Lyle and Mormon Lakes Offer a Good Destination Hike
A recommended outing for hikers of all ages, this trail accesses two lakes, good fishing, and some of the best high alpine scenery in the Rocky Mountains.
Family hiking opportunities abound in the wilderness areas surrounding Aspen and Snowmass. The Hunter Frying Pan Wilderness Area, located north of Aspen, abuts the Continental Divide to the east. Because it is more difficult to access, it is less popular with the crowds of day hikers found in the Aspen area.
Best Time to Hike
Late July to late September offer the best opportunities for accessing Lyle and Mormon Lakes without having to traverse snowfields.
Getting to Lyle & Mormon Lakes
Driving to the trailhead takes nearly as long as the actual hike itself. Approximately 45 miles east of downtown Basalt, Colorado, the drive takes a bit over an hour. Leaving Basalt, the road follows the Frying Pan River, known to many an angler as some of the best fly-fishing water in the state, to Ruedi Reservoir. The road skirts the reservoir, passing through the small outposts of Meredith, Thomasville, and the Norrie Colony. The pavement ends thirty miles (45 minutes) east of Basalt. From there, a dirt road follows the old railroad right-of-way for the Midland Railroad. The grade is consistent and the driving is fairly easy for the remaining ten miles (25 minutes) to the trailhead. At the juncture for Ivanhoe Lake and Hagerman Pass, turn left and drive a few hundred feet to the trailhead parking area. At this point, the road, which continues over Hagerman Pass, becomes rocky and impassable except for 4WD vehicles.
Hiking to Lyle Lake
The hike begins at 10,300’, gradually traversing a mountain valley, through mountain meadows and forested areas, paralleling and occasionally crossing Lyle Creek. A moderately steep incline at the end of the valley opens up onto Lyle Lake, a big grassy bowl surrounded by rocky boulder fields.
At just over a mile and a half from the trailhead, Lyle Lake is a great destination for young hikers. The lake is stocked with trout and fishing opportunities abound. Large boulders jut into the water for picnicking, fishing, or taking a dip in the crystal clear water (on that rare hot day). Several informal camping sites can be found in small meadows above the lake.
Hiking to Mormon Lake
At the far end of Lyle Lake, the trail continues up a steep, rocky slope. This is the steepest part of the hike, but the views to the Continental Divide on the east and to the numerous 12,000’ peaks to the south from just above Lyle Lake are worth the effort. At this point, the trail meanders through boulder fields, wildflower meadows, and forested areas for another mile and a half. Hikers descend from the highest point of the hike, approximately 12,350’, into the rocky Mormon Lake bowl, located at an elevation of 11,400’. For day hikers, Mormon Lake is a good destination. For those with an extensive itinerary, this lake is a good place to take a lunch break.
At six miles roundtrip, this hike is a perfect day trip or overnight destination for families. Intrepid five-year-olds can easily reach Lyle Lake. Older children will enjoy the boulders and rock-climbing opportunities between Lyle and Mormon Lake.