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Discussion Starter #1
I need help seeing the forest through the trees .

Last summer I did a solo trip up to Lake Verna in RMNP for a night. Had a great time (despite the rain) and caught some fish. I'd like to make this an annual tradition. Solo backpacking to a lake for some fishing and drink all the beer I can carry!

Where the hell should I go? Part of me wants a longer hike, maybe in the 10 mile each way range (or higher). The other part of me wants a shorter hike to enjoy the camp site more (beer). The other other part of me wants to catch big fish.

Any suggestions in the 2-3 hour drive from Denver range?
 

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Snowmass Lake would fit the bill. Long but relatively easy hike with big fish to be had. I believe it would be within a three hour drive of Denver.
 

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I need help seeing the forest through the trees .

Last summer I did a solo trip up to Lake Verna in RMNP for a night. Had a great time (despite the rain) and caught some fish. I'd like to make this an annual tradition. Solo backpacking to a lake for some fishing and drink all the beer I can carry!

Where the hell should I go? Part of me wants a longer hike, maybe in the 10 mile each way range (or higher). The other part of me wants a shorter hike to enjoy the camp site more (beer). The other other part of me wants to catch big fish.

Any suggestions in the 2-3 hour drive from Denver range?
Anywhere in the Flat Tops Wilderness area near Yampa. Big fish in a couple of the lakes, and some good hikes at altitude. Going to do it this spring/summer.
 

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2-3 hr drive from Denver will get you to almost every area of the state. Rawahs, Zirkels, F-tops, Eagles Nest, Sangres, on and on. All have short or long hikes, all have a chance at BIG fish. Hell there's big fish in the IPW.
 

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The only real hike in lake I've gone into Snowmass. It was a nice hike with some fine beaver ponds about 2 miles short of the lake. We camped at the beaver ponds as you are not supposed to camp within 1/4 mile of the main lake. Don't know if that is particular to Snowmass or if alot of the high lakes are that way. In any case the hike in is very scenic and not all that rigorous if you are in fairly good shape. If I were to do it again, I would try and get a packer to take me in for a week long stay. The lake just begs for a float tube as well as waders, flippers, etc. There are some nice fish in those high lakes that very rarely get pounded.
 

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I would go back to RMNP and try Lawn lake. Great fishing, nice area.
 

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Lot's of high mountain lakes in my area.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Snowmass sounds good but aren't there usually a bunch of people up there? I could climb the mountain while I'm there.

Flat tops has been on the list for a while but it deserves a longer trip than one night.

I don't think I have ever looked into Eagles Nest. I'll have to check it out.

I'd like to go somewhere new. I've done Sangres, RMNP, Rawahs, and Holy Cross in the last year or two.
 

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2-3 hr drive from Denver will get you to almost every area of the state. Rawahs, Zirkels, F-tops, Eagles Nest, Sangres, on and on. All have short or long hikes, all have a chance at BIG fish. Hell there's big fish in the IPW.
slayerfish has it right on (and he knows lakes).

I suggest you pick an area, grab some books and some maps. If you get out of the lakes close (Indian Peaks area lakes are great, but super crowded) and get down to the Sangres there are some great options.
 

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You won't find any crowds at the lakes near me, but they're pretty high.

Cutthroat fishing.
 

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I can't think of a single lake within 3 hours of Denver that requires a 10 mile hike, unless you just park further away. lol I would, however, suggest the Rawahs west out of Fort Collins if distance is the limiting factor. There are a ton of lakes and you can hike to one then hike up and over to the next. Great fishing, no or few people(lake dependent), relatively close to Denver, and the Poudre R. heading up Hwy 14 is 99.9% public. Poudre Canyon can get busy; AVOID THE THREE DAY WEEKENDS!
 

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I hike into the Rawahs a few times a year, for fishing and hunting, there are some excellent beaver ponds and you can walk as far as you want, Sometimes ill walk 10-15 miles in just to get to the places that no one hits very often, very scenic and peaceful.
 

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I can't think of a single lake within 3 hours of Denver that requires a 10 mile hike, unless you just park further away. lol I would, however, suggest the Rawahs west out of Fort Collins if distance is the limiting factor. There are a ton of lakes and you can hike to one then hike up and over to the next. Great fishing, no or few people(lake dependent), relatively close to Denver, and the Poudre R. heading up Hwy 14 is 99.9% public. Poudre Canyon can get busy; AVOID THE THREE DAY WEEKENDS!
Lost Lake in RMNP is 10 miles. There are a ton of lakes in the 7-8 mile range within a few hours of Denver that'll get you away from the crowds
 

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Backpack Lake

I have a great suggestion for you. I did this trip in 2007.

Just south of Walden, a good paved/dirt road goes off to the west then dead ends at a trail head just outside the Zirkels Wilderness. Take the only trail from the parking area and walk about 2.5 miles to upper Rainbow Lake. Stay a couple of nights at Rainbow. There is no fee for camping but you must camp in designated sites.

Forget about middle and lower Rainbow Lakes and concentrate on upper Rainbow. Camp on the north side. You will find places to log hop across the outlet.

