Lost Man Loop, Lost Man Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado
Lost Man Loop - 8.9 miles
Lost Man Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||8.9 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||10,545' - 11,506' (12,810' max elevation on Lost Man Pass)|
|Elevation Change:||+961' net elevation gain between trailheads (+2,472' total loop elevation gain|
Lost Man Loop - 8.9 Miles Round-Trip
The Lost Man Loop runs 8.9 miles up Lost Man Creek to Lost Man Lake and Lost Man Pass (12,810'), then drops to Independence Lake and follows the Roaring Fork River to Independence Lake Trailhead on Highway 82.
The Lost Man Loop can be accessed from two points on Highway 82: The Lost Man Campground and Trailhead or Independence Lake Trailhead. Note the Lost Man Loop is not a true loop - it begins/ends at these trailheads, which are 4 miles apart. You'll either need to walk the road (not advised) or have a two-car shuttle to connect the trailheads.
The two starting points offer very different experiences, especially if returning the way you came. The Independence Lake Trailhead provides a shorter, more direct route to the lakes and pass, while the Lost Man Trailhead sends you on a long, gradual climb to the same destinations.
Desired distance and difficulty will help you decide which starting point is best. The following description begins at Lost Man Trailhead and travels clockwise:
Follow signs left from the trailhead for Lost Man Creek and Midway Creek. The trail arcs to the Midway Creek Trail split (.35 miles : 10,620') and rolls to the edge of Lost Man Reservoir (.55 miles : 10,610').
It levels past the reservoir across broad, open meadows to the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness Boundary (1.5 miles : 10,693') and a wide creek crossing, which can be fairly difficult during peak runoff (1.86 miles (10,785').
Once across it resumes a fast pace through intervals of meadow and patchy forest along and above the creek. Grades steepen past 2.5 miles to another creek at 2.9 miles (11,045'), a narrow but swift crossing aided by elevated, slippery logs.
The trail rises steadily through an expanding valley and veers steeply up the west wall to the South Fork Pass Trail split (4.1 miles : 11,622'). Take a few steps up this trail to see peaks that frame adjacent drainages.
The Lost Man Loop curls SE from South Fork over a big bend in the valley with great views up and down the route. Grades are moderate but the trail is rugged, brushy and muddy as you undulate close to the damp, swale-like valley floor.
It gradually rises back through potentially faint but well-traveled meadows and terraces (5.0 miles : 11,725') to Lost Man Lake (6.1 miles : 12,482'). The trail skirts the lake and switchbacks steeply up rugged, loose rock to Lost Man Pass (6.55 miles : 12,810').
Lost Man Pass spans a divisive ridge between the Roaring Fork headwaters (south), and Lost Man Creek drainage (north). Views are outstanding, with hike-able routes that branch off to Geissler Mountain and other points on the Continental Divide.
The trail drops off the pass into broad meadows surrounding Independence Lake (7.1 miles : 12,487'). Independence Lake fills a wide alpine bench with a large tarn .1 mile away that's easy to reach and worth exploring.
It continues on a steady descent between Twinning Peak (east) and Geissler Mountain (west) to a bridge over the Roaring Fork River (8.42 miles : 11,735'), split for Linkins Lake (8.75 miles : 11,615') and Independence Lake Trailhead on Highway 82 to complete the loop (8.9 miles : 11,506').
- N39 07.314 W106 37.449 — 0.0 miles : Lost Man Trailhead
- N39 07.509 W106 37.395 — .35 miles : Midway Creek Trail split
- N39 07.920 W106 36.993 — 1.0 miles : Travel levels into big open meadows
- N39 08.336 W106 36.847 — 1.5 miles : Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness Boundary
- N39 08.638 W106 36.875 — 1.86 miles : Cross wide creek
- N39 08.931 W106 36.706 — 2.25 miles : Fast travel in lower valley
- N39 09.112 W106 36.592 — 2.5 miles : Grade steepens
- N39 09.410 W106 36.443 — 2.9 miles : Cross creek to right
- N39 09.755 W106 36.047 — 3.5 miles : Valley opens near treeline
- N39 09.911 W106 35.739 — 3.85 miles : Cross creek
- N39 10.042 W106 35.552 — 4.1 miles : South Fork Trail split (11,622')
- N39 09.930 W106 35.153 — 4.5 miles : Mild but rugged drop to valley floor
- N39 09.720 W106 34.714 — 5.0 miles : Rise up from valley floor
- N39 09.564 W106 34.472 — 5.3 miles : Cross small creek
- N39 09.500 W106 34.058 — 5.75 miles : Bend through high alpine meadows
- N39 09.229 W106 34.067 — 6.1 miles : Lost Man Lake (12,482')
- N39 08.920 W106 34.035 — 6.55 miles : Lost Man Pass (12,810')
- N39 08.543 W106 34.189 — 7.1 miles : Independence Lake (12,487')
- N39 08.205 W106 34.694 — 7.9 miles : Steady descent in open valley
- N39 07.833 W106 34.889 — 8.42 miles : Cross Roaring Fork River
- N39 07.577 W106 34.996 — 8.75 miles : Linkins Lake Trail split + Wilderness Boundary
- N39 07.484 W106 34.909 — 8.9 miles : Independence Lake Trailhead
- This is a busy multi-use trail. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness. No fees or permits are required.
- Camping is prohibited within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals (or 25 with people + stock).
- Campfires are permitted in the Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Location-specific restrictions may also apply.
- Contact the Aspen Ranger District (970.925.3445) or Sopris Ranger District (970.963.2266) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip.
- Fishing is permitted in Lost Man Creek, Independence Lake, Lost Man Lake, Deadman Lake and all related streams with a valid Colorado fishing license.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness.
Directions to Trailhead
The Lost Man Loop Trail is accessible from two trailheads on Highway 82 east of Aspen CO.
The first is at Lost Man Campground, approximately 13.3 miles east of Original Street in downtown Aspen.
The second is from Independence Lake Trailhead, 17.3 miles east of Aspen at the last switchback before reaching Independence Pass. Both trailheads are located on the north side of the road.
Note the Lost Man Loop Trail is not a true loop - it begins/ends at these two trailheads, which are connected only by Highway 82. To complete the loop you'll either need to arrange a 2-car shuttle, or walk the road.
Aspen Ranger District
806 West Hallam
Aspen, CO 81611
Sopris Ranger District
620 Main Street
Carbondale, CO 81623
White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602
970.945.2521 | 970.319.2670