The temperatures in Boulder have been around 100 degrees every day for the past few weeks, and I knew that I needed to use this weekend to escape the heat! After doing some research and considering several different options, I decided that I would set out to hike Silver Dollar and Murray Lake. Little did I know that I’d be stumbling across one of my new favorite trails…
Located just outside of Georgetown, CO on Guanella Pass, the drive to the trailhead is less than two hours (and also happens to be suuuper scenic). There is a lot of parking in a paved lot near the road, but if you have a vehicle with some clearance and 4×4 (Subaru Outback or bigger) then you should definitely drive up the dirt road to the actual trailhead. By driving up the road you will save yourself around 2 steep miles round trip. The road is super rutted out but other than that, it is totally manageable and a fun drive.
I got to the trailhead around 7:45AM and the upper parking lot was about 25% full. It was a cloudless morning and a perfect 50 degrees. I threw my pack on, let Scout run loose (dogs are allowed off leash on this trail!) and hit the trail.
The entire trail is a steady uphill hike, but it is manageable without the need for extended “breather breaks”. The trail starts off through a thick forest interspersed with open meadows before dumping you out at your first look over the valley’s Naylor Lake (which is on private property, so just take a long look & wish it was yours before moving on up the trail).
Soon the incline begins to get steeper, but you can easily pass off a “breather break” as simply taking in the views. This place is GORGEOUS! Mountains, trees, lakes, wildflowers, and lush green grass everywhere? Wow.
Before you know it, you’re at Silver Dollar Lake. This early in the morning, it offered a nice reflection of the mountain behind it. Scout wasted no time is running over and jumping in for a quick swim along the shallow shoreline.
From Silver Dollar Lake, the trail appears daunting with its “straight up the hillside” nature but it is surprisingly short and was over quick. The views back down over Silver Dollar and Naylor Lakes were breathtaking. You make your way around the hillside, and then Murray Lake comes into view once you’re over the ridge. Murray Lake sits at 12,178′ and has all of the alpine lake beauty that you’d expect.
Scout again went for another swim, although this lake has a less forgiving shoreline and appears to be deeper. There are a lot of places for exploration up here if you have the time– I’ll have to do some of that myself on my next visit.
All in all, today’s hike was about 4 miles round trip with 1,062 of vertical gain, and took me around 2.5hrs to complete (with lots of stops for photos, Scout swim sessions, etc.). When I finished around 10:30AM, the upper trailhead still had 3-4 open parking spots. However, the lower (paved) lot was PACKED and I passed hoards of people walking up the road as I drove back down.
So while I enjoyed total solitude on this hike… the key is to start and finish early. You won’t regret it! Aside from hiking, this basin also seems perfect for a quick backpacking trip complete with some fly fishing.
A bonus was seeing this baby bighorn sheep on my drive back down Guanella Pass.