Flat Tops. As far as Coffin Lake goes it gets its name form its elongated shape that somewhat resembles a coffin.

From there the trail continues its gentle climb as it travels across the mostly treeless slopes toward Little Trappers Lake. The Big Fish fire burnt through the area in 2002 where it spread easily amongst the beetle killed trees that already choked much of the wilderness. As the remaining dead trees topple over and decay the forest will begin anew. Since this is a wilderness area it probably won't be helped along by the planting of seedlings and will take much much longer to regain its former glory.

After reaching the natural lake, that collects its water from the mountains that form the alpine amphitheatre around the little valley, the trail continues along the northeast shore where multiple spurs made by fishermen lead down to the waters edge.

For this post we turned around where the trail begins leading away from the lake and starts its long climb up to the Chinese Wall.

Some of the best views of the area are on the return trip to the trailhead.

Like much of the White River National Forest the area around Trappers Lake with its network of interconnecting trails and plentiful water sources is a backpackers paradise. Multiple developed campgrounds and numerous primitive camping areas make it equally appealing for day hikers. Most of the people at the outlet trailhead were there for the fishing. Many of them had rented boats at the lodge while a couple had hiked up to Little Trappers Lake where they fished from the shore. Those that would like to experience this or one of the other trails on horseback can take advantage of one of the nearby riding stables. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.