Savage Lakes

Round Trip Distance: 3.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 9,960 - 11,070 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 3 hrs.
Trailhead: Savage Lakes
Fee: none
Attractions: subalpine lake, fishing

The Savage Lakes trail is located east of Basalt, Colorado in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area of the White River National Forest. The trail leads to a pair of forested lakes that are in a subalpine setting near timberline that is right below the Continental Divide. The lakes are popular for both day hiking and backpacking and are said to be good Brook and Lake Trout fisheries.

From Basalt head east on the Fryingpan Road for 27 miles and turn left at the sign for Elk Wallow Campground. Continue on the graveled road for about 4 miles and turn left again at the sign for Savage Lakes. Continue for another 3.3 miles to the trailhead which will be on the left with parking on the right. During good conditions the road is passable by most highway vehicles with medium clearance. We added the Savage Lakes Trailhead to Google Maps so if you use that app you should be able to get turn by turn directions by the time this trail is posted. Just entering Savage Lakes worked for us even though the app didn't seem to know about the last 3 miles of the road.

The trail starts off beside the creek which maps label as the North Fork of the Fryingpan River.

The trail itself is a bit rocky, but not too bad, and climbs steadily with a 15% average grade.

A few switchbacks help to keep the trail from becoming strenuously steep.

About halfway up the drainage the trail crosses into the Holy Cross Wilderness Area where the climb levels off slightly.

There was a big wind event in the late spring of 2021 that leveled scores, if not hundreds, of trees. The Forest Service has been hard at work cutting a path through the fallen timber along the original route of the trail. In the meantime other hikers have cairned a suitable bypass around and through the tangled mess.

The bypass skewed our distance a little but somewhere around the 1.5 mile point there is a junction where the Carter Lake trail branches off on the left.

It is another quarter mile past the Carter Lake junction to the first of the Savage Lakes.

The second lake is nestled in the basin behind the trees on the opposite side of the first lake. To get there follow the route around the east side of the lake.

Backpackers will find a few nice campsites around the lakes within the trees. Hopefully there won't be any more wind events. Especially while anyone is around to experience them.

The Savage Lake trail is short and on the steep side in a few places but it's pretty much all downhill all the way back to the trailhead so compared to most hikes in the area it comes out on the easy side of moderate for those that are accustomed to hiking in the mountains. On the day we took the photos for this post there were 2 pairs of backpackers that had hiked in the night before and a dozen others that were day hikers. Most of the day hikers were also planning on doing some fishing. Hikers that aren't fully experienced with wilderness hiking should find the Savage Lakes trail to be a good option with which to begin. The 7 miles of dirt road to the trailhead is also good experience for those who don't get off the pavement much. The upper portion of the road can retain snow until the first or second week of June. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.