Forest Lakes

Round-Trip Length:  7.8 miles (includes both lakes)
Start-End Elevation:  9,211′ – 10,852′ (10,883′ max elevation)
Elevation Change:  +1,641′ net elevation gain (+1,729′ total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level:  Moderate

Trailhead Location:   East Portal Trailhead – End of Rollins Pass Road, an 8.2 mile dirt road west of Highway 72. Rollins Pass Road is located 4.9 miles south of Nederland, Colorado.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to head back to the James Peak Wilderness Area for a hike.  We did a backpacking trip in this area last summer up to Crater Lakes and I wanted to go back to explore more of the area.

I got to the trailhead around 8:30am and headed down the trail. Forest Lakes-trail sign

Forest Lakes-trail sign

I soon entered the James Peak Wilderness Area Forest Lakes-James Peak Wilderness sign

A crossing over South Boulder Creek a short distance up the trail. Forest Lakes-stream crossing

At 1 mile, I came to a trail junction in a large meadow.  The wildflowers were in full bloom. Forest Lakes-wildflowers

I took the trail to the right to head on up towards Forest Lakes. Forest Lakes-trail sign

Another 15 minutes up the trail (1.75 miles from the trailhead),  I came to a crossing of Arapahoe Creek. Forest Lakes-stream crossing

Forest Lakes-stream crossing

After 3.25 miles, I arrived at the lower Forest Lake. Forest Lakes-lower lake

I explored around the shores of lower Forest Lake, getting some different shots of the lake. Forest Lakes-lower lake

Forest Lakes-lower lake

There was an abundance of wildflowers around the lake. Forest Lakes-wildflowers

Forest Lakes-wildflowers

After exploring lower Forest Lake, I continued up the trail to the upper lake.  A waterfall I passed on the way up. Forest Lakes-waterfall

Forest Lakes-waterfall

After a little over 20 minutes, I arrived at the upper lake (3.9 miles from the trailhead). DSC_0038e01

There were plenty more wildflowers near the upper lake. Forest Lakes-columbine

Forest Lakes-wildflowers

I hung out at the lake for about 45 minutes and had lunch.  One final look back at the lake (with a self-portrait) before heading back down the trail. Forest Lakes-upper lake

Forest Lakes-self portrait

On the way back, I had hoped to take another side trail and head up to Arapaho Lakes.  Approximately 0.95 miles back down from lower Forest Lake was supposed to be another trail junction for Arapaho Lakes.  This was one time I wish I had brought my GPS with me as I didn’t recall seeing the trail junction on the way up.  I guessed by my hiking time when I thought I should be at the trail junction.  According to some other trip reports I had read, the Forest Service decided to stop maintaining the trail to Arapaho Lakes and the trail sign had been removed.  I did find what looked like a trail covered with branches.  I headed down the trail a ways to Arapaho Creek.  I couldn’t find a bridge or log crossing the creek and I scanned the other side for a trail but couldn’t find one.  After exploring around a bit, I decided to skip trying to find the trail to Arapaho Lakes and headed on back down to the trailhead.

As I approached the parking lot, a train was just heading through the Moffat Tunnel.

Forest Lakes-Moffat Tunnel

I got back to the car around 1:15pm.  Heading back down the Rollins Pass Road, I stopped to read about the Moffat Road.  I debated heading up this 4-wheel drive road but decided to save that for another day.  I also wasn’t sure what kind of condition the road was in and decided I wanted to research it more before attempting to drive up it.

Forest Lakes-Moffat Road sign

I stopped along Highway 72 to take this shot looking back to the west of the James Peak/Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.

Forest Lakes-view from Hwy 72

Heading back down Highway 72 through Wondervu, I decided to turn off the highway and check out Gross Reservoir.  I’ve driven by the sign off of Highway 72 many times but had never been there.  Gross Reservoir is owned and operated by Denver Water.  The reservoir was completed in 1954 and serves as a combination storage and regulating facility for water that flows under the Continental Divide through the Moffat Tunnel.

Standing 340 feet above the South Boulder Creek streambed, Gross Dam contains some 627,559 cubic yards of concrete. Gross Reservoir has a surface area of 440 acres and 10.9 miles of shoreline.

A shot of the dam as I was heading up towards the reservoir.

Forest Lakes-Gross Reservoir Dam

Another shot looking down on the reservoir from one of the overlooks.

Forest Lakes-Gross Reservoir

After exploring Gross Reservoir, I headed back home.  Another great day exploring in the High Country!

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