Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Anglemeyer Lake Backpacking

Anglemeyer Lake Backpacking
North Cottonwood Creek trail into Horn Fork Basin + Bushwhacking to Anglemeyer Lake
Trailhead Elevation: 9,887 ft.
Distance: 3.59 mi. (each way)
Elevation Gain: 1,399 ft.

Hike In
Start Time: 3:29pm
End Time: 6:01pm

Hike Out
Start Time: 9:06am
End Time: 11:14am

Trip Report:
As with all good vacations plans changed. We had come into this trip hoping to take Sunday and Monday to hike into the Holy Cross Wilderness and then summit Holy Cross on the second day. The weather on Sunday July 15 changed all of that. Nobody wanted to be backpacking and camping in the rain that night. Nonetheless, we had hauled my family's backpacks and gear all the way out west and we still wanted to take my kids out to backpack before heading home.

We're all backpackers now

My father, after his recent move to Buena Vista, has been checking out all of the local trails. In particular, he has been exploring the wonderfully beautiful Horn Fork Basin. He had caught wind of Anglemeyer Lake and had already made two excursions up into Horn Fork Basin and then bushwhacking up to the lake. He noted there were at least two great camp sites up there. We decided this would be the right choice for us to do on our last day and a half out in Colorado. 

Having fun on the 10,400 Bridge
 My boys were all excited at the prospect of fishing and camping again, although the thought of a 3.5 mile hike was less enticing to my younger pair. We spent an hour+ after lunch on Wednesday getting everyone packed up. This would be our first trip where each of my boys had their own backpack. On previous backpacking trips Seth had been carrying a daypack and I was hauling his sleeping bag. This year we graduated my oldest, Luke, to an Osprey Volt 60 and then given Seth his youth Osprey Ace 50. This meant each boy was now carrying their sleeping bag, mattress pad, food, water, and clothing. We planned on eating MRE's for supper which meant no extra cooking gear was needed. My father, Luke, and I split up the fishing gear and we were all ready to go. 
Crossing Horn Fork Creek on the fallen tree
It was 3:29pm when we hit the N. Cottonwood trailhead and found quite a few cars there. We set out on our way. Seth struggled from the beginning. We were only a 1/3 of a mile up trail when he said the pack was just too heavy. I unloaded his jacket, MRE, and some clothes into my pack and he started doing a little better. Seth and Jonah have struggled a bit more with hiking in the last two years while Luke has been fortunate to hit a major teenage growth spurt. This hike would put me on the verge of being a child psychologist with all of the mental effort exerted to keep the kids motivated. 
First look at Anglemeyer Lake
We set goals at each mile to stop and take packs off for a snack. This went well at mile 1. We even made real good time up until about 1.75 miles in due mostly to the flatter terrain along the creek. Above the 10,400 Bridge it climbs for awhile and here we really slowed up. Both of the younger two went through extended moments of struggle and slowing. Granted, carrying the extra weight of their own pack certainly did make this a bit more of a challenge than they were used to. We still made progress at least and rejoiced when the terrain flattened out more. 
Looking down on our fishers and camp site from the rock slope above
We finally made it to our intended spot for crossing Horn Fork Creek at around 11,100. My father had scouted this out previously. There are a few good campsites in this flat area that I've seen folks in tents before. There is a large fallen tree providing enough passage to stay out of the water for this crossing. With a bit of exploring there are probably a few other crossings that could be used not far away. My father from here used his GPS to follow his previous track on a bushwhack up the slope. At times we could see what appeared to be a faint trail leading up hill but there were numerous fallen trees providing obstacles to passage. Its not an easy slope and the mix of steepness and fallen logs can get one into a predicament fairly quick. 
Trying the fishing on the west side of the lake
The slope begins to flatten briefly before it hits a rock slope above it. Here there was more of a trail leading along the edge of the rock and we followed it to the lake. Right as the trail met the lake is a decent, though small camp site. We followed a trail around the east side of the lake to a much nicer camp site on the southeast corner of the lake which we would make home for the night. 
The still waters of morning on Anglemeyer
After getting camp setup we had the MRE's for supper and spent some time fishing in the lake. The waters were crystal clear and in many spots you could see the fish. I spent time climbing a bit of the rock slope to a ridge perhaps 100 feet up to get some pictures of the amazing Horn Fork Basin as well as Harvard and Columbia. I also had cell signal with the view I had back out to the Arkansas River Valley. 
Mt. Harvard
Pano from above Anglemeyer Lake with Harvard, Columbia, and Horn Fork Basin in view

360 Photo from above Anglemeyer Lake

There was no success fishing despite our being able to see a number of them. We think they were either swimming to deep or our lures just weren't getting them to bite. The weather was perfect that evening with temps only dropping to the low 50's and no rain. When things got dark we took in the beautiful views of the night sky. The moon was crescent but still plenty bright. There were fire restrictions in place so we had no camp fire, but we still made it up til 11pm enjoying the evening. 
Climbing in the boulders above the lake, Mt. Yale in the background
I spent the night in my Quarter Dome 2 tent with Jonah while Dad, Luke, and Seth all slept in my father's old Kelty 4 tent which has probably seen way too many trips now. In the morning we were all going by 7:30a with my father up first to try more fishing. The boys each took another go but still no success. By 8:15 all had bailed on fishing and we decided to pack up camp. Breakfast was just whatever granola bars or other snack foods we had in our packs. The tents were perfectly dry already when we woke up so we were able to tear into all of it and pack up nicely. 
Crystal clear waters
We hit the trail out at 9:06am. We retraced our steps bushwhacking back down the hill. Seth had one spill of a fall amidst a fallen tree and some branches, but turned out okay. Once we got back down to Horn Fork Creek and over the crossing we felt like it would be smooth sailing. For the younger ones hiking downhill is always so much easier, at least on their bodies. They don't complain as much of being tired, but it is still a bit of a mental game. Its seems true for all of us, on the last miles of a hike out the mind just wants to check out and be done and it always seems to take forever. 

We reached the trailhead again at 11:14am. Not a speedy hike out, but it worked. The boys did have some fun, with a little disappointment at the lack of fish, but the beauty of Anglemeyer and Horn Fork Basin wasn't missed. What a lovely place and definitely worth returning to.


I have a track and waypoints from the hike all contained in a KML file that you are welcome to download and use (at your own risk).  


  1. Thank you for posting this! I look forward to trying to find the lake next week by following your instructions!

  2. You should keep this a secret and pull it down from the internet...

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