If you can pull yourself away from upper Rainbow, after catching 12" to 16" cutthroats, rainbows and cuttbows on just about every other cast all day, leave your camp where it is and head over the mountain at the north side of the lake to Ceanathuse (don't know how it's pronounced) Lake. It's an easy walk up the wooded mountain to it's summit because Rainbow is at a higher altitude than Ceahathuse. The walk down the other side is also easy but farther down than you climbed up. Ceanathuse is a long narrow lake with a rating similar to Rainbow. I wouldn't pass up Ceanathuse. After fishing Ceanathuse, walk around the lower end of the mountain you walked up earlier to Rainbow. This is an easy walk.

If you have the time, load your gear, cross back over the outlet and head for the upper end of Rainbow on a well used trail. While walking this trail, you will be a few yards above Rainbow and you will see nice fish everywhere. At the upper end of Rainbow, check the small feeder creek. It's shallow, gin clear water with lots of these Rainbow Lake fish and it's tough to fish.

Stay on the easy to see trail for about one mile until you see a section to the right where there is a lot of smooth large rocky sections, head to the north up this area to Lower Slide Lake. Lower Slide has 8" to 11" cutthroats.

If you want to pass up Lower Slide, which I recommend, continue up the trail to Upper Slide Lake. I suggest not wasting time at Upper because it is loaded with tiny brook trout and no other trout.

Stay on the trail for several more miles until you come to a steep-ish valley which, I believe, runs north and south. When you break out at the top of the valley, you should be able to look down, about one mile, to Roxy Ann Lake. Plan to spend a couple of nights at Roxy. You will not regret it.

I think this trip is +/- seven or eight miles, one way. The trail to Roxy from Rainbow is one you cannot miss.

There may be a bonus waiting for you at Roxy. Over the past 30 or so years, DOW/CPW has experimented, on two occasions, with stocking California golden trout in select high mountain lakes. They abandoned the projects for whatever reasons they had. Roxy Ann was one of the stocked lakes. If you read, in a later edition of the Tim Kelly Guide (been out of print for many years), you will find the description of Roxy Ann as maybe catching a hold over golden. When I was there, I did not catch a golden but I do believe I caught a golden cutthroat hybrid. One 10" cutthroat I caught had a very bright yellow underside. I think this was a hybrid.

On this trip, the two main lakes to concentrate on are Roxy and Rainbow with Ceanathuse also a good choice. If you go, only use a backpack stove. There are so many dead beetle kill evergreens, it's a place just waiting for a fire. If I ever go back, I will spend all my time at Rainbow.
 

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Hatchmaster,

I've made two attempts to post this reply with no luck. Here goes the third time.

West of Ft. Collins, in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness, are three lakes you may want to check. This would be a round trip, to the farthest lake and back, of about ten miles and you should allow three nights on the trail. The three lakes are, Upper Rainbow, Ceanathuse (don't know how to pronounce the name), and Roxy Ann.

To access the trail head, you must drive to south of Walden. You will have to google for information on the route to the trail head but you drive a good dirt road west of Walden a few miles.

You can't miss the trailhead because it's the only one at the end of the road. The first lake you encounter is Upper Rainbow. The distance is about 3 miles. There are three Rainbow Lakes, Upper, Middle and Lower. Middle is directly below Upper and has tiny brook trout. I don't know about Lower Rainbow. When you come to Upper Rainbow, cross the outlet by log hopping. Go to the north side and find a camping area. There are no fees; however, spaces are limited.

Set up camp and enjoy the 12" to16" cutthroats, cutbows and rainbows. The lake will boil with rises starting early morning. We had strikes on just about every other cast by stripping anything subsurface, wollybuggers, hare's ears, you name it.

Set aside one day to fish Ceanathuse Lake. Ceanathuse has a similar rating as Upper Rainbow. Ceanathuse is to the north of Rainbow. Leave your gear at camp then either head over the mountain to the north of the lake or by walking around the shoulder of this mountain. The shoulder is probably easier but the walk to the top of the mountain is neither long nor hard. You may have to maneuver over dead timber. At the top, you should be able to see the lake below.

If you have time, pack your gear, walk back across the outlet then turn right on the trail heading to the west end of Rainbow. You will be amazed at the number of fish you will see in the shallow water near the lake's shore line and in the feeder creek. Continue up the trail. After the trail levels out a bit, you will see an area, to the right of the trail, covered with a huge, dome shaped rock. You can access Lower Slide Lake with a short walk up this rock area. Upper Slide is good for 8" to 12" cutthroats.

Go back to the trail and walk a short distance to Upper Slide Lake. Upper Slide is loaded with fingerling size brook trout.

Find the trail and continue walking until you come to the top of a narrow valley. You may be able to see Roxy Ann Lake below. Stay to the left side of this valley to the lake. Roxy has large cutthroats and maybe some hybrid golden/cutthroat trout.

To be honest with you, I would concentrate on Upper Rainbow and maybe Ceanathuse.
 
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