Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Monarch, Mirror & Crater Lakes

I just returned from a long weekend of camping at Lake Granby with my cousin Scott and his family. The far eastern end of the lake leaves you at the footsteps of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Scott and I went on a sweet trail run on Sunday that has to rank in my top two or three. We went up the Cascade Creek Trail to Mirror and Crater Lakes. This run simply has it all (lakes, rushing creeks, multiple waterfalls, wildlife, wildflowers, and insane views of the surrounding peaks). This was Scott's first long trail run and he couldn't have picked a better one to get exposed to fun to be had in running trails.

We began at the Monarch Lake trailhead shortly after 5:30am. I could tell we were the first on the trail that day by just how many spiderwebs I was breaking with my face. Most climbs were quickly rewarded with some flat stretches and the trail went back and forth between smooth and rocky. We passed several backpacking tents at small campsites just off the trail.

A few miles in, and we rounded a corner and encountered this big fella. The moose just stared us down and let me snap a couple pictures before he moseyed into the trees and out of sight. I'm not sure why my camera wouldn't focus at all.

The many waterfalls on this trail are incredible. I can't remember any trail I've ever been on that featured so many. It seemed like every other mile we came up to a thundering roar and were treated a scene like the above shot.

The second lake we hit was Mirror Lake. Hmmm...I wonder how it got that name? We saw a backpacker sitting lakeside on a rock drinking his morning coffee and instantly we both wanted to plan a backpacking trip.

Lone Eagle Peak towers over Mirror Lake and is something to behold. Pictures just don't do this peak justice. We marveled at its shape and grandeur.

Crater Lake is only about .25 miles beyond Mirror. I really needed some kind of panoramic camera in order to truly capture just how magnificent this lake is. Scott and I sat on a rock for 15 minutes soaking it in.

Here's another shot with Lone Eagle in the background. We really did not want to leave, but with two wives & four kids waiting to begin the 4th of July festivities, we were back on the trail after a few JUMPS!

Scott nailed this fun picture on my second attempt at a "Lone Eagle" imitation.

Clearly, I could not return the courtesy of taking a good pic for Scott. I kept pushing the button too early and after five attempts, I felt he should probably save his energy for the run back down.

The numbers on the day were 15 miles with 2400' of elevation in 3:39. Big props go out to Scott for an excellent first trail run. That is some serious distance to start out with!


  1. Wow...Crater Lake looks amazing. I definitely will add that one to the list! Thanks for the report.

  2. Hi Jim - Yes, I would recommend this run to anyone. It is almost completely runnable and there are several trail options off of it if you want to go longer (ie. Pawnee Lake & Pass).

  3. I had to go back in time to check out this post since you mentioned you'd already been there. Very cool. This was about the time I started reading running blogs last year.

    I agree that's a great first trail run, both by the numbers and the location!

    Also makes me wonder how I squeezed 18 miles out of it. Though I did go almost to the far side of Crater and do some extra detours.