Bear Lake

Round Trip Distance: 2.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 11,032 - 11,348 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: Bear Lake
Fee: none
Attractions: Forest lake

Of all the Bear Lakes in Colorado this post is for the one near Leadville that is in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area of the San Isabel National Forest. Hidden within the thickly wooded forest the somewhat reclusive lake can be found just off of the CT/CDT (Colorado Trail/Continental Divide Trail) between Turquoise Lake and Tennessee Pass.

While the trailhead is well know to apps like Google Maps they currently aren't able to produce suitable driving directions so to get there head west out of Leadville and around the north side of Turquoise Lake until you get to Forest Road 107. This photo was taken where you turn off of the pavement onto FR#107. The road number is hard to spot at first but it is at the very top of the sign to the left of the road. It is also the only big gravel road to choose from.

There are several forks in the road so be sure to pay attention to the brown mylar markers with the 107 on them. Due to a few steeper places it is recommended to have a 4wd vehicle with moderate ground clearance. As the road travels through the forest it passes close by a few of the old Turquoise mines.

The road gets a bit rougher as it drops down a small hill right before the trailhead. There are a few primitive campsites before reaching the trailhead but there is also a few pieces of private property to respect.

From the parking area the trail makes use of a small wooden bridge to cross a stream after which it crosses into the Holy Cross Wilderness Area.

About a tenth of a mile later it reaches its junction with the CT/CDT which you will want to follow south or to the left.

For the most part route finding is very easy as it tends to be obvious to distinguish the main trail from the occasional side routes. The first 3 tenths of a mile of the trail is spent making a gradual ascent to the highest point of the hike where upon it begins a long steady descent until it reaches Bear Lake.

Sturdy footwear and even a pair of trekking poles will make easier work of the rockier sections.

Backpackers shouldn't have much trouble finding a place to camp. Remember that in a wilderness area it is most proper to find a spot that isn't quite within view of the trail and preferably one that already exists.

At present there isn't a sign indicating where to turn off of the Colorado Trail to hike the last little bit to Bear Lake. As you approach the turnoff some ponds or a slough come into sight beyond which you can just barely see the lake. There is a wooden CT/CDT post at the turnoff just nothing that points out Bear Lake.

As you first approach Bear Lake you are met with a large field of basalt boulders that add a little challenge to getting closer to the waters edge. Access becomes much easier if you continue on around the right side of the lake.

On this particular day 'ursus americanus non fuit praesens', but then, how many hikes do you go on where you actually see whatever animal the trail is named after. That said, it is always advisable to have a bear keg if you plan on camping. At least don't be the guy that keeps any food, toothpaste or hand soap in his tent. (When we lived in Alaska they used to mention how bears loved Irish Spring soap. They can smell it a mile away.) Hiking into Bear Lake is a nice something to do in the Leadville area but it doesn't hold a candle to Saint Kevin Lake which you can also get to from this trailhead. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.