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Shelf Lake Trail No. 634

Contact Info
Pike & San Isabel National Forests Cimarron & Comanche National Grasslands
19316 Goddard Ranch Ct.
Morrison, CO 80465

Phone:
303-275-5610
Basics
Length:
3.2 miles
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Time:
2.5 - 3.5 hours
Trailhead Elevation:
10140 feet
Elevation Range:
10140 feet to 11990 feet
Elevation Change:
1850 feet
Season:
Summer to Fall

Description

For the first half mile of the trail climbs steeply into the hanging valley below the cirque at the head of the Smelter Gulch drainage. After that initial climb, the trail then rises at a less rapid rate toward timberline. in places the trail can be a bit vague as it crosses rockslides and weaves through willows. A final steep climb in a series of switchbacks brings you onto the shelf and to the lake. In midsummer this final stretch of the trail has a spectacular display of wildflowers

Details

Length:
3.2 miles
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Time:
2.5 - 3.5 hours
Trailhead Elevation:
10140
Elevation Range:
10140 feet to 11990
Elevation Change:
1850
Season:
Summer to Fall
Additional Details:

The Shelf Lake Trail begins at the site of an old smelter which served the mines further up the valley around Geneva City. As you begin the trail, you may see old piles of railroad ties and mine timbers from long ago rotting among the trees in the woods.

The trail follows Smelter Gulch to Shelf Lake, which sits on a shelf on the west side of a high mountain cirque. The trip will take approximately 2 hours of hiking at a moderate pace to reach the lake. The last 3/4 miles is above treeline in tundra filled with a profusion of high alpine wildflowers. The lake is usually frozen until mid-June, and there may be snow at high elevations through mid-July. Because of this late snow melt, the final portions of the trail remain wet and slightly boggy through midsummer. Fishing in the lake is generally rated good for cutthroat trout. There are very few areas along the trail that are suitable as campsites.

Map + Directions

Basic Directions

From Bailey drive 10.8 miles west on Highway 285 to Grant. Turn right (north) on Park County Road 62 (sometimes called Guanella Pass Road). Drive 6.6 miles to the turnoff for Geneva Park campground and Duck Creek Picnic Ground. Follow the turnoff .3 miles to the entrance sign at Geneva Park Campground. Continue traveling straight 2.8 miles from the sign on Forest Road 119 to reach the Shelf Lake Trailhead. This final stretch of road is not a designated four-wheel drive road, but there are several rocky stretches which may be difficult to negotiate with a low clearance vehicle.


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