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August 18, 2016

Mohawk Lakes
Fees: Free
Website: http://www.protrails.com/trail/368/summit-county-eagle-county-clear-creek-county-mohawk-lake-and-lower-mohawk-lake
Elevation: 10,390-12,073
Distance: 6.7 miles roundtrip

The trail to Mohawk Lakes is a must see! We had the best hike today. We started out on Spruce Creek Trail which I can’t say is too pretty. In fact, I felt slightly disappointed. Many trees had fallen to the beetle kill, thus the forest wasn’t the best. But after about 1.5 to 2 miles, things changed in a hurry. We reached another parking area which I recommend driving to if your car allows and starting the hike at this point. That way most of the ugly part of the trail can be skipped.

We checked out the diversion mechanism at the creek before we crossed it just after leaving the parking area. Over the 3.35 miles to reach Upper Mohawk Lake at 12,073 feet, we had to gain just under 1,700 feet from the trailhead mostly over a gradual incline. We quickly reached the junction for Wheeler Trail, where we stopped to look for a moose in the pond. While we didn’t find any wildlife, we certainly enjoyed the magnificent reflection on the still water.

From the pond we carried on until we detoured to Mayflower Lake, another lovely stop. We were only just beginning with these side trips. In this area there were remnants of old cabins which we explored. After returning to the trail intersection, we faced our first steep climb. It wasn’t too bad and at the top we were rewarded with an awesome view of Lower Continental Falls and another cabin relatively in tact with a roof and make shift stove.

From here, we started another steep climb near the waterfall. There were two ways up the mountain at this point, straight up via an old mining cable or along some switchbacks. We opted for the cable route because it was so unique and not very hard. I highly recommend this way. It was so much fun to pull ourselves up the cable to the cog.

From the cog, we gradually ascended out of the forest and followed the switchbacks just above treeline to Lower Mohawk Lake. This lake was truly gorgeous. It had to be the shallowest alpine lake I have ever seen. Rocks popped through the water’s surface and the water was so clear we could see the rocky bottom. The surrounding landscape with another cabin and greenery as opposed to just rocks at most alpine lakes was breathtaking as well. Unfortunately, the sky appeared ominous, so we only stopped briefly to admire the lower lake before heading to the upper lake where black clouds loomed overhead. The storms were coming early today…it was only 11:00.

We sort of wondered if we wasted too much time exploring all the side trails and cabins given it took us at least two hours to go 3.3 miles and now we found ourselves racing over the final 0.4 miles to the upper lake in a light sprinkle. The upper lake, despite being lined by rocky peaks, was hardly protected from the wind, so our stop here was short at best. We decided it would be better to enjoy our snack at the lower lake which we thought was more picturesque and protected from the wind. We rested on the rocky shore until larger raindrops began falling which encouraged a quick departure.

For the next mile or so, zipped up in our rain jackets, we carefully maneuvered over the slick rocks at a quick pace. We wanted to get to tree cover for relief from the steady drizzle. While many storms blow over in twenty minutes in Colorado, this one seemed like it would last. Fortunately, we ended our hike during a dry pocket. While it took us three hours to ascend, it only took us one to make it back to the car! Before heading all the way back to Denver, we treated ourselves to a decadent cookie at Mary’s Mountain Cookies in Breckenridge.

It was such a fun hike and what made our outing even better was heading up to Breckenridge the night before and staying at the Schussbaumer Ski Club. We got to enjoy a nice dinner and relax for the evening before our hike in the morning which made it feel like a mini vacation! The only thing I would have changed about the day, is I would have driven up the rocky road to skip the first part of the trail to add additional mileage after Upper Mohawk Lake, as I read the are several other lakes beyond. With the rain threatening, we had to skip exploring them. I might have to repeat this hike though to give myself more time to enjoy it…this would be a rarity for me as there are so many trails in Colorado to hike. ETB

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