OverviewThe Lost Lakes Peaks are some interesting summits in the Flat Tops Wilderness in Colorado. The peaks are easy to climb, and have a popular trail running right near the summits, but it appears that relatively few people take the extra time to leave the trail and actually climb to the summits. From the summits, there are many lakes and peaks visible. This is a backpackers paradise and the peaks can be reached from several directions and by way of many loop hikes. The Lost Lakes Peaks actually have several summits, or “bumps”, but there are only two individual peaks that have enough prominence to be considered separate mountains.
This page focuses on the west summit/Lost Benchmark, which is 11,928 feet high and is seven feet lower than the East Summit. Note: The 1:250,000 scale maps actually label Lost Benchmark as the highest point at 11,948 feet, but the large scale map labels it as 11,928 feet). Incidentally, I feel that the west summit is actually higher, but I didn’t measure either.. The west summit is slightly less impressive than the east summit, but both are well worth the visit.
Even though these peaks are not that challenging, they are very scenic, and are well worth the climb.
The Flat Tops are made of volcanic rock from an ancient eruption several million years ago. The Flat Tops are more of a huge elevated plateau rather than a typical mountain range, but the plateau has been eroded into many individual peaks and summits, and most of them are flat-topped, or dome-like as are the Lost Lakes Peaks. The mountain area composing the Flat Tops contains hundreds of lakes full of fish, and also has some of the most extensive areas above timberline in Colorado.
Flat Tops: 11,000+ Foot Peaks with 300+ feet of Prominence
Getting ThereStillwater Reservoir Trailhead
The trailhead is at the Stillwater Reservoir. From Yampa, look for the sign on the west side of Highway 131 that points the way to "National Forest Access". Turn west on to County Road 7. Follow County Road 7 for seven miles, to where the road becomes FR 900. Stay on the main road for nine miles and drive to the parking area at Stillwater Reservoir. The road is good for all vehicles in day conditions. A 4wd may be needed early or late season.
Ripple Creek Pass Trailhead
The trailhead is at a large meadow just south of Ripple Creek Pass. The road over Ripple Creek Pass is usually plowed around Memorial Day and stays open until around Thanksgiving, but each year is different.
There are several ways to reach Ripple Creek Pass. There is a road from the south and Trappers Lake, 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 road from Hamilton and Pagoda, but very few Coloradoans will be coming from that direction (Craig), so it seems rather pointless to describe the drive. Most people will be driving in from the Trappers Lake or Yampa areas.
Bring the White River Forest Service Map, and park at the meadow just south of Ripple Creek Pass. All roads are in good condition, and can be driven in a car, but 4wd may be needed in bad weather, or early or late season.
Routes OverviewThere are many routes to Lost Lakes Peaks, including an almost endless possibility of loop hikes. All routes are very scenic, and I don’t think any one route would be better than another. Either way, be prepared for some fantastic scenery on any route.
Surely, the most popular route up the peaks is from Stillwater Reservoir, either over the Devils Causeway, or farther south over the trail that passes Mosquito Lake. The round trip distance to the highest of the Lost Lakes Peaks is 14.8 miles if you hike over the Devils Causeway. You also can do a 20 mile loop hike combining the Lost Lakes with the Lost Lakes Peaks from Stillwater. The same loop can be done from Ripple Creek Pass, but it's a little longer than the route from Stillwater. It's less crowded too! Either way, this is one of the best loops in the Flat Tops and the scenery is fantastic.
The first route I did was via Ripple Creek Pass. I chose this route because it is the shortest drive for me. The route follows various trails to Lost Lakes Pass and then climbs the north ridge of the Lost Benchmark. The trail passes very near both main summits of the Lost Lakes Peaks and you can reach the peaks by taking short cross-country routes from the trail. This route is about 13.6 miles round trip to the Lost Benchmark.
Other routes are as follows:
From the northwest, the well-used transfer or East Fork Williams Fork Trail could be used to reach the Lost Lakes Pass and thus joining the route from Ripple Creek Pass. From the Trappers Lake road to the south of the peaks, there are trails up Picket Pen Park or Skinny Fish Basin that meet up with the route from Ripple Creek Pass. There are also several options for loop hikes via any of the trailheads, and it's not hard to combine several trails into one hike, if you know how to read a topo map.
Red TapeNo permits are required.
Standard Wilderness Regulations apply within the wilderness boundary.
Directly from the National Forest Service:
• Entering or being in the area with more than 15 people per group, and a maximum combination of 25 people and pack or saddle animals in any one group is prohibited.
• There is no permit system in place in the Flat Tops Wilderness but we do ask that visitors sign in on provided trailhead registration forms.
• Camping within one hundred feet of any lake, stream or trail, or any “No Camping” or “Wilderness Restoration Site” sign or within ¼ mile of Trappers, Hooper, Keener or Smith Lakes is prohibited.
• Building, maintaining, attending or using a campfire within one hundred feet of any lake, stream, or trail or within ¼ miles of Trappers, Hooper, Keener or Smith Lakes is prohibited.
• Storing equipment or personal property or supplies for longer than 10 days is prohibited.
• Hitching, tethering or hobbling any pack or saddle animal within one hundred feet of any lake, stream or trail is prohibited.
• Possessing any pack or saddle animal within ¼ mile of Trappers Lake except for watering or through travel is prohibited.
• Possessing a dog or other animal that is harassing wildlife or people or damaging property is prohibited. There is no leash law in the Flat Tops, however dogs must be kept under verbal control at all times.
• Possessing or using a wagon, cart or other vehicle including a wheelbarrow or game cart is prohibited.
• Shortcutting a switchback in a trail is prohibited.
When To ClimbThe peaks could be climbed year-round, but the roads to Stillwater Reservoir or Ripple Creek Pass is open only from around Memorial Day or early June to sometime in November, so outside this time period, this would probably be a four day trip.
The Flat Tops (especially the northern section) receive much snow, so despite the lower altitude than the 14'ers, the peaks remain buried in snow until mid-July. Snowshoes are recommended in June. The Flat Tops have many mosquitoes in July, and sometimes into early August. From September and into December is hunting season, so wear blaze orange and use extreme caution. On the plus side, hunter traffic usually keeps the Ripple Creek Pass road open until around Thanksgiving weekend. Late November might be the best time to make a “winter” ascent because after the road closed, this would be about a three day trip.
CampingThere are many informal campsites around Ripple Creek Pass. There is also a campground to the northeast of the pass at Vaughn Lake, and many along the road to Trappers Lake to the south.
If driving in from the west, CLICK HERE for current campground information for official White River National Forest campgrounds. The ones in the Blanco Ranger District are the campgrounds in the same general area as Lost Lakes Peaks.
If driving in from the east or north, CLICK HERE for current campground information for official Routt National Forest campgrounds. The ones in the Yampa River district are in the same general area as Lost Lakes Peaks.
Mountain ConditionsCLICK HERE FOR WEATHER FORECAST OF THE AREA
Weather and climate data for Marvine Ranch at 7800 feet elevation is below. *National Weather Service Data 1972-1998. Expect much wetter conditions at higher elevations. The area around Lost Lakes Peaks will average around 10-15 degrees colder in the daytime than Marvine Ranch; nighttime temperatures won't have as big of a difference.
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