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7 Lakes with Conor, Zirkel Wilderness, CO August 3, 2007

December 2, 2007

Posted December 2, 2007



On Friday, August 3, 2007 Conor and I took off through a rather cool and cloudy morning on our last hike during his summer visit. I decided to head to the Big Creek Lake area and take a trail that looked like it headed up to some high altitude lakes. The 7 Lakes trail to be exact. The trail head takes off from the end of the road that runs along the north side of Big Creek Lake.

Before I go any further in the trip’s description, here is my standard comment. Please check my photo galleries here for all the larger and higher quality photos for this trip. The photos in the gallery are a quantum leap in size and quality compared to the little teaser photos I put in this site’s trip narrative.
I have two other links that will help locate the area if you are interested in making the hike yourself. A Google Earth map can be found here. Use the scale bar on the left side of the Google map to help zoom in or out to help locate the area based on where you live. (Look on the right side of this web site for a link to a Google map that shows ALL my trips.)
In order to help you with the actual trail itself, you can use this link to view a topo map of the Trail #1126 trailhead. It starts just prior to getting to the Katherine Lake Trailhead on the right hand side of the road.
All links open a new browser window.

The trail generally follows the river that runs between Big Creek Lake and Upper Big Creek Lake. However, you never get a glance at the river since it’s way out in the middle of a large meadow/marsh that makes up a lot of the land between the lakes.


As can be seen by the photo, the day began quite cool and cloudy. The sun came out about a mile up the trail.
The trail runs between the two lakes through a nice section of forest. Including a series of boardwalks. Really quite a pleasant hike and one I would recommend for people that just wanted to take a 2-3 mile hike. So, hike to Upper Big Creek Lake and then back.

Conor is probably wondering what the PPM rate will be today (that’s Pictures Per Mile : )


A mile or so past the turn off to Upper Big Creek Lake (you never really see the lake close up unless you take the turn off), the trail to 7 Lakes runs by a waterfall. This would make another good candidate for a short hike.


Above the falls you follow the river for another mile or so. The trail is pretty and the gain in altitude is slow.


Zoom in a little. Rather nice place for a picnic : )


There are some nice beaver ponds along the way, with many meadows. Perfect moose habitat (or, it seemed that way to me; not sure where the moose were).


Zoom. Trying to find me a moose. : )


The trail finally began to veer away from the river and start to gain altitude a little more quickly. Still, a very pretty hike.


Eventually the trail begins a rather longish section of switchbacks. Many switchbacks. Ummm. Lots of altitude gained in a hurry. Did I mention lots of switchbacks? Believe me, I thought they would never end. Really. That said, it did allow us to start looking back down the valley for some good views. That’s Upper Big Creek Lake in the distance. The mountains in the far distance are actually on the other (eastern) side of North Park, CO.


We finally decided to take a break. I figured we were most of way through the switchbacks (as it turned out, I think we were about 80% through them). Anyway, the sun was out, …………………


and the water tasted good.


We eventually got past the majority of the switchbacks. The trail leveled out and went through some of the prettiest meadows I’d seen all summer. The photos don’t really do it justice because the sun kept going behind the clouds.


Very “park” like. And there was close to a mile of it.


I was sure we would see a moose in at least one of the meadows, but no luck.


I “think” the trail curves around and 7 Lakes is “over there” (on the right hand side of those far mountains). Anyway, lots of country to hike in the area.


This is looking towards Buffalo Ridge. The trail we were on intersects with another trail that heads over that far ridge.


And here we are right before being able to actually see the lakes. But, I just knew we were close.


Then, the sight of the first lake. Nice.


The lakes are not humongous (this is the smallest : ). But, the area is wide open with the lakes scattered around and the surrounding country very inviting to go exploring. We only saw one camper, and he had come up the trail behind us.


Here is a photo across one of the lakes with 2 more in the background.


Zoom a little.


I really wanted to do some hiking around, but we had a little bit of a problem. There was an approaching rain storm that I did not want Conor and myself to get involved with during a hike in the surrounding high elevation. Something to do with dodging strikes of lightening.


