Fryingpan Lakes, Fryingpan Lakes Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado
Fryingpan Lakes - 9.1 miles
Fryingpan Lakes Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||9.1 miles (includes all three lakes)|
|Start-End Elevation:||10,012' - 11,032' (11,053' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,020' net elevation gain (+1,448' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Fryingpan Lakes - 9.1 Miles Round-Trip
The Fryingpan Lakes are located 4.55 miles from Road #505 (5.7 miles south of Fryingpan Road) in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness. The two main lakes are separated by a wide isthmus, and a third lake .7 miles below offers a comparable aestehtic with more accommodating space for camping.
The Fryingpan Lakes form the headwaters of the Fryingpan River, a major tributary of the Roaring Fork celebrated for its 14 miles of Gold Medal Waters on the tail of Ruedi Reservoir.
While thousands visit the Fryingpan each summer to fish and recreate on Ruedi Reservoir, few venture up to this free-flowing headwater just west of the Continental Divide.
Mild-moderate grades follow the river through subalpine forests, open valleys and wide meadows to the lakes. This lightly used but well-maintained trail is ideal for backpackers, families and trail runners, and features good wildlife viewing and abundant flowers across long open slopes.
An unmaintained route continues over the Divide below Deer Mountain (13,761') into the Lake Creek drainage near Independence Pass:
The trail begins near the Marten Creek - Fryingpan confluence and rises quickly into a moss-draped forest. It reaches the H-F Wilderness Boundary (.4 miles : 10,085') and crosses a big open slope at .92 miles (10,280'), the first of several high clearings leading to a wide bridge over the Fryingpan River (2.35 miles : 10,602').
The trail continues south up the east side of the river with expanding views across the valley. It crosses the base of a rockslide (2.85 miles : 10,742') and resumes moderate travel into a big, level meadow (3.45 miles) leading to the first lake (3.75 miles : 10,933').
The lake is small but lies in a wide, flat section of the valley with ideal camping terrain and views of Mount Oklahoma (13,845'). The trail undulates around the rugged east shore to gentle terrain along the inlet where campers will find more privacy during peak summer months (4.0 miles).
It re-enters the timber and negotiates a shifting, rugged path through large boulders to the first Fryingpan Lake (4.4 miles : 11,024'). The trail picks through more of the same to a large isthmus separating the upper and lower lakes (4.52 miles : 11,032').
The isthmus is wide and slightly elevated, offering great views of both lakes and the upper valley. Tall knolls around the lakes provide good vantages but require a little scrambling to reach.
A short stream bisects the isthmus and connects the two lakes. The main trail continues into a meadow-like inlet area and follows an unmaintained route up to the Divide. See more on Fryingpan Pass and the North Fork of Lake Creek Trail.
- N39 14.665 W106 31.815 — 0.0 miles : Fryingpan Lakes Trailhead
- N39 14.428 W106 31.745 — .4 miles : Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness Boundary
- N39 14.077 W106 31.364 — .92 miles : Trail opens across big open slope
- N39 13.931 W106 30.975 — 1.35 miles : Trail enters another open slope
- N39 13.861 W106 30.891 — 1.5 miles : Cross high open slope over the river
- N39 13.571 W106 30.705 — 1.9 miles : Cross another high open slope that dips down to river
- N39 13.254 W106 30.660 — 2.3 miles : Cross bridge to east side of Fryingpan River
- N39 13.103 W106 30.660 — 2.55 miles : Moderate climb up east side of valley
- N39 12.870 W106 30.701 — 2.85 miles : Skirt base of talus slide
- N39 12.870 W106 30.701 — 2.85 miles : Skirt base of talus slide
- N39 12.611 W106 30.824 — 3.27 miles : Cross small foot bridge
- N39 12.471 W106 30.941 — 3.45 miles : Enter big, level meadow
- N39 12.239 W106 30.943 — 3.72 miles : Lake #1 (10,933')
- N39 12.081 W106 30.959 — 4.0 miles : Round rugged shore to inlet area
- N39 11.805 W106 30.999 — 4.4 miles : Fryingpan Lake #1 (11,037')
- N39 11.707 W106 31.029 — 4.55 miles : Fryingpan Lake #2 (11,040')
The Fryingpan River features 14 miles of Gold Medal Fishing between Basalt and Ruedi Reservoir. Gold Medal Waters are defined as having a minimum of 60 pounds of trout per acre and 12 trout greater than 14" inches per acre.
The Roaring Fork Watershed has one of the longest contiguous sections of Gold Medal water in the state, including 14 miles of the Fryingpan and 28 miles of the Roaring Fork. Only 168 miles (approximately 2%) of Colorado's 9,000 miles of trout streams carry this Gold Medal designation.
Ruedi Reservoir was built 1964-1968 as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas project which developed transbasin diversions to transfer water from Colorado’s west slope to the front range. This earth and rockfill dam is located at 7,766' with a 997 acre surface area.
Look for raspberries popping through west-facing talus around all three lakes.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Hunter-Fryingpan 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-Fryingpan 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 at the Fryingpan Lakes and on the Fryingpan River with a valid Colorado fishing license. Special rules apply to cutthroat trout in these waters. Contact the Aspen Ranger District (970.925.3445), Sopris Ranger District (970.963.2266) or Colorado Parks and Wildlife (970.947.2920) for details. See details for fishing the Fryingpan River in this link.
- The Fryingpan River supports 14 miles of Gold Medal Fishing between Basalt and Ruedi Reservoir (from its confluence with the Roaring Fork River in Basalt upstream along Fryingpan Road to Ruedi Dam).
- Artificial flies and lures only.
- All trout, except Brown Trout, must be returned to the water immediately.
- Bag and possession limit and maximum size for Brown Trout is 2 fish, 14" long.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness.
Directions to Trailhead
The Fryingpan Lakes Trailhead is located 5.7 miles south of Fryingpan Road, 31.3 miles east of Basalt CO.
Follow signs from Highway 82 into downtown Basalt. Turn through the center of town on Midland Ave, which becomes Fryingpan Road and enters the canyon. Remain on Fryingpan Road 31.3 miles from downtown Basalt to Road #505 (just past mile marker 32).
Turn right on Road #505 and follow it 5.7 miles to the trailhead at the water diversion structure. 4WD is not necessary but high-clearance is strongly advised.
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