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. The highest peak, the east summit, at 11,935 feet is also the most impressive peak because of its huge drop on the north side. The second highest peak, the west summit, is only seven feet lower, and is 11,928 feet high. It is the Lost Benchmark. 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). I did climb the Lost Benchmark, and while it is very close to Peak 11,935, I was not able to summit that one because of a huge thundercell that was moving very quickly and chased me off the mountain. 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. I haven’t done this route all the way to Lost Lakes Peak, but have driven to the trailhead and climbed Devils Causeway thus I provide driving directions to the trailhead, but you will be on your own for the route description. 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 route I have done is 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, and 16 miles round trip to Peak 11,935.
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. Normal wilderness restrictions apply.
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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