It’s hard to ask for more in a trail spanning 3 miles one way. Classic Colorado forest and tundra. Wildflowers. A waterfall. Mining history. And, at the end, a lake above timberline, surrounded by Rocky Mountain majesty.
It’s no wonder the hike to Mohawk Lake is so popular. The Spruce Creek trailhead parking lot fills fast on weekends.
Alas, we must share this state’s greatness.
The trail is clearly marked on the parking lot’s southeast side. You’ll follow the melody of the creek and feel the path become more jumbled with roots and rocks. You might also feel the effects of a starting elevation near 10,400 feet.
At the junction for Wheeler Trail, you’ll continue straight, but it’s worth stepping off for the pond overlooked by proud summits. A half-mile on, at a small dam, a post marks Mohawk Lake as a mile out.
It’s a mile to be earned.
At a brief flat point, you’ll see a massive waterfall high on the mountainside. That’s where you’re headed.
At a crumbled miner’s cabin, we veered left, crossing the creek and proceeding to what appeared to be a dead end at a rock. Natural steps lead up to the trail.
It’s a lung-busting, switchbacking ascent onward. Stop to catch your breath and behold the views, including 14,000-foot Grays and Torreys peaks.
You’ll be refreshed by the waterfall. But as you stay straight for the cascade, look back to see the trail switchbacking on.
We followed a couple of cairns to the ruins of a mill. Behind it, the trail continues to the lake, where there’s plenty of room for solitude.
Trip log: 6.2 miles round trip (out and back), 1,423 feet elevation gain, 12,392 feet max
Getting there: From Colorado Springs, go west on U.S. 24 to Colorado 9 and follow over Hoosier Pass toward Breckenridge. After the parking lot for Quandary Peak, watch for left turn on Spruce Creek Road and follow to trailhead.
FYI: Hiking only recommended. Avoid during mud season and winter. Start early to avoid afternoon storms. Dogs on leash.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE