"Island Lakes Peak North" (Peak 11,968)

"Island Lakes Peak North" (Peak 11,968)

Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 39.94420°N / 107.1751°W
Additional Information County: Garfield
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Scrambling, Skiing
Seasons Season: Summer, Fall
Additional Information Elevation: 11968 ft / 3648 m
Sign the Climber's Log


"Island Lakes Peak North" is an unofficial name for Peak 11,968 in the Flat Tops of Colorado. It is the 8th highest ranked peak in the range, but it is little known. The east side of the mountain is very steep, while the west side is gentle.

Since the peak is far away from any popular destination in the Flat Tops, most visitors in the area don't notice the peak. Even so, it is a nice summit located in a very scenic area. The mountain is highly visible from the east and the Island Lakes Basin, but that basin doesn't see much traffic compared to other places in the Flat Tops.

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 is this one. The mountain area composing the Flat Tops contains over 110 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

SummitThe summit of Island Lakes Peak North. September 5 2016.

CragsSome scenic crags on the south side of Island Lakes Peak North.

Getting There

South Derby Creek Trailhead

The access road is very rough. This road is for high clearance 4wds with a low range, and not for Subarus, Rav4s, or Explorers, et al. I made it to above Still Water (not to be confused with Stillwater Reservoir which is farther north and on a good road) in our old Pathfinder, but we wearied of the punishing ride. If you can make it to Stillwater, you can probably make it to Crescent Lake, but the road is very slow and is used more by ATV’s than 4wds.

To get to the access road, you first want to make your way to the community of Burns, which is one of the few communities in Colorado with no paved roads leading to it. Burns is along the Colorado River Road between McCoy on Highway 131 and Dotsero on I-70. If coming from the east or north, driving in by way of Highway 131 and McCoy is more expedient, but if driving in from the south or west, then coming in from Dotsero and I-70 is faster.

It is recommended that you have a map, such as the White River National Forest Map or a Colorado Atlas to find the trailhead. From Burns, you want to take the Derby Mesa Loop Road. You can catch the north end of this right at Burns, but it is faster to catch the south end of the loop road just southwest of Burns and at Burns Junction.

From Burns Junction, take the Derby Mesa Loop road to the west and follow this good road for 6.3 miles to FR 613. Passenger cars can make it here with no problem. Turn left (west) on FR 613 and follow the increasingly rough road to another junction at mile 10.05 (from Burns Junction). Turn right, still following FR 613. Signs say that it is 7 miles to the trailhead.

The road gets increasingly rough and gets even rougher at the stream crossing of South Derby Creek. The road from here on is rough and punishing on your vehicle and there are big rocks and usually big mudholes as well. Drive as far as you dare and don’t get stuck. This area is out in the middle of nowhere and towing a vehicle would be a costly affair.

Access RoadThe access road to Crescent Lake is very rough and has some big rocks.

Crescent LakeCrescent Lake.

Stillwater 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.

This is the un-named peak...Stillwater Reservoir.

Trappers Lake Trailhead

There 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 Coloradans 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 Meeker:

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. From the Trappers Lake Lodge, turn left on FR 815 and follow it a short distance to the Outlet Trailhead. 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.

From Hayden:

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.

From Hamilton:

Unless you live in Craig, few Coloradans 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.

Trappers LakeTrappers Lake as seen from near the trailhead.

Routes Overview

South Derby Creek and Crescent Lake Route

This is by far the shortest route to the peak, if you have a vehicle that can make it to the trailhead. The trail from Crescent Lake to Island Lakes over a minor pass and then west the ridge south of Island Lakes Peak South is pretty faded, but can be followed with care. Once on the ridge, simply follow it to the summit. The steepest part is getting to Point 11,862, which involves some scrambling. The route beyond this is fairly gentle in most places.

This can be done as a day climb and is about 11 miles round trip.

You could also use the Turret-Crescent Trail to reach the ridge and climb "Island Lakes Peak South" on the same trip. Several days can be spent in this area, climbing several peaks and visiting several basins along the way.

Looking southLooking south from near the summit, with Island Lakes in the distance.

Middle Derby Creek Route

This highly scenic would make a find backpacking trip and you are likely to see other visitors.

There are actually two trails that start near the trailhead that reach Island Lakes. One stays lower and near the creek, which one climbs to the bench north of the creek and visits some extra lakes.

Depending on your route, this route is at least 20.2 miles round trip (but variations are longer) and will take 2-3 days.

Trappers Lake Route

The most expedient way to climb Island Lakes Peak North from Trappers Lake is to follow the Trappers Lake Trail past Parvin Lake to the Plateau and then east to another trail junction before heading north and then east to the summit. This route is just over 14 miles round trip. It can be done in one long day, but there is lots to see in the area, so two days is better.

You could also use the Wall Lake Trailhead, but the route is slightly longer.

From Trappers Lake, you can also use the Little Trappers Lake Trail past Little Trappers Lake and then east to the ridge. This route is longer, but it worked well for us since we wanted to climb "Surprise Peak" along the way.

PlateauHigh on the plateau just northwest of Island Lakes Peak North.

Stillwater Route

From Stillwater Reservoir, a fairly popular trail, the Bear River Trail intersects the ridge north of Island Lakes Peak North. From there, you can head south towards the summit. This route is about 15 miles round trip and can be done in one very long day, or two shorter days.

Red Tape

Basic Rules

• 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 Climb

This peak could be climbed year-round, but I'm not sure if the road is open all the way to the trailhead in winter and spring.

The Flat Tops 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 Trappers Lake and Ripple Creek Pass roads open until around Thanksgiving weekend. Late November might be the best time to make a “winter conditions” ascent because after the road closed, this would be about a three to four day trip.

Island Lakes Peak NorthIsland Lakes Peak North as seen from the south in early September.


There are many campgrounds in the area and at Trappers Lake. On summer and holiday weekends, they are crowded. In the backcountry there are campsites around all the lakes below the plateau rim. Surprise Lake is the most secluded lake to camp at in the area.

Surprise LakeSurprise Lake.

Mountain Conditions

Contact the Yampa Ranger District for up-to-date road, trail, and wildfire conditions:

PO Box 7
300 Roselawn St.
Yampa, Colorado 80483


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 the peak will average around 10-15 degrees colder in the daytime than Marvine Ranch; nighttime temperatures won't have as big of a difference.