OverviewThis is the easiest route up the summit of the peak. It is a highly scenic route and is eight miles round trip. The route climbs high on the Wall Lake Trail and then follows the gentle class 2 slopes to the summit of Ampitheatre Peak. The route can be extended to several other destinations as well.
Getting ThereThere are four main ways to reach the trailhead. I have only driven to two of them. The trailhead is near Trappers Lake.
There is a road from the west and Meeker, one from the east and Yampa or Phippsburg, one from the northeast and Oak Creek, one from the north and Hayden, and one from the northeast and Pagoda (village) and Hamilton. I know only the roads from Hamilton and Pagoda, but very few Coloradoans will be coming from that direction (Craig), so it seems rather pointless to describe the drive in detail. Most people will be driving in from the Meeker or Yampa areas. After Pagoda or not far past Buford, all roads are gravel and in good condition in summer.
From just north of Meeker and along Highway 13, turn east on County Road 8. Follow County Road 8 to Buford. Follow the road another 17 miles and turn right (south) on FS Road 205 to the Trappers Lake Lodge. There are several roads here, but they are well marked. Follow the road (FR 209) marked for the Wall Lake Trailhead and Park there.
From Yampa or Oak Creek:
I haven’t come in this way, so directions will be brief. Use a map. Briefly put you can reach country road 8 (see above) from either CR 25 from Oak Creek or CR 21 from Yampa. From there, you follow the road all the way over Ripple Creek Pass and down to FR 205. Turn left and follow the directions above.
I haven’t come in this way, so directions will be brief. Use a map. Briefly put you take CR 53 south to CR 29. Turn left (east) and follow CR 29 to CR 55. Turn right (south) and follow the road to the junction with CR 8. Take CR 8 over Ripple Creek Pass and follow the route above.
Unless you live in Craig, few Coloradoans will use this route and thus the directions won’t be detailed. From Hamilton (13 miles south of Craig and along Highway 13), drive east on Highway 317 to Pagoda. Highway 13 turns into county road 29. Turn right on CR 55 and follow the remaining directions from the route from Hayden.
Route DescriptionNote: The trail has been rerouted in recent years and none of the maps are accurate.
From the trailhead, follow trail #1818 posted for Wall Lake. The trail is rolling and mostly flat at first and then intersects the Carhart Trail at a four way junction (maps are inaccurate here). From the junction, turn right towards Wall Lake passing several pothole and beaver lakes (mosquito heaven) The trail steadily gains elevation until in a cirque and then the trail zig-zags up the cirque and meets the rim at another trail junction with the Oyster Lake Trail. This is 3.5 miles from the trailhead.
Turn left here. You will pass several pothole lakes. This is where you leave the trail. It really doesn’t matter where you leave the trail, but make sure to when heading northeast, to stay to the east or right of the large patch of timber and use the open slopes. Stay between the timber and the obvious rocky outcrop. There are many willows on the slopes, but there are many sheep trails through them. Routefind northeast and to the highest point of Amphitheatre Peak.
This is a grand viewpoint and you are looking off one of the highest cliffs in the Flat Tops. As an alternate, you can climb or descend closer to Wall Lake. Stay to the east of the outcrop mentioned above. There are no major difficulties.
This hike makes an excellent one day trip (over 8 miles round trip), but there are lots of lakes and other peaks (such as Trappers Peak or the Flanders BM) in the area, so you may want to do the trip in two days and visit other areas.