Lily Pad Lake

Round Trip Distance: 4 - 7.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 10,010 - 11,508 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 4 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Fryingpan Lakes
Fee: none
Attractions: subalpine lakes

The Lily Pad Lake trail is located east of Basalt, Colorado in the White River National Forest. Beginning at the Fryingpan Lakes trailhead the trail climbs the forested slopes on the western side of the Continental Divide where it joins a network of 4wd Forest Service roads that lead to Lily Pad Lake and beyond. Along the way there are some great views of the Fryingpan River drainage and its surrounding alpine ridgelines.

To get there from Basalt drive east on the Fryingpan Road for 32 miles and turn right onto Forest Road 505. The pavement ends once you turn onto FSR #505 where a medium clearance vehicle is preferable but a careful driver in a passenger car can probably do fine. You can also enter 'Fryingpan Lakes' into you driving app for turn by turn directions. Be sure to download the directions for offline use because you will lose all cellphone service as you head up the Fryingpan River corridor.

From the trailhead follow the route to the left that heads up the east side of the stream. The trail to the right goes to the Fryingpan Lakes. Of all the vehicles at the trailhead we were the only ones hiking the Lily Pad Lake trail. Even with getting less use the trail is very well established and easy to follow.

Several varieties of mushrooms are easily spotted along the trail. Most prolific are the fly agaric followed by bolets and hawkswing. The trail also appears to be a migration route for elk judging from the occasional piles of scat.

The first switchback comes up just past the quarter mile point. The slope of the mountain is extremely steep but the switchbacks make it easy to conquer. There are 8 in total before reaching Lily Pad Lake. The elevation gain between the trailhead and the lake is only about 1100 feet.

It appears that at one time the trail was actually a road that fell out of use due to a large slide that left little room for a foot path let alone something as wide as a wagon or vehicle.

Around the 1.2 mile point the trail crosses a water diversion tunnel, (it's underground so you can't really see it), and somewhere right around there the trail opens out onto a forest road. About 6 tenths of a mile later it passes the turnoff to one of the 10th Mountain Division Huts and at that point it rounds the last switchback.

Lily Pad Lake comes into view around the 2 mile point. By this time the trail has leveled off considerably and starts flirting with the timberline where the forest gives way to the verdant tundra slopes of the Continental Divide. The hike up to this point, with its healthy climb, wasn't so enervating as to satisfy our need for exercise and now that the route had leveled off the easy prospects of exploring further beckoned us on. We were putting together in our heads possible backpacking routes between Aspen and Leadville and wanted to see more of the Hagerman Pass area.

About a mile past Lily Pad Lake an intersection comes up where going to the left leads down to Ivanhoe Lake and to the right goes to Hagerman Tunnel.

Seven tenths of a mile later the road to the right dead ends at the now collapsed west adit of the Hagerman Tunnel which was built back in 1887 for the Colorado Midland Railroad. We're guessing that it probably collapsed with the help of a little dynamite just like a lot of mine adits end up getting sealed. From here it doesn't look like it would be very difficult hiking on around to the Hagerman Pass Road even though there was no apparent established trail. Traversing the 11,600 foot contour line would make it a perfectly level mile across tundra from the tunnel to the Hagerman Pass Road with no real obstacles to deal with.

As another bonus for venturing this far there is a nice view that looks out over Ivanhoe Lake.

We found the Lily Pad Lake trail to be a lot more enjoyable than what we had anticipated. As usual there wasn't a cloud in the sky when we started out but as we finished up the scene was just the opposite. It never did rain on us but we still got some use out of our raincoats for toting about 5 lbs. of mushrooms that made for a tasty dinner. We only gathered the bolets and hawkwings. If you go after the fly agarics you better know to double parboil them to dilute the poison and hallucinogens. I've read there are shamans that know how to prepare them for an out of body experience. To me that sounds a little chancy and a lot like eating just enough to almost die. A risky venture just to make a premature knock on Heaven's Gate. As far as Lily Pad Lake goes, if you would like to see it for yourself all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.