Fancy Lake

Round Trip Distance: 6 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 10,016 - 11,596 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 6 hrs.
Trailhead: Fancy Lake
Fee: none
Attractions: alpine lake

The Fancy Lake trail is located in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area of the White River National Forest between Minturn and Leadville, Colorado. Beginning off of Forest Service Road 727 the trail climbs steeply up the Fancy Creek drainage to Fancy Lake. A loop, that is popular with backpackers, can be formed by continuing past Fancy Lake and over Fancy Pass to Treasure Vault Lake and then over Missouri Pass where a decent is made down the Missouri Lakes drainage and back to the trailhead.

For turn-by-turn directions enter 'Fancy Lake trailhead' into your driving app and download the directions to your device for when you lose cell phone service. Other than that drive about 10.7 miles south from Minturn on Highway 24 and turn right onto the Homestake Road, FR #703. Continue for another 10 miles by following the signs to Missouri Lakes.

The Fancy Lake and Missouri Lakes trailheads are within a few hundred feet of each other. Fancy Lake will be on the right across from the restroom.

The trail starts out on a moderately steep slope that it maintains all the way to the lake.

While the trail itself is well maintained and easy to follow numerous rocks and tree roots protruding from its base make it feel more primitive in nature.

Near the 1 mile point the trail crosses to the north side of Fancy Creek.

A short distance after crossing the creek the current trail meets up with the original trail which was an old jeep road up to this point. The original trail followed a much more direct route and was actually about a half mile shorter than the current trail.

Just past the 2 mile point the trail rises above the 11,000 foot elevation. About 1/2 mile from Fancy Lake a memorable series of short switchbacks work their way up and over a rocky outcrop.

As the trail levels off near the basin that holds Fancy Lake the trail to Fancy Pass continues to the right.

To the left a short stub trail leads over to the lake.

A short ridge separates Fancy Lake from the trail that continues on over Fancy Pass which is another 900 feet or so higher in elevation than the lake. On the east side of Fancy Lake there are several good primitive campsites. Campfires aren't allowed up here but most backpackers are accustomed to that and carry a small propane stove if they need to heat up water for an MRE. On this day there were quite a few fish jumping but nothing more than 5 or 6 inches was seen.

Like the Missouri Lakes trail, Fancy Lake can see large numbers of hikers on the weekends and even be moderately busy during the week. On the day that we took the photos for this post, which was on a Wednesday, we came across a dozen day hikers and 2 backpackers. We also saw quite a bit of bighorn sheep scat in several places. On past trips we have seen bighorn sheep in the area as well as several moose down by the highway. Elk are also seen from time to time. Fancy Lake, although a bit rough, is a very popular trail. If you would like to see it for yourself all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.