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Road trip hike: Three lakes on Independence Pass


Lost Man Lake, as seen from Lost Man Pass - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Lost Man Lake, as seen from Lost Man Pass
Located near the top of Independence Pass in the Hunter/Fryingpan Wilderness in the White River National Forest there is a trio of alpine lakes that can be visited on a single, moderate hike. Linkins, Independence and Lost Man lakes, all located above tree-line, are beautiful, pristine lakes, and should be done during the relatively short period of time that the pass is open each year. As a bonus, and with a little bit of planning and a second vehicle, this hike can be done as a loop hike.

The trailhead is less than a mile past the summit of the pass on the west side. Look for an unmarked parking area on the right, next to where the Roaring Fork River cascades down some rocks before going into a culvert and under the road. The only formal indication that you are in the right place is a small trail sign marked “Linkins Lake Trail # 1979”, about 25 feet up the obvious trail to the left of the Roaring Fork.

Follow this trail for a little under .20 miles to a fork in the trail just after a small creek crossing. Trail 1979 continues after a left turn at the fork for about another .50 miles to Linkins Lake. The trail rises steeply and has some switchbacks, but its short length makes it a fairly easy hike. During my visit in early June, the spring runoff made some spots on the trail wet and muddy, and the area immediately around the lake a bit swampy. There were also lots of wildflowers, especially high elevation Globe flowers and Marsh marigolds in the area.

Back at the fork, a right turn marks the beginning of Lost Man Trail, #1996. This easy-to-follow trail climbs gradually and at a little more than .5 miles from the parking area, the Lost Man Trail crosses the Roaring Fork River. The river was running pretty fast during my visit, but I was able to rock hop across the river and my dog was able to wade through it. However, about 90 minutes later when we came back down the trail, the river was flowing much higher and faster than when we went up. This made the crossing more difficult and treacherous for me, my dog and my hiking party. Keep this in mind if doing this hike in the spring — there's no other easy or viable place to cross.

At about 2.25 miles from the parking area, the 1996 trail gets to Independence Lake, with its distinctive teardrop shape. The lake was still mostly frozen in early June, and there was still a lot of snow around the lake making it difficult to follow the trail. Attempts to walk on top of the accumulated snow often resulted in us “post-holing," sometimes thigh-deep into the snow pack. The snow and ice on the lake would likely be gone by late June or early July making the going much easier. The trail continues around to the left of the lake and then a short distance up to Lost Man Pass.

From Lost Man Pass, the trail drops down steeply to the lake with the same name, where the trail goes to the right of the lake and then continues down to Highway 82, about 4 miles down hill from where we started. The views from the pass were impressive, with 13,000’ and 14,000’ peaks all around. If you bring two cars you can park one at each trailhead and do this hike as a sort of open loop, something I plan on doing that later this summer. On our trip, deep snow on the Lost Man Lake side of the pass forced us to turn around, following the trail back for a round trip distance of about 5.25 miles, not including a side trip to Linkins Lake, which would add about 1.5 miles to the total hike.

Because this hike is in a wilderness area, only hiking and horseback riding is allowed. No bikes or motorized vehicles are allowed and dogs must be leashed.
To get there: Take US 24 west from Colorado Springs to where it meets US 285. Turn left on US 285/24 to the traffic light just past the Arkansas River south of Buena Vista. Turn north on US 24 and follow it until Colorado 82, Independence Pass Road, and follow it for about 20 miles to the summit of the pass. The trailhead is on the west side of the summit. Travel time is about 3 hours each way.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for more than 26 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website ( E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob:

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