Gorge Lakes

Be sure to click on these thumbnail photos for larger versions.

1. Some people start this hike from Rock Cut on Trail Ridge Road.  Rock Cut is shown in this photo at upper right.  But taking this route requires that you cross Forest Canyon.  Instead, I decided to continue on to Milner Pass and take the Continental Divide route.  The Continental Divide route is much more exposed, so you need to pick a day when lightning risk is low.  This route should provide much better views.

2. To my surprise, the first three miles or so was a very good trail.  Not at the very top of the divide as I had planned to go, but rather a couple hundred feet down on the west side of the divide.  After that first part though, I was completely on my own, no signs of trail anywhere.  Just tundra laced with large fingers of scattered broken rock.  In the far distance you can see Mount Ida.

3. Mount Ida is still straight ahead.  The overlook to the left looks down into Forest Canyon.  With most of these photos, it's difficult to grasp the scale of the scene you are looking at.  This photo of the trail contains two hikers.

4. At the overlook you can see small lakes and stream that feed into Forest Canyon.  Across the canyon, at the top of the far wall you can see Rock Cut.

5. Holy cow things are opening up now!  I've reached the overlook just below Mount Ida that looks into the Gorge Lakes area. Awesome!  The lake is Azure Lake.  Highest Lake is just barely visible above and to the right of Azure.

6. The lake at center is Azure Lake.  Highest Lake is a little move visible now.  And Inkwell Lake is coming into view at the Left.

7. Inkwell Lake.

8. This is the ridge above Love Lake that I need to proceed down, to get to Arrowhead Lake.  You can see Rock Cut across Forest Canyon.

9. Arrowhead Lake.

10. Looking back from where I came.

At this point I moved away from the ridge overlooking the lakes area and choose a route to get me down and around the ridge to the Northwest of Arrowhead Lake.  I made my best route guess and proceeded on.  I later learned that the route I choose wasn't the best, but it got me there.

I came upon a lake that really confused me.  It was obviously not Love Lake.  I was clearly North of that.  The next lake North on my Trails Illustrated map was an unnamed lake.  But that one seemed too far North.  My best guess was that that lake was about 1/4 mile north of where I thought I was.  So I just shrug my shoulders and continue on.  Later, after I returned home, I downloaded a USGS quad of the area, and it shows an extra lake where I was.  Moral of the story: as good as the Trails Illustrated maps are, they aren't as complete as a USGS quad.

11. Nearest is Love Lake.  Beyond is Arrowhead Lake.

12. Arrowhead Lake.

13. On the return trip I looked back and took this photo.  Its a good illustration of the best route to take down to Arrowhead Lake.  Follow the left side of this scrub for as far as you can see.  The route I choose was more to the left which was much steeper, and ended up getting lower than I needed to get.

14. It's a long way back to the trailhead.  I need to hike the full length of the ridge at the far end of this photo, left to right.

15. And it's a rocky road to that ridge!

16. Nearing completion, this marmot comes out to greet me.

17. After finishing (actually is was a later morning, note the shadows), I drove back to Rock Cut and took this telephoto view of the Gorge Lakes area.  You can see that ridge of scrub you need to hike along.