upper silas lake

Hiking Silas Lakes Trail

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If you are following along on my road trip journey, you know that I changed campsites last night from Hugh Otte Camping Area to a more secluded area off of 302.  I’m now in a high meadow with a few other big rigs in sight, but not too close.  I am parked by Townsend Creek which runs through the willows.  I awoke to a foghorn type sound at 5:30am!

I could only liken it to a cow, but upon peering out VANgo’s window, I did not see any animals.  On the other hand, Annie was trembling with excitement as she stared outside.  Knowing she sees something and I don’t is sometimes disconcerting!  I guessed that maybe a moose was tucked in the willows, but by the time I returned in the afternoon, there was a herd of cows lining the Louis Lake Road, so perhaps I heard a “moo” after all!

I piddled around making breakfast and lunch, gathering my camera gear, and organizing Annie’s pack before I drove 30 minutes to Christina Lake Trailhead which connects to Silas Lakes Trail, what I hiked today. 

Getting to Silas Lakes Trail

The road to the trailhead is dirt and crushed gravel with room for a car traveling each direction most of the time.  It is very well graded, so that 4×4 is not necessary.  For part of the seven mile drive, I felt very alone in the world, then I’d stumble across civilization again.  Civilization being rigs camped in high meadows and some campgrounds near Fiddlers Lake.

I was surprised to find a couple of cars in the small parking area for Silas Lake Trail at 7:30am.  Upon reviewing the registrar, no one had signed in for this morning, so I expected there might be a few backpackers on the trail.

Hiking Silas Lakes Trail

The trail begins a steady climb through the evergreen forest.  And for the most part, the decimated forest did not offer many highlights.  I was too early for wildflowers at this altitude, 9,500 feet, so my previous hike to Popo Agie Falls in Sinks Canyon was more colorful.

The rocks in the path were relentless.  I must have rolled my weak ankles at least twenty times.  Fortunately, they are hard to sprain, especially given the ligament is already ripped off the bone on one of them.  That said, they will definitely be sore in the morning.

When I wasn’t making my way over the rocks, I was detouring around countless fallen trees.  For the most part, this wasn’t a problem, though it proved a little difficult in finding the trail both before and after a major creek crossing.

Creek Crossing

Most the creek crossings were benign and only required stepping from rock to rock.  One larger creek, however, required crossing in two places, once over rocks and then across a “make-shift” bridge of fallen trees. 

Prior to reaching this crossing, different potential paths were marked closed by fallen trees which were strategically placed.  That said, if I were chatting with friends, I could have easily stepped right over these logs without really noticing.  Fortunately, I pay very close attention to details when I hike alone, and as a result, let the logs steer me to a small sign and the creek crossing.

While the crossing was straight forward, it was difficult to pick up the main path on the other side, as people and animals have clearly wandered in all different directions.  There are a few “i’s” marked in the trees to guide the way, but they were sometimes hard to spot when weaving through the downed lumber. 

Thankfully, I had downloaded the offline map on AllTrails and used it to point me in the right direction, which was upstream.  Annie patiently waited on me while I turned in circles to see test the blue arrow indicator.

After passing a boulder field, the path leveled out a little and I soon met a wet trail of melted snow.  Donning trail shoes rather than boots, I detoured off the path again, avoiding water, mud and snow as much as possible.  Once again, I found the path slightly difficult to find, but knew it paralleled the creek all the way to Upper Silas Lake.

Upper Silas Lake

After face planting in a patch of snow, I finally reached the lake where my dog Annie and I enjoyed a quick snack.  I would have liked to chill out longer, but I thought I had a contract to purchase a townhome waiting for me in my inbox, so I wanted to get to cell service by the afternoon.  I later found out I’ll be waiting a couple more days, but fingers crossed, it is coming!

Tomahawk Lake

Upon my return trip from Upper Silas Lake, I took a quick detour to Tomahawk Lake.  It is located about a ¼ mile south off the trail.  This detour is another good reason to have the AllTrails app, because it is worth a visit and the map will help you navigate.  Annie and I ended up right in the middle of someone’s campsite as we ventured that way, but we quickly made it to the shore to enjoy the view.

annie at townsend lake

After a short stop at Tomahawk Lake, we retraced our steps and eventually ran into a handful of hikers and fishermen.  The Silas Lakes Trail was easier to follow on my descent, though I still struggled to find the make-shift bridge at the major creek crossing.  The AllTrails app came in handy again!

The rest of our seven mile roundtrip journey proved uneventful, and admittedly after being a flatlander for the last nine months, I was ready to sit down!  I’m embarrassed to say such a moderate trek tired me out.  Perhaps I was just mentally taxed by finding my way and by having my thoughts consumed by a townhome contract!

While my description of this trail likely sounds dismal, I actually enjoyed it.  I have missed meandering walks through the woods.  And anyone who has been to a high alpine lake knows how beautiful they are.  The fact that Silas Lakes Trail features four lakes between 9,300 feet and 10,200 feet, it is hard to go wrong!

Fiddlers Lake

I skipped visiting Lower Silas Lake as it was a bit smaller and a little farther off the trail, but before climbing back into VANgo, I stopped for a glimpse of Fiddlers Lake near the beginning of the trail, which may also be reach by car.

In summary, while I struggled a bit on this crisp late June day (started out at 37 degrees), by mid-July I expect the snow will be melted and the wildflowers out, making Silas Lakes Trail easier to follow as well as quite a hike!  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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