Chapman Lake

Round Trip Distance: 2.4 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 9615 - 9815 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 1 hr. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Chapman Lake
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic lake

Chapman Lake is located in the Hunter Fryingpan Wilderness Area of the White River National Forest east of Basalt, Colorado. Beginning off of the Chapman Gulch Road the trail climbs gently around the lower north shoulder of Mount Nast (12,467 ft.) for just over a mile before arriving at Chapman Lake. The lake and the entire trail are well secluded within a lush, mostly spruce, forest. Fishing is said to be good at times for brook trout.

From Basalt follow the Fryingpan Road east for 28 miles and turn right at the Norrie Colony. Mile marker 28 is right at the turnoff. Some maps label the road as Elliot Way at the turnoff and then show it transitioning into the South Fork Road. If you put Twin Meadows trailhead into your driving app it will direct you to take the correct turnoff and also get you within 1.7 miles of the Chapman Lake trailhead where it is easy to follow the signs for the remaining distance. Since there won't be any cellphone service be sure to save the directions to your phone for offline use before starting out.

The South Fork Road starts off climbing steeply out of the valley. The maintained road is well suited for all types of vehicles. Stay to the left at the 3.3 mile point. The short road to the right leads to the Twin Meadows and Sawyer Lake trailheads and a primitive dispersed camping area.

Near the 4.3 mile point stay to the right following the sign for Chapman Lake and Chapman Gulch. The road to the left is a continuation of the South Fork Road and leads to the South Fork Pass trailhead.

The Chapman Lake trailhead will be on the left right at the 5 mile point from the highway. As you can see the trailhead sits right on the side of the road. There is room on the west side of the road to parallel park a horse trailer.

The trail angles up the side of the mountain as it leaves the trailhead. There are a few short sections that get moderately steep but with only 200 feet of elevation gain spread out over a mile it stays pretty easy for a hike in the mountains.

As the trail passes into the Hunter Fryingpan Wilderness Area it levels off considerably and becomes quite fun as it skirts around a large meadow. We saw moose scat in several places as well as a few tracks but they looked to be at least a day or more old. We have hiked around moose quite a lot from Colorado to Alaska and you need to give them lots of space. They can come at you at 35 MPH and if you get between a cow and her calf you will most likely get trampled to death. Bulls might appear docile at first but just like bears they can change moods in an instant. If one crosses the trail in front of you let it get a good distance away before you proceed. They don't seem to like being cut off from the way the came. We have proceeded to quickly in the past and had them turn around and come running back.

A dense mat of lily pads covers the entire north end of the lake.

We noticed a large boulder with a lot of wickiup and maybe a few teepee poles leaning against it. You can see that the ends of the poles are rough and free of any saw or axe marks. One of the most interesting aspects of seeing the poles is that the trail we just hiked up probably predates the time of the  first miners and settlers.

Once the trail reaches the lake it pretty much stays right on the shoreline and just inside a thin ribbon of trees that offer seclusion to both people and animals. If you aren't being noisy as you hike any encounters that you have with wildlife are probably going to happen suddenly.

There are thousands upon thousands of lakes in Colorado and each one has its own unique look. The mountain in the background is blocking the view of the much higher Mount Nast.

Chapman Lake is a nice short hike that is well suited for families with kids of all ages. The drive up the valley from Basalt along the Fryingpan River and past Ruedi Reservoir is very scenic with frequent wildlife sightings especially in the morning and evening hours. We had a can of Off that we were carrying along with our bear spray but never ended up using it. If we would have been fishing and standing in one spot very long we may have needed some but as it was we seemed to escape bite free. Chapman Lake is a both a great destination on the Western Slope and a nice something to do if you are already in the area.  If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.