RT total: 14.8 miles from Monarch Lake Trailhead.
Andrew and I have a habit of making last-minute plans, mainly because we can’t keep track of each others schedules. This trip was no exception. We ended up a little rushed, but in the long run this beautiful hike was worth it.
Our main goal of hiking this was to see Lone Eagle Peak. This beautiful peak screams “Climb me!” and we had to see it in person. Mountain Project shows two technical (5.2 & 5.7) routes and a 4th class scramble. Another bonus, during the summer months you need a permit to camp at Crater lake but in October it’s open to anyone. We also picked the perfect time to see the aspen leaves at their peak.
We got our gear ready Saturday and headed out Sunday morning. We’d hike in, spend the afternoon at the lake, camp and come back Tuesday morning (I had to work at 3pm). Only 7 miles with a little under 2,000′ in elevation gain, it wouldn’t be too bad, we thought. Rookie mistake. Neither Andrew or I are big backpackers. Most often I hike to summit 14ers, to get to a crag and occasionally just for exercise, but not very often do we have time to go backpacking. Needless to say it took a little longer to reach the campsites then we expected.
I’m use to seeing signs at the entrance of hikes warning people of mountain lions or bears but this time we were warned about moose. I knew they weren’t friendly but I hadn’t even considered them to be a concern before we started the hike. Not even a mile into the hike we had our first moose sighting. He was far enough away to snap a photo and continue on, but for the rest of the hike we stayed alert. Along the way we passed waterfalls (too many to count), aspen grooves and beautiful streams through meadows.
We set up tent, enjoyed our evening, which felt too short, and went to bed. The next morning we got up early, snapped some photos and packed up our gear. By 8 am we were headed out with no time to spare. I was sad to leave so soon.
The hike out went smoothly, besides when we walked around some aspen trees and saw 3 very large moose, laying about 50 feet from the trail. We walked quickly past them, glancing behind us the whole time.
We made it back to the car in about 3 to 3.5 hours and back to Golden by 1:45 pm. Not before picking up a couple cheeseburgers and shakes in Empire on the way home. I even arrived at work a little early! I highly recommend this hike, just give yourself more time than we did.
Animal count: 4 moose, 1 deer, a lot of llamas (?)
More detailed info and directions about Monarch Lake Trailhead.
Photos by Andrew Bradberry.