The Red Lake Trail climbs the La Manga Creek Valley to Jarosa Mesa (South San Juan Wilderness), the alpine plateau above, where there are spectacular views of the Continental Divide and of the Elk Creek and Los Pinos drainages. Red Lake, sitting in a bowl at the head of the Rito Colorado, is popular for fishing and camping. The trail is also popular with fishermen. Attractive campsites are abundant and water is available along the entire route.
Beginning at an elevation of 10,300 feet, the trail follows La Manga Creek through subalpine forest and meadows, passing numerous beaver ponds popular for fishing. The trail is moderately steep as it climbs to the rim of Jarosa Mesa. Timberline is reached at approximately 11,400 feet, where the La Manga Valley opens into the gently rolling tundra of Jarosa Mesa.
The mesa reaches an elevation bordering the alpine and subalpine ecosystems. Tundra vegetation predominates, but gnarled spruce and fir are scattered across the mesa as the struggle to survive in the harsh wind and weather. In protected locations, such as the bowl where Red Lake sits, subalpine forests are found. Wildlife species that may be seen on Jarosa Mesa include: elk (who summer above tree line), marmot, pika, ptarmigan and coyote.
From Red Lake Trail, one may continue westward on Forest Trail 725 to Dipping Lakes and the Continental Divide Trail (Forest Road 813). By hiking cross country into Rio de Los Pinos Valley, one can join the Los Pinos Trail (Forest Trail 736).
Directions from Antonito: Follow Highway 17 to where it junctions with Forest Development Road 114, 1/2 mile south of the summit of La Manga Pass. Follow Forest Road 114 approximately one mile to the trailhead.
May through October .