Wildflowers & Birds at Lily Pad Lakes, Colorado
Mountainous Summit County’s Silverthorne is just 35 miles from Denver. It’s a gateway to high country hiking, and the Lily Pad Lakes is practically in the city limits.
Summit County, Colorado, is well known for its four major ski destinations: Keystone, Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin, and Copper Mountain. Increasingly, it is also becoming known for a wide range of summertime activities, including mountain biking, fishing, and hiking. There are many choice hikes in Summit County, but the hike to Lily Pad Lakes is a fairly easy, family-oriented jaunt close to Silverthorne and Dillon.
Getting to the Trailhead for Lily Pad Lakes
From Interstate 70, turn off at Silverthorne/Dillon, exit 205, and stay north on State Highway 9. Turn left at the first light, from Highway 9 (Rainbow Drive) onto Wildernest Road. This road becomes Ryan Gulch Road and winds through a residential area as it climbs to a parking area about 3 and a half miles uphill, where the road loops around and returns down the hill. Parking is free here, as is access to the trail. There is a White River National Forest sign and registry for hikers at the trailhead.
The Trail to Silverthorne’s Lily Pad Lakes
The parking lot at the trailhead is at an elevation of approximately 9,836 feet. The trail to Lily Pad Lakes begins at the top of a hill to the right of the road, where a water tank is located. The trail is relatively wide and smooth and climbs to a high point of just over 10,000 feet before dropping to the lakes at 9,958 feet. From the parking lot to the area between the 2 lakes is 1.6 miles, for a round trip distance of 3.2 miles.
The trail climbs gently through a thick forest of Lodgepole pine trees, many of them killed by Mountain Pine Beetles. Aspen and other uninjured pine trees are also found along the trail, which crosses several small streams and parallels beaver ponds and wetland marshes. In July and August, wildflowers are abundant along the trail. A number of birds can be found here in the summer as well, particularly near the creeks and wetlands.
Summer Wildflowers Along the Trail to Lily Pad Lakes
Monk’shood are found along the first creek crossing, and Fireweed is abundant throughout the hike in mid-summer. Other wildflowers that are common along the trail include Harebell, Broadleaf Arnica, Prickly Rose, Western Aster, Musk Thistle, and, of course, Yellow Pond-Lilies at both lakes.
Birding on the Trail to Lily Pad Lakes
Leaving the trail to approach beaver ponds and other wet areas can be especially productive for birds. Common summertime sightings include Steller’s and Gray Jays, Mountain Chickadees, and Dark-eyed Juncos. Warblers are also present but can be more difficult to spot. Locating a camouflaged or shaded place and waiting for birds to come through often works better than simply walking the trail. Yellow, Wilson’s and Virginia Warblers may be seen this way.
Other birds that are found along the trail and at the lakes during the summer include American Robin, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, White-crowned Sparrows, and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds.
Lily Pad Lakes a Good Selection for a Day Hike Near Silverthorne
There are many hikes to choose from in the Silverthorne/Dillon area, including some with waterfalls such as Lower Cataract Lake. A 3-mile hike that is suitable for youngsters, as well as seniors, is practically within the Silverthorne city limits, to a pair of lakes just under 10,000 feet. In addition to Yellow Pond-Lilies, this hike offers a large variety of summer wildflowers plus resident and migratory bird-watching.