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Road Trip Hike: Red Lake 

click to enlarge At about 2.7 miles, Red Lake and this stunning vista. The trail goes around to the right (south side). - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • At about 2.7 miles, Red Lake and this stunning vista. The trail goes around to the right (south side).
There are some places in Colorado that seem to fly under our collective radar when it comes to outdoor recreation. We zip by on I-70 or Hwy 160 or I-25, determined to get to whatever popular destination is our goal, often missing some nice places to hike, bike or camp. One such area is a swath of the Rio Grande and Carson National Forests, between the towns of Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico.  Colorado Highway 17 (and subsequently, New Mexico Highway 17 from the Colorado/New Mexico border to the town of Chama) is often only seen by people who are taking a shuttle bus at the end of a ride on the scenic Cumbres and Toltec Railroad that runs from Antonito to Chama. That's a shame, since the area is a treasure trove of outdoor recreation opportunities. 

The hike to Red Lake, near the top of La Manga Pass on Hwy 17 is a wonderfully scenic trek, that is at most only moderately difficult, making it a "must-do" hike when in the area.  See slideshow for details.

To Get There: From Colorado 17 between mile markers 11 and 10 turn onto Forest Service Road 114 (look for the sign for Red Lake). Take the well maintained dirt road for 3.4 miles to the marked trailhead and parking area for the Red Lake Trail/Trail #733.   The road is passable for most vehicles and high clearance or 4WD is not needed.

What You Need to Know:  Dogs are allowed on the trail.  No motorized vehicles are permitted and bicycles are allowed only for the first 1.3 miles, to the border of the South San Juan Wilderness.  Mosquitoes, gnats, biting flies and other assorted flying pests were in great abundance when I did the hike, requiring the use of DEET bug repellent.  This out-and-back hike is under 6.5 miles round trip with 1415' of ascent.  Trails Illustrated does not make a map for this area, and Caltopo.com's maps may be a bit outdated. The COTREX app and website are fairly accurate, as is the USFS web page for this trail is no longer accurate, as the trailhead they list as being only one mile from Hwy 17 is no longer there, nor did I see any trail intersections while doing this hike. A sign on FSR 114 that is one mile from Hwy 17 directs users to the Red Lake trailhead that is 3.4 miles up the road.

Be Good. Do Good Things.

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for  almost 28 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (@hikingguide), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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