July 23, 2018 Slideshows » Columns

Road Trip Hike: Crater Lake, progress on the Lake Moraine Trail 

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South Fork, Colorado, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town at the eastern foot of Wolf Creek Pass on US 160, is a tale of two cities. On the one hand, it’s a town everyone passes through (or maybe makes a quick stop for gas) while on route to Wolf Creek Pass, Durango, Mesa Verde National Park, the Four Corners, or the Grand Canyon. On the other hand, for in-the-know outdoor recreationists, it’s the jumping off point for all manner of year-round activities.

My favorite hike during a recent trip to the area was to Crater Lake, on Forest Trail 707, a hike which starts at around 11,500 feet, follows part of the Continental Divide Trail and crosses the divide itself. Trail 707 is mostly a moderately difficult trail, not withstanding its elevation. Although the stretch from the Continental Divide to Crater Lake has a fair amount of downhill — and subsequent uphill on the return — it's a well routed trail, and the descends and ascends are very gradual.

To get there:  Take Hwy 160 south of South Fork for about eight miles and turn left onto Park Creek Road/Forest Service Road 380, a wide, well maintained dirt road. At about 15 miles there is a fork in the road with a sign indicating FS 330 to the left. Bear right at the fork to stay on FS380 and follow it for about three more miles, passing the  Forest Service's Elmwood Cabins and the Elmwood Pass Road. At a curve in the road there is a parking area on the left and the marked "707" trail on the right. This marks the start of the hike.
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Bob Falcone
The only sign for Park Creek Road on US 160. The turn is directly behind the sign, so watch closely or you'll overshoot it.
Bob Falcone
The parking area for Crater Lake/Trail 707. This view is facing opposite of how you'll approach.Coming from the directions provided, you'll only see the back of this sign, so watch for it. Park here and cross the road for the marked trail # 707
Bob Falcone
Trail #707 starts across from the parking area. The trail ascends pretty quickly from here for the next .8 miles.
Bob Falcone
One of the beautiful, wide views from the trail.
Bob Falcone
At about .80 miles, the 707 trail will meet the Continental Divide Trail at a "Y". bear left. At about 1.3 miles you'll go past a small lake that is NOT Crater Lake. At about 1.55 miles you'll come to this unmarked fork. Left continues onto the CDT. Go straight here to continue to Crater Lake.
Bob Falcone
At about 1.7 miles, enter the South San Juan Wilderness. From here, there are no trail intersections until just before the lake.
Bob Falcone
The trail was lush with lots of green, healthy foliage and lots of wildflowers in mid July. The trail follows a natural contour as it winds its way downhill to the lake. There are a couple of places where you'll need to make a very easy rock hop, where intermittent streams cross the trail.
Bob Falcone
Some of the wildflowers along the trail in mid-July.
Bob Falcone
At around 3.65 miles, you'll reach this "Y". I took the left fork and came out above the lake. I was later told that the right fork will follow along the creek that comes out of the lake, and is the favored route during dry conditions. Either way, you'll get to the lake in short order.
Bob Falcone
At about 4 miles, you'll arrive at the lake. There are a lot of dead fall trees around the lake, so you'll be climbing over logs and debris to get to it. I came out about 20 feet above the lake but found a route down to the water. From here, follow the same route back to the parking area, for a total of about 8 miles round-trip.
Bob Falcone
The route for this hike.
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Bob Falcone
The only sign for Park Creek Road on US 160. The turn is directly behind the sign, so watch closely or you'll overshoot it.

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