Sawyer Lake

Round Trip Distance: 8 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 9,498 - 11,003 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 4 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Sawyer Lake
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic lake

The Sawyer Lake trail is located east of Basalt, Colorado in the Hunter Fryingpan Wilderness Area of the White River National Forest. The trail begins at the south end of the Twin Meadows primitive campground where it climbs steadily through a dense pine and spruce forest for 4 miles where nestled in a small basin just above 11,000 feet it comes to Sawyer Lake. The trail is popular with day hikers, backpackers, trail runners and riders on horseback.

From Basalt head up the valley on the Fryingpan River Road to mile marker 28 and turn right at the Norrie Colony.

Follow the well maintained South Pass Road as it climbs steeply at first out of the valley and turn right at the fork at the 3.3 mile point that leads into Twin Meadows.

As you enter Twin Meadows the first trailhead next to the small pond is for the Aspen-Norrie trail that climbs for 4.5 miles to Sawmill Park. Continue past that and the next small lake to the south end of the primitive camping area where you will find the Sawyer Lake trailhead and acres of parking.

The trail starts out across an open area and right before it enters the forest it passes an interesting enclosure with a paddle locked gate that is protecting a small but thriving patch of sacred Indian tobacco. There is a good bit of the tobacco growing on the outside of the fence and if you know what to look for you might notice a few patches growing along the banks further downstream. The Utes have harvested the tobacco for hundreds of years and used it as part of their sacred ceremonies and vision quests.

Here is a closeup photo that makes it easier to see the difference between the less common Indian tobacco and the Colorado false hellebore, aka skunk cabbage, of which there is a plethora of in the mountains. Needless to say, leave it alone and let this continue to be the Utes special thing.

A short distance further up the trail it enters the Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness Area which is one of  seven different wilderness areas in the White River National Forest.

The first couple miles of the well maintained trail is about as pleasant a hike as you will find anywhere. There are a few switchbacks near the 3/4 mile point where the trail steps up about 500 feet in elevation.

As you get further into the area the terrain and thus the trail becomes much rockier.

As you are hiking you might notice a couple of old mine shacks or homesteads next to the trail. All that is left of this one is the platform of logs that was constructed for a foundation. This platform may have had nothing more than a canvas tent on top of it.

Near the 3 mile point the trail passes a couple of small ponds. At times they will completely dry up but they serve as a good reference point indicating that there is only 1 more mile to go.

On the day this photo was taken Sawyer Lake was a tranquil mirror with only an occasional ring of ripples from a jumping fish or an excited dog frolicking near the bank as though collecting its reward for the 4 mile hike. There were just enough mosquitoes at the waters edge to make waiting for the sun to come out from behind a cloud to get a better photo seem less than worth it. We could have resorted to using the bug spray but opted to forgo that also.

Twin Meadows is one big open area next to 2 small lakes or ponds with dispersed camping. What that means is that there are no designated camping spots. Everyone just finds a spot that isn't too close to someone else and sets up camp. RVs out numbered tents while we were there. The larger of the lakes is popular for paddle boarding and every other form of small inflatable water craft. Families with young children were swimming and floating around on tubes while forming memories that will last them a lifetime. Other than playing in the water hiking up to Sawyer Lake is another nice something to do while in the area. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.