As it was, we did get hit with the first wave of rain.


After watching the water hit the lake for a few minutes, we put on our rain gear and headed back down the trail.


It did not rain steady for very long, but the sun did take a while to come back out.


It did make everything look fresh, green, and clean.


The rain finally quit and we even saw a little bit of blue sky here and there. Here is looking at some high country to the south of the trail. We saw no one else on the trail after leaving the lakes.


Even with everything sorta wet, I still took time to admire the flowers : )


View of North Park and the very northern area of the Rawahs. That pale line of “something” up against the base of the mountains are the sand dunes.


Here is a view of upper Big Creek Lake and North Park beyond.


Zoomed a little to show the detail of the upper meadows above the lake. Got to be moose in there somewhere! That’s Independence Pass in the background.


Caught a small bit of a rainbow over upper Big Creek Lake.


Zoom a little.


Just for fun, zoom in even more.


Strolling down Boardwalk : )


By the time we got back to the truck, the temperature had dropped enough to see your breath. So, felt good to take the packs off and sit down for the ride back to Fort Collins.

On the drive back through Pearl, we were lucky enough to see a rather nice sunset.




Last one.


Great ending to a great day.

My only regret for the hike was not being able to spend the night at 7 Lakes. I am planning on coming back next summer with enough backpacking gear to spend at least one night up there.

– Geoff Weatherford

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Bobby permalink
    December 8, 2007 7:41 am

    Really appreciate the work you have put into this site. I am an amateur backpacker, having done 30 miles of the Buffalo River in Arkansas, and some short solo weekend trips.

    I’m planning a couple of trips for the spring and may use some of your data here to make some decisions on where. Thanks and keep on keepin on.

  2. December 8, 2007 8:55 pm


    There is just an enormous number of great hikes in Colorado (and Wyoming, Montana, etc. : ) Most of them are somewhat “unknown” as everyone just concentrates on the large national parks (which are very nice also).

    I’ve floated on the upper Buffalo River (I think that’s what it was) and was a great time.

    Anyway, thanks for visiting my site.

    – GeoffW

  3. December 22, 2007 3:30 am

    Just love your photo-journal’d trips! Thanks for sharing. BTW, photo #21 on your Smugmug site (which I notice you’ve selected for your theme pic for this hike) is, I think, one of your very best. You’ve captured that beauty and mystery of the water’s movement. Makes me want to go there!

  4. December 22, 2007 6:07 pm


    Thanks for taking time to comment. I’ll definitely be going back myself.
    And, one reason I have this web site is to get others excited about getting out onto the trails. So, yes, go check it out this coming summer. It’s even nicer than my photos : )


    Geoff Weatherford

  5. Jeff Nelson permalink
    July 7, 2010 4:46 pm

    Looks the same as it did 30 years ago. I went on a 7 day Boy Scout backpack trip up to Seven Lakes back in 1978. I was about 14 years old. What an incredible place, and a tough hike. I remember someone saying we went 10 or so miles. We used a couple of 2 man carts to carry up a kitchen box and another to carry a 10 man and 15 man tents. These tents were the older military grade type, very heavy. An adult and one older scout would push/pull a cart until exhausted, then swap out with someone else. These carts looked like a stretcher with a single bicycle wheel at the middle. One person pulling the other pushing. The switch backs were killers with these 2-man one wheel carts.

    Aside from the dehydrated food, we ate tons of trout, battered and fried over the fire.
    Doesn’t get any better!

    Did you see Elephantshead flowers in the meadows? That’s the only time I’ve ever seen them, and there were thousands of them.

    Thanks so much for your pictures and descriptions. Its nice to see this place again.

  6. September 4, 2014 3:57 pm

    It’s an amazing paragraph designed for all the online people;
    they will obtain advantage from it I am sure.


  1. Grizzly Helena Trail No.1126 (north end), CO, June 27, 2009 « Paths Trails and Beyond

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