Grand County Rambler
Just a slight drive northwest of the Three Lakes Region in Grand County rests an expansive section of the Arapaho National Forest my family calls the Stillwater Pass area.
Our name for the region derives from the rough forest service road that cuts through the area called Stillwater Pass Road. If you’re looking to enjoy some outdoor or wilderness recreation in Grand County this weekend, but aren’t looking to contend with crowds of folks or packed campgrounds, consider checking it out.
STILLWATER PASS AREA
The Stillwater Pass area is a beautiful region of Grand County with modest mountains, well maintained trails and thick pine forests. It sits in a large wedge of forestland bordered by US Highway 125 to the west and US Highway 34 to the east. The high peaks of the Continental Divide serve as a northern boarder for this particular section of forest, which largely coincides with the northern boarder of Grand County.
Privately owned ranch land lies south, providing a small buffer between the national forest and the more populated and heavily trafficked corridor that stretches from Grand Lake to Granby. The snow-capped peaks of the Never Summer Wilderness Area rest northeast of the region and can easily be accessed via the extensive trail network that crisscrosses the area. Similarly southern sections of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and the Kawuneeche Valley can be accessed from the area after modest hikes. Those trekking into Rocky should be aware of the additional trail use regulations associated with RMNP, including no dogs.
The region is popular with ATV recreators and others who favor spending their time in the wilderness on motorized vehicles. The US Forest Service regulates the motorized use of trails in the area and numerous trails restrict OHV use, allowing only foot, bicycle and horse traffic. From my own personal experience motorized use of the trail system in the area is heaviest in areas closer to US 34 and the Three Lakes Region.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Highlights of the region include the Wolverine Trail and the prominent Prophyry Peaks, offering virtually unimpeded views of the northern forest laid out beneath them. The Blue Ridge Trail is an easily followed route that leads to high alpine meadows overlooking Grand Lake as the trail winds its way towards the Never Summers and picturesque Bowen Lake. The Illinois Pass Trail offers a well-defined route, with easy access from the highway and very light use on a trail that climbs high up into the Rockies, eventually crossing the Continental Divide Trail.
My own personal favorite for the area is the Lost Lake Trail and the eponymous Lost Lake. The trail begins far to the north on Stillwater Pass Road. The trail is broad, well maintained and easily followed. The trail to Lost Lake is relatively short and can be completed easily by most hikers.
The land the trail traverses is comparatively flat with very little in terms of strenuous climbs or elevation gain. Lost Lake itself is an exquisite site. The lake is lined with massive boulders that touch the clear turquoise blue waters, which are filled with small fish that dart about the shoreline.
To reach Stillwater Pass Road and the extensive network of trails that fill the area you can take both US 125 and US 34. The easiest and quickest route to reach the less frequented trails of the region is to travel north out of Granby and head up US 125. Turn east on to County Road 4 and the turnoff to Stillwater Pass Road. The Illinois Pass Trail is just a few miles further east and the turnoff to the Lost Lake Trail is just a few miles further.
The area can also be accessed from US 34. Head north on US 34 out of Granby towards Grand Lake. Turn west on to County Road 4, just before reaching Cutthroat Trout Bay. The road travels through a small residential area and past a few small farms before entering the Arapaho National Forest. Turn west into the Idleglen staging area, a popular parking spot in the winter for snowmobilers adventuring in the area, and continue northwest on County Road 4, also known as Stillwater Pass Road.
The road up to the Lost Lake and Illinois Pass Trailheads is fairly lengthy but includes wondrous scenery and dense lodgepole pine forests. Please use caution when hiking in the area as local wildlife can pose a danger to those who get too close. Please keep your pets on a leash; the region abounds with moose.
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Due to current public health guidance, there will not be an in-person wilderness campsite lottery for Rocky Mountain National Park this year.