Lovely Fancy Pass Loop

Well, I have to say, hikes to alpine lakes in Colorado are just spectacular. This was my third hike in the last ten days to an alpine lake and each one has been awesome. Today David and I decided to tackle the Fancy Pass and Missouri Pass Loop. We left the house at 6:30am to make the 2.5 hour drive to the trailhead. It was a bit disconcerting when we ran into sprinkles before we even reached Bakersville. We hoped that once we made it over Vail Pass the weather would change to the forecast…cloudy, with a high of 67.

At first it seemed like the drive was a bit long and wished we stayed the night or weekend in or around Vail. But the beauty of this hike more than made up for the five hours of driving. In fact, the beauty started soon after we exited Highway 24. Neither of us had driven through Minturn which was a cute little town. And the 8.5 mile drive on Homestake Road #703, a dirt road that passed through meadows and several camping areas was lovely.

Eventually we reached Fancy Creek Trailhead. Several cars lined the road. We expected the trail to be busy, but we actually enjoyed a quiet beginning as we followed the path though the conifer forest. We gained about 500 feet in elevation the first mile and probably 800 feet the second mile as we climbed the switchbacks. The dirt path turned to a flat rocky terrain as the creek cascaded through a narrow gorge.

Soon we made it to Fancy Lake, though we were traveling at a somewhat slow pace. What a picturesque lake tucked beneath the granite crags. Utani, the dog we are caring for, David and I stopped for a quick snack by the placid water before it began sprinkling. The cool weather encouraged us to continue on to keep warm. Upon reaching the trail junction we turned left up the rocky pass. We gained 1,200 feet over the next mile while marmots and pikas chirped and scampered around their nearby homes. The rain picked up and by the time we reached 12,400 feet it turned to sleet.

Despite the wet weather and low clouds, the view of Cross Creek Valley dotted in wildflowers and lakes on the other side of Fancy Pass was incredible. We maneuvered down the wet rocks and followed the path nearest the closest lake, Treasure Vault and admired Blodgett Lake in the distance. Here, the trail turned up Missouri Lakes pass, far less steep than Fancy Pass. Remnants of mining equipment peppered the surrounding peaks.

The view from Missouri Pass didn’t disappoint. We passed by a small patch of snow before we headed down to the largest of the lakes surrounded by patches of trees where we snacked again as the rain and sleet stopped momentarily. We sat there until the thunder boomed. This was our sign to mosey.

We passed by several more lakes of all sizes. The Missouri Lakes basin was quite a treat. And it didn’t stop there. The path crossed the creek down the mountain. We stopped several times to admire the tumbling cascades. The rain started again toward the end of our hike, but amazingly for walking through the rain or sleet for probably 3-4 miles of the 8.1 mile hike, we weren’t that wet.

On our way home, we detoured to Red Cliff and stopped for dinner. It was surprisingly good. Then, we decided to take the ten mile drive over Shrine Pass back to I-70. The dirt road was watered down and the surrounding peaks were enveloped in fog. I suspect we may take a weekend trip out this way again sometime. There was so much to explore in this alluring part of the state. ETB


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