Whitney Lake

Round Trip Distance: 5.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 9,158 - 10,926 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 4 hrs.
Trailhead: Whitney Lake
Fee: none
Attractions: Forest hike

Whitney Lake is located in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area of the White River National Forest between Minturn and Leadville, Colorado. The quiet little mountain lake sits below timberline surrounded by conifer trees on all sides with the rock east facing slopes of Whitney Peak (13,271 ft.) in the background.

To get there drive about 10.7 miles south from Minturn on Highway 24 and turn right onto the Homestake Road. Reset your odometer and continue about 4.7 miles to the trailhead where the parking is in front of a pole fence on the left side of the road. The trail begins directly across the road. Note that the trailhead sits back away from the road and is mostly blocked by the trees making it very easy to miss as you are driving up the Homestake Road.

The trail starts out climbing away from the Homestake Road at a moderate pace as it immediately begins gaining in elevation.

A short distance from the trailhead the route crosses into the Holy Cross Wilderness Area.

The lower part of the trail is a mix of aspen and pine trees...

...that make for pleasant hiking.

Right around the mile and a half point the trail turns up a side canyon where Whitney Creek can be heard cascading down the ravine below the trail.

Within another quarter of a mile the trail crosses Whitney Creek where the amount of water you will encounter will depend upon the time of the year. This photo was taken during late summer during bow season. There is more water there than what appears in the photo but at this flow it was easy to cross with dry feet. 

From the creek crossing it is 1 more mile to Whitney Lake. The trail, which had leveled off quite a bit before crossing Whitney Creek, gets steeper again for a short distance while it climbs out of the creeks drainage.

After that short stretch of climbing the slope almost flattens out. The climbing continues all the way to the lake but there are only a couple of places where hikers are likely to take notice of it.

Whitney Lake has a rugged shoreline and is most accessible right where the trail comes up to its banks. Whitney Peak (13,271 ft.) and its ridgeline make a nice backdrop to the lake and is actually about all that is visible, other than trees, in any direction. There are fish in the lake for any anglers looking for yet another mountain lake to ply their sport.

The Whitney Lake trail is probably the most accessible yet least hiked trail in the Homestake Creek area. We saw 2 pair of bowhunters that were backpacking. We didn't see any signs at all of deer, elk, bear or bighorn like we have seen on the other trails. Not even any old scat of which there was plenty of down in the valley along the creek and road. We also saw 3 small groups of day hikers like ourselves which is a crowd for this trail. Most people that we've noticed describe the Whitney Lake trail as steep but it is a much easier hike than Fancy Lakes. It is so enclosed by the forest though and doesn't climb above timberline so the views aren't nearly as pretty. That said, Whitney Lake is a nice hike and worth putting on your list. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.