Before my last week of work, I found the most beautiful lakes in Colorado. I’m not qualified to make that statement, but I do anyways.
(note: I started traveling full time in July 2016, and started this blog in December. I’ll be catching up on these trip reports for a while, so the post dates and dates of when I was actually there will me many months off)
I had the week of July 4th off work. My last week of work would be the following week. I helped my brother move, and then had 4 days before work. I asked my brother for a camping recommendation west of Boulder. He said to go check out the Jenny Lake area (which is about 10 miles west of Nederland).
There are two main lakes up there (Yankee Doodle, and Jenny) plus various smaller lakes. It’s nine miles of forest service road to get there. The road was a pain in the ass – tons and tons of medium-sized rocks. It took me 2.5 hours to drive those 9 miles.
This is the road going west from the highway. It follows the current railroad until that railroad enters a really long tunnel. (That rail line replaced the original line that was built passing up by the lakes I visited).
On the way up the Forest Service road.
Lake and Campsite
I got there Friday afternoon. There weren’t many campsites on the way up to the lake. There is a handful right by the lake though. Only one of them was occupied. I got a very good spot where someone had leveled out the ground to make a parking spot. The lake is surrounded on most sides by a steep hill, so some of the camp sites don’t have good flat spots for tents or parking. The views from some of the campsites are incredible. The kind that make you with you didn’t have to leave.
(Want to see the van interior? Check my Vanlife Photo Gallery)
Are these the most beautiful lakes in colorado?
This is Yankee Doodle Lake (the one I camped next to)
I tell you what, this lake makes for a VERY refreshing swim.
Here’s Jenny Lake:
There is a big ridge line up above the two lakes. This is either the continental divide, or is close to it. At the top of the ridge you can see a LONG ways in all directions. It’s up at 11,500 feet and looking east, you can see over/past all the hills in some spots and see Boulder (or some city that way) and beyond. I don’t think there are any official hiking trails around this lake, but hiking was very easy because there were many tree clearings that you could see up to the ridges easily. I hiked a bit the afternoon I arrived and decided I wanted to hike along the big ridge. The next day I did so.
While hiking the first day, I wondered if I could walk up along that ridge that’s visible in the center of this picture. I decided to leave fairly early the next day to try.
This is an interesting area. Clearly someone had worked very hard a long time ago to make this pass. The road continues up past the lakes and over the ridge line. It appears they had originally tried to tunnel straight through right from Yankee Doodle Lake, but they only made it about 30 feet into the hill and gave up on that.
The hiking here was amazing. This was definitely the most scenic hiking I’ve ever done. When I first looked up at the ridge line the first afternoon, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it up there. It turned out to be quite easy. (I didn’t follow the road, I went up an older path/road (what had been a wagon trail) that was a shorter and much steeper route up to where the tunnel is.
This tunnel is straight up above the lakes. It’s called Needle’s Eye Tunnel. I thought it a little strange to make the tunnel so close to the top of the hill. I guess that must have been easier than blasting the rock entirely out of the way
This is looking the other way from the tunnel. The pass continues about half a mile to reach it’s high point.
Making my way up along the ridge:
Up at the top of the ridge. The lake visible below is Jenny lake. Yankee doodle is around the corner to the left. You can just barely make out the tunnel entrance up above the lake.
Here’s the view in the other direction. I continued to the left along the ridge. That patch of snow towards the left side of the picture had about 20 people walking up it and skiiing down.
I came upon a handful of shelters built up high on the ridge from local rocks. My imagination was running with ideas of who would have built these. The crew who made the pass? Hikers and campers? People who brought livestock up here? They were up at/near key spots (places with views, and there was a huge one above the tunnel). Wikipedia says they were built by Native American hunters. They built the walls as blinds, and they also made rock walls as game drives. They would chase an animal towards it, and the drives would guide the animals in a certain direction. Then I suppose someone would shoot it from the blind. GOTCHA!
Driving back down.
On my way down I passed an old guy riding up the road on a mountain bike. A mountain bike with an electric motor. I stopped to talk with him and he told me all about the area, some of the history of the pass, and about a train crash that happened here. The railroad was steep enough that they used an extra engine car, a “pusher” to help trains get over the pass. The pusher would then come back down the pass. One time, after finishing their pushing and starting back down, when the engineers tested the brakes, they noticed the brakes had failed. They jumped out of the car while it was still moving slow and let it ghost ride down the tracks. It came off the tracks at high speed and fell some 50+ feet. Remnants of the crash are still there.
Do you think there are more beautiful lakes in colorado? Where? Tell me and I’LL GO THERE!