Lyle Lake/Mormon Lake

Round Trip Distance: 6 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 10,735 - 11,670 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 4 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Lyle Lake
Fee: none
Attractions: Alpine lakes, backpacking

Lyle Lake and Mormon Lake are located in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area of the White River National Forest. Both lakes are popular destinations for day hikers, backpackers and fishermen. Lyle Lake is an easy to moderate hike of a little less than 1.5 miles. Continuing past Lyle Lake for another 1.5 miles leads to the more secluded Mormon Lake.

To get to the trailhead from Basalt follow the Fryingpan Road east for 33 miles to where the pavement ends at a 3-way intersection. From there follow Forest Road 105 for 10.2 miles.

Vehicles with a careful driver and a moderate amount of ground clearance can normally handle FR 105 in dry conditions without needing 4wd. Just past the 10 mile point there is another intersection where the road straight ahead leads to Ivanhoe Lake. The Hagerman Pass road branches off on the left and immediately requires 4wd with high clearance. The Lyle Lake trailhead is about 100 feet or so up the Hagerman Pass Road. Vehicles with only 2wd can park out of the way along the Ivanhoe Lake Road. Be careful not to block the Powerline Road, FR 532, which also comes in at this intersection.

There is only room for a couple of vehicles right at the trailhead with room for a couple more about 20 feet away. Backpackers will want to be sure to fill out one of the free permits that are required for anyone staying overnight.

After an initial rocky start the Kyle Lake trail becomes about as pleasant a hike as you will find anywhere in the area as it travels up the wide drainage of Lyle Creek.

A short distance from the trailhead the route crosses the boundary into the Holy Cross Wilderness Area.

Once the trail reaches Lyle Lake you have the option of going around the lake on the right which is a bit shorter but trickier as it crosses a field of boulders. The route to the left is much easier and even with the extra distance might be just as fast or faster. We went around the lake on the left side while heading to Mormon Lake and on the return trip took the more tedious route over the boulders.

Looking across Lyle Lake at the trail that climbs up to the saddle of the ridge appears daunting at first but the elevation gain is less than 300 feet and it's all over with in less than a quarter mile.

A glance at the round trip elevation profile shows how the trail climbs steadily along a moderate slope until it reaches Lyle Lake and briefly levels off. After Lyle Lake the trail has a very steep but short climb that takes it over a saddle in the ridge where it descends a little into the next drainage.

The best part about climbing up to the saddle is the view looking back at Lyle Lake and the mountains in the background toward Independence Pass.

From the saddle of the ridge above Lyle Lake the trail begins a gradual descent as it traverses around the mountain on the right. After a quarter mile or so the descent becomes greater leading down to a small boulder field where the trail starts another more gradual climb.

A small yet very scenic unnamed lake rests in the rocky tundra above Mormon Lake.

Fish were jumping when we reached Mormon Lake where the grassy shoreline provides fishermen easy access to its clear water. If you were to climb to the saddle of the ridge on the left on the opposite side of the lake you would be looking out over Homestake Reservoir. From the saddle of the ridge on the right you would be looking more over the Hagerman Pass area and should be able to see down into the Leadville and Turquoise Lake area. I mention that because its tempting to climb up there and look around. The ridge on the right doesn't look like it would require that much extra effort.

On the day we took the photos for this post we encountered 4 groups of backpackers that had all spent the night in the Lyle Lake area and another 4 groups of day hikers that were going all the way to Mormon Lake. Several of those groups included pre teenage kids that all seemed to be having a most enjoyable time. There were very few if any mosquitoes and the only wildlife other than fish were a few pikas, aka rock rabbits. Anyone that enjoys hiking up to alpine lakes will find Lyle Lake and Mormon Lake to be enjoyable options that are well worth the visit. If you would like to see them for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.