Stuart Lake

Trail No. 1599

September 22, 2007  -  I hiked to Stuart Lake on the last day of summer--a partly cloudy, sometimes breezy, cool day.  The first 2 1/2 miles of this trail travel alongside Mountaineer Creek to a junction with the Colchuck Lake trail.  The photos on this page start at that junction, since I've already hiked to Colchuck Lake twice this year.  From the junction, the Stuart Lake trail travels easily through pretty woods, crosses meadows and skirts boulder fields for over a mile before it gets down to the business of gaining the last 500' of elevation to Stuart Lake.  Mountains fill the horizon, and you are never far from one of the great beauties of the area:  Cannon Mountain, Dragontail Peak, