Trout Lake is one of the most pristine high altitude lakes in Colorado. Just a short drive from Telluride (approximately 15 minutes) it offers not only the beauty of its existence for those who wish to come and simply be at its shores but also the range of activities possible in summer and winter seasons. It’s also a place of Telluride history, that likely even some locals may be unaware of.
Trout Lake is a natural lake but was later dammed even higher for the purpose of creating additional reserves for the Ames Power Plant near Ophir, Colorado just minutes away. This was the site of the first AC power on the planet. Some Telluride residents live there at Trout Lake year-round. You’ll notice cabins and houses peppering the shores. It’s a quiet way of life, and one filled with living in harmony with Mother Nature. To just experience the lake in the warmer season, bring along a sack lunch from town. Aemono, Brown Bag or The Steaming Bean. Bring water, too. The high UV index and thinner air make for thirst and rapid dehydration.
The glistening blue waters are an invitation to come sit by the lake’s edge and enjoy the views. Sheep Mountain frames the back to the south. And Vermillion Peak, Golden Horn and Pilot Knob are also present in the peaks around Trout Lake. In the summer, Trout Lake is a trout fisherman’s paradise. Stocked by the Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery, you’re sure to reel in some quality rainbows and brown trout. Additionally, the alpine lake is a stand-up paddle board destination. In fact, Boot Doctors of Telluride has been known to lead SUP board yoga classes on the waters of Trout Lake.
Kayaking and canoeing also welcome. So is swimming, but remember, this is a mountain lake. Colder temperatures exist. The hikes that begin at Trout Lake are incredible. For example, Lake Hope, a moderate to difficult hike, begins a mile and a half past Trout Lake, up Forest Service Road 627 through several switchbacks until it reaches the trail head. In all, it’s only another 5-10 minutes to the beginning of this incredible hike. In the winter, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing can be done on the track that encircles Trout Lake.
That track is actually a historic railroad. In 1891, the railroad constructed a loop around the lake as preparation for an elevation climb to Lizard Head Pass. It’s part of the Galloping Goose, the original train that serviced the San Juan Mountains. The track serves as a metaphor for the change that’s happened over the decades. You can exercise on the old railroad. Telluride has evolved from a mining town to a successful resort filled with winter sports. While many Telluride families own their own gear for such activities, snowshoes and cross-country skis can be rented from Telluride at Boot Doctors or Telluride Sports. The loop around is 6 kilometers one-way.
For travelers of the local and tourist type, Trout Lake is an icon. It’s a landmark. It’s a reminder that as your traveling north on Highway 145, and drive up on it, you’re almost home.