Ryan and I have been visiting Rocky Mountain National Park a majority of our weekends, but with my best childhood friend from California in town for a few days, we decided to branch out a bit. What other way to show her around Colorado than to take her down the infamous I-70 corridor?
Our destination would be to Wheeler Lakes, a series of alpine lakes located along the Gore Range Trail in the Eagles Nest Wilderness. This 6 mile hike with ~1,400ft elevation gain is adjacent to one of our many ski resorts, Copper Mountain. It took us just under two hours to get to the Copper Mountain parking lot, where we left the car, crossed over I-70 on a pedestrian bridge, and headed up into the mountains.
The exposed trail runs parallel to I-70 for the first half mile or so before changing quickly to a series of steep switchbacks into a dense aspen forest. The breaks were plentiful not only because of the beautiful view-points along the trail, but also due to the unrelenting incline! It became very clear that this was an up and down sort of trail– up to the lakes, then back down to the car without any relief in-between.
Luckily for us, much of the trail was very shaded. It did not take us long to begin reaching some gorgeous alpine meadows– a good indication that we were getting close!
We pushed on and were soon met with stunning views of Copper Mountain and the distant mountain range right before reaching the first Wheeler Lake.
We continued along the trail up to the second Wheeler Lake, where we ventured up to the overlook across Officers Gulch and Uneva Pass.
This second lake was much wetter, almost marsh-like, so with the rumbling of thunder in the distance we decided to go back to the first lake for lunch.
This was a fairly popular location, and we saw around 10 other parties (usually 2-4 people each) come up to the lakes and then retreat back down into the woods. I also saw a few fly fishermen along the shores but they were unsuccessful (I didn’t even see any movement on the water to hint that fish populated it). As the winds started to pick up and threatening clouds began coming in overhead, we packed up our bags and made our quick descent.
This was honestly one of the first times that we’ve hiked in the Summit County area, and it certainly won’t be the last! Luckily for us, I-70 does not usually see heavy traffic in the summer, so that opens many opportunities for future adventures further south of where we tend to spend our weekends.