Grizzly Lake

Round Trip Distance: 7.4 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 10,579 - 12,550 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 5 hrs.
Trailhead: Grizzly Lake
Fee: none
Attractions: alpine lake

Grizzly Lake is located in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area of the White River National Forest east of Aspen, Colorado. The trail begins off of the Lincoln Creek Road, across from Grizzly Reservoir, where it climbs along Grizzly Creek for 3.7 miles to an alpine lake that sits in a high basin below Grizzly Peak (13,988 ft.). The pleasant hike along Grizzly Creek with its stunning views of the peaks and ridges that hem it in, all reaching a climax at Grizzly Lake, makes this one of the best alpine lake hikes in Colorado.

To get to the trailhead from Aspen drive 10 miles east on Highway 82 and turn right onto the Lincoln Creek Road. A high clearance vehicle will be needed from this point. Follow the Lincoln Creek Road for 6.1 miles where the trailhead will be on the left. Expect it to take just under 1 hour to get to the trailhead from Highway 82.

A short distance from the trailhead the route crosses into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area.

For the first half mile the trail climbs steadily up the rocky slope of the mountain at a moderate pace through a dark forest of conifer trees.

From there the grade eases off as the trail proceeds up a long verdant valley of open meadows adorned with wildflowers.

Briefly in several more places the trail secludes itself within the trees where a variegated  mix of shadows and light create an enjoyable scene.

As the long east ridge of Grizzly Peak comes into view so does a bend in the valley. The map shows a trail that breaks off on the left, just before crossing the creek, that climbs up and over the ridge on the left where it connects to the Graham Gulch trail but the turnoff wasn't obvious enough to catch our attention. It's also interesting to note that the ridge on the left forms part of the Continental Divide.

Once the trail passes around the bend in the valley Grizzly Peak comes into view. The jagged rocks of different hues present a stunning picture of a somewhat formidable mountain when viewed from this side of its slopes. From this point on the trail begins getting steeper.

A pleasant reprieve from the climbing comes as the trail steps across the alpine tundra from one bench to the next.

The final assault on the basin is made by a long switchback where the last 300 feet of elevation gain takes place over a distance of 4 tenths of a mile. There is nothing extreme about the grade but most people will find exerting themselves at this altitude will leave them a little more breathless than usual.

The basin below Grizzly Peak provides a picturesque setting for the placid Grizzly Lake. Those with ambitions to reach the summit from here will want to hike around the north side of the lake where the route leads up the snow filled couloir near the middle of this photo which was taken around the middle of July which is probably a little late in the year for that route.

The Forest Service lists the Grizzly Lake trail usage as heavy but it only gets a fraction of the hikers that Cathedral Lake and American Lake get. That is most likely due to the remoteness of the trailhead. The photos for this post were taken on a Saturday and there were only 15 hikers spread out over the length of the trail. The Anderson/Petroleum Lakes and Tabor Lake trails are also along the Lincoln Creek Road. They get even less use and are all very much worthwhile hiking. We hiked to Tellurium Lake, east of Basalt, the day after hiking to Grizzly Lake and all we saw there was a bear and a few deer. If you would like to see Grizzly Lake for yourself all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.