Round-Trip Length: 6.8 miles round trip
Start-End Elevation: 10,980 ft – 12,162 ft
Elevation Change: +1,182 ft
Skill Level: Moderate
Trailhead Location: From Fairplay/Alma take Highway 9 to the County Road 4 turnoff just before the top of Hoosier Pass. (From Breckenridge, take Highway 9 south over Hoosier Pass to the next turnoff). Take the dirt CR 4 about 0.7 miles to a big 180 degree turn. Go straight toward Montgomery Reservoir. At the V at Montgomery Reservoir, take the high road around the north side of the reservoir to the west side of the reservoir and find a place to park.
We decided to check this hike out a few weeks ago. We headed up to Dillon, Colorado early on a Sunday morning with our friend Janet and started off the day by taking in the 9:00am church service at the Dillon Amphitheater. The amphitheater looks out over Lake Dillon and the Tenmile range – a beautiful spot for a church service. Free concerts are also held here on Friday and Saturday nights throughout the summer. Below is a shot of the amphitheater actually taken last year at a Sunday morning concert as I didn’t take any pictures during the church service. However, I wanted to show you what a beautiful spot this is in Dillon.
After the church service, we headed south on Colorado 9 towards Breckenridge and Hoosier Pass. We arrived at Montgomery Reservoir, parked, and prepared to head up the trail to Wheeler Lake around 11:30am.
A shot of Montgomery Reservoir from our parking spot.
The town of Montgomery was founded August 22 1861 two years after gold was discovered in the area. By 1862 Montgomery had 150 cabins, five sawmills, three hotels and the largest dancehall in the region. The town’s people named 14,286 ft Mt. Lincoln after the current President and sent him a bar of gold from the Montgomery mine. By the late 1860’s the gold had played out and the residents had moved south to Buckskin Joe. The city of Colorado Springs bought the site in the late 1890’s to construct the reservoir and most of the town’s remains are lost beneath the waters of the lake.
Less than a quarter of a mile up the old jeep road is the remains of Magnolia Mine.
Miners came to this area in the 1860s, first to mine gold, then silver. Mines on the hills above used trams to bring ore to this mill for processing. Looking in through one of the mill doorways, you can still see some of the old equipment inside.
On the north side of the mill were some beautiful waterfalls on the South Platte River.
After checking out the old mill and waterfalls, we continued up the trail/road. A sign just past the mill.
The trail up to Wheeler Lake is actually an old jeep road and jeeps are still allowed to travel it up to Wheeler Lake. I was hoping we wouldn’t run into a lot of jeep traffic and fortunately, we did not.
Another piece of old mining equipment along the trail with North Star Mountain (13,614’) in the background.
A couple more shots looking up the trail/road. There were many water crossings along the old road. There were often social trails through the willows on the side of the road around the water crossings.
A little further up the road we did see a couple of jeeps navigating a pretty rough spot in the road. TrailDamage.com calls this the “Flopper.” The website said if you don’t pick the right line here, it’s easy to flop over.
Continuing up the road.
Looking back down in the direction we had come from.
There were many wildflowers along the trail.
Looking across the valley at an old mining cabin and mine on the side of the mountain.
Continuing up the trail, we came to a small stream coming down the mountain. I noticed how much moss there was around the stream.
Further up the trail we had to navigate s stream crossing.
Looking back down at Lisa heading across the open tundra nearing the lake. What an expansive view!
We arrived at the lake around 2:20pm as the rain was moving in.
Some shots of Wheeler Lake.
I always like taking reflection pictures. There was a lot of small ponds near the lake with some nice reflections.
A waterfall running down the side of the mountain and into Wheeler Lake.
We didn’t spend a lot of time at the lake as it was raining so we soon headed back down. Lisa and Janet started down ahead of me. As I was taking a few more pictures around the lake, I made a friend. There were two dogs – one was tied up under a tarp and barking constantly. Another dog was loose and continued to follow me around as I was taking pictures. As I started to make my way down, the dog continued to follow me. I was unsure what to do as I saw no other people around the lake and wasn’t sure who he belonged to.
A few more wildflower pictures heading across the tundra to catch back up with the trail.
Looking down on the trail at the point where I caught back up with Lisa and Janet.
The dog continued to follow us down the trail. After raining pretty constantly for quite some time, the sun eventually came out. Another reflection picture of some trees in a water crossing on the road.
We arrived back down at the Magnolia mine site, looked around a little more, and proceeded on down to the car. A couple of shots of Montgomery Reservoir.
Our dog friend was still with us. He did have a collar with the name Kai and a phone number. We had tried calling the number a couple of times along the trail but we had no cell phone service. Once we got closer to the car, we did get a signal, called the number, and left a voice mail message. At the car we were deciding what to do. We didn’t want to leave the dog so we were preparing to take him with us either to a dog shelter down in Breckenridge or all the way back to Denver with us. As we were deciding where to take him, another couple came driving by whom we had seen earlier on the trail and we had told them this dog had been following us. They asked if we lived in the area and we told them no. They said they lived nearby in Blue River and offered to take Kai. We exchanged cell numbers and they also called and left a message with the number on Kai’s collar.
The next day, we received a call from the dog’s owner. We found out Kai’s real name is Baxter. We found out that Baxter is the dog of the boyfriend of the girl whose phone number was on the dog collar. The boyfriend, Eric, didn’t have a collar for Baxter so Shannon (the girlfriend) had an extra one for her dog, Kai, so they put that collar on Baxter. They tied Baxter and Kai up at Wheeler Lake while they went off exploring the area. Obviously, he broke through the tie and ran off. When Eric and Shannon returned from their hike, they discovered Baxter was gone. They searched for him without success. In the dark they hiked to higher ground to get cell service, got our message that Baxter was safe, and were very relieved. They were camping at the lake and the next day they stopped at the couple’s house in Blue River to pick him up. They were appreciative and happy to know he was ok. We were glad the story had a happy ending and dog and owner were reunited!
As were driving home near Alma, Colorado, we got this beautiful shot of a rainbow!
I think we are heading right towards the pot of gold!