Wheeler Lakes

Round-Trip Length5.9 miles – includes both lakes

Start-End Elevation:  9,723′ – 11,072′ (11,098′ max elevation)

Elevation Change:  +1,349′ net elevation gain (+1,462′ total roundtrip elevation gain)

Skill Level:  Moderate

Trailhead Location:   Gore Range Trailhead – I-70 west to Exit 195 (Copper Mountain Exit).  You may park on the small shoulder to your right just off the 195 exit ramp.  Alternatively you may park at Copper Mountain Ski Resort’s Alpine Parking Lot and walk .35 miles east back over the I-70 pedestrian bridge to the trailhead.

Wheeler Lakes was our second High Country hike this past summer.  After having hiked the Ute Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park only two days prior on June 9th, we had the bug to get back into the mountains to enjoy the weather and another hike.  Our son, Josh, had the day off from work and joined us on this hike.  Wheeler Lakes is located in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area of the White River National Forest. This short, moderately strenuous hike leads through pristine subalpine forests and high open spaces with terrific views across the Gore and Ten Mile ranges.

Wheeler Lakes are likely named for Judge John Wheeler who built the town of Wheeler at the base of Copper Mountain back in the 1870s. Wheeler was a logging town, a stage coach stop and a railroad station in the middle of a mining area. When the gold rush ended, so did Wheeler’s popularity.

We exited I-70 at the Copper Mountain exit and parked along the right shoulder and headed up the trail.  The trail rises gently through a sage-aspen hillside over I-70, gradually bending north into a thick forest and across the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area Boundary after 1.2 miles and 470 feet of elevation gain. After another 0.65 miles and another 583 feet of elevation gain, the trail opens up into a large meadow with some great views.  It was a beautiful, bluebird sky day!

View towards Copper Mountain Ski Area

We continued up the trail another 0.7 miles to the Wheeler Lakes/Lost Lake trail junction.  We continued northeast on the trail to Wheeler Lakes.  We soon came to a huge, open meadow just before the first Wheeler Lake.

View of the Gore Range

View of Copper Mountain Ski Area

Just shortly after the meadow, we came to the first lake (11,086’) and headed around it to the far side and took this picture looking back to the south.

Just another 0.2 miles up from the first lake we came to the second lake (11,067’).

We continued up from the second lake another 150 yards to an overlook of Officers Gulch and a view of Lake Dillon.

Also a great view across to Uneva Pass.

After enjoying our lunch at this viewpoint, we headed back down to the second lake. 

There were still a few patches of snow and snowbanks in the shaded areas in the trees around the lake.

We walked around to the south shore of the lake and got this view looking back to the north.

From a slight rise between the two lakes, we had this view looking back to the southeast of the first lake.

Some interesting fish/reptiles we saw swimming in the lake.

Shortly before 5:00pm we headed back down the trail.

We arrived back at the car around 6:00pm and headed home.

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