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Backpacking: Colorado > Rio Grande National Forest > Divide Ranger District

Quick Facts

Ute Lake Trail

Beginning Elevation: 11,100 Feet (3460.1 Meters)
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain: 1,000 Feet (311.7 Meters)
Ending Elevation: 12,100 Feet (3771.8 Meters) Ends at the junction with the Continental Divide Trail #813, approximately 1/4 mile above Ute Lake
Length, One-way: 2.5 Miles (4.17 Kilometers)
Trail Number: 905
Usage: Moderate
USGS Maps: Rio Grande Pyramid


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Satellite and Topo Map




General Description

After departing from the main Ute Trail, this trail immediately crosses Middle Ute Creek and proceeds up an open meadow at a mild grade before making a very steep ascent to an open grassy ridge above main Ute Lake. The trail will then make a short steep descent toward Ute Lake before meeting the Continental Divide Trail immediately above Ute Lake.

Beautiful views are possible in all directions from this trail. Opportunities to see elk are usually good.

Fishing is good at the lake but only one or two small camping areas are available near the lake shore. Since Ute Lake is above timberline, camping with tree cover is only available at areas near the trail below the lake. Firewood may be in short supply in the lake area.

Directions from Creede, Colorado: Travel southwest on Colorado Highway 149 for 20.1 miles to Forest Road #520 (Upper Rio Grande River Road). Then, go approximately 16.0 miles to the Ute Creek Trailhead. Hike up the main Ute Creek Trail #819 for approximately 10.0 miles to the Ute Lake Trail #905 junction. The junction is clearly defined by the merging of the two trail heads. Signs may not be present. Ute Lake Trail #905 crosses Middle Ute Creek within 200 yards of the trail junction.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Open: Late June through September .



Current Conditions & Trip Reports
Ranger TipThe bridge on Sky Hi Ranch is not available for public use. Please ford the river and respect private property rights.


Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Richard Bryant (Escondido, CA)
Length of Time: 14 days
Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Even though it has been 32 years ago I have to say this backpack trip along with 2 others here (each 14 days) were the most memorable moments out of all other pack trips in my life. If GOD ever kissed the earth this would be where his lips touched. Mass valleys of multicolored wildflowers drowning in fresh mist of wild pine fragrance. Waterfalls nestled in the side of huge rock cliffs. Creeks and small rivers running in every direction. Wildlife galore (watch for bears). There is something great and exciting around every bend. It is not uncommon to wake up in the mornings at Ute Lakes and see the clouds are just below your feet, which leaves you and the peak your on, sitting on top of the clouds like an island in the sky yet with clear blue skies and sunshine overhead. Looking across the sea of clouds you see other peak islands. What a feeling of solitude!! Man oh man, when you peek over the other side of the Continental Divide (just up from Ute Lakes) you can see Black Lake. 32 years later I am planning the same old route from Sky High Ranch Area (Not using their bridge) but hiking all the way over to Black Lake this time. Our packs weighed 55lbs each. All food was dried (add hot water) type. Discovery: 1st trip; packed for 3 meals per day; hiked 10-12 hours a day; came back home with more then half of leftover food. 2nd trip: packed for 1.5 meals per day; hiked 5 hours per day; were almost out of food halfway through trip (thank goodness for the great fishing). 3rd trip we got it straight (3 meals a day/5 hours hiking). When you take it easy hiking, you seem to get a huge craving for food and unfortunately this gives you the extra time to eat it. WHAT A TRIP!!! I would certainly suggest this over Yosemite any day.
Conditions: Daily - short morning showers and short evening showers but not a bother so much. A few good steep traverses. Shady most the way up with beautiful open valleys on occasions. Paths were mostly visible and cleared off (have a good map and compass on hand). At times fallen trees across paths. Horse flies were a bother along with some mosquitoes. Strange ice on the Continental Divide peaks (close to Ute Lakes). It was like snow cone ice. Matter of fact on our 2nd and 3rd trips we took some very concentrated fruit powder and made us some. Eating snow cones off the continental Divide along with that view is one special treat of a life time.
Water Availability: While hiking we only had a metal cups tied to us with a short rope. There were underground water springs almost anytime we had the urge for water. We never did treated the water and it was always delicious and mighty cold. We used thin plastic collapsible 1 gallon water containers for the camp sites. As everything else on these trips to this place, the water situation was a dream come true because you didn't have to carry it and all that was available is about the best tasting water in the world.
Recommended Clothing: Long blue jeans, tee-shirt, long sleeve shirt and a poncho worked out great. Get a good poncho, extra big to go right over your backpack too. It's like being under a moving tent and wont get you all binned up. Even though the daily showers are short lived they do stop and go while alive. So the sun is coming and going with the showers. Under the right conditions (no shade) it will get hot and stuffy under the poncho when the sun peeks out. It is a hassle to take off the poncho between these short periods sunshine. So with a long sleeve shirt you can role up the sleeves while under the poncho then back down when it rains again and things cool off. This combo makes for a good easy switch for all conditions. If it rains those spurts of dogs and cats you can find a dry spot around a tree and sit and pull your head down with your body and it is just like being in a tent. And if you were thinking ahead you will have a little treat staring at you from your shirt pocket. It's a fun moment and they never last long. Good fitting hiking boots and thick socks.
Suggested Accessories: Took a good fishing pole. A few little tools and extra parts for the fishing real plus extra line. Plenty of trout lures and salmon eggs. Needed a darn good walking stick to get across the Rio Grande River. Look for the widest place to cross due to water current is less. Had some good flashlights and extra batteries. We each took 12" hunting knives for chopping wood etc. Your normal boy scout cook ware and utensil sets. Light weight Tent for two. We each had good goose down sleeping bags (highly recommended to keep you warm and cozy). They are very light weight and can fit in a coffee can. We had extra rope for tying up our food high in the trees from the bears. We did have a bear visit us one night. Sucker managed to open the Salmon eggs and clean them out.



Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Backpacking Few areas near the shore; in the tree cover below the lake
Yes
ICON Cold Water Fishing Fishing is good at Ute Lake
Yes
ICON Hiking & Walking Ute Lake Trail
Yes
ICON Horseback Riding Steep section above the lake and short steep descent
Yes
ICON Viewing Scenery Beautiful views in all directions
Yes
ICON Viewing Wildlife Opportunities to see elk are usually good
Yes



Related Activities
Continental Divide - Weminuche Pass to Hunchback P - Many vacation adventures await visitors to this segment of the Continental Divide Trail. The raw beauty and inspiring views in this area will long be etched in the visitor's memories.



More Information

Visitor Information:

South Fork Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 12 , South Fork, CO, 81154, Phone: 719-873-5512

Rio Grande County - South Fork, Del Norte, Monte Vista, P.O. Box 577 , South Fork, CO, 81154, Phone: 800-571-0881 or 719-873-5512, Fax: 719-873-5693, www.southfork.org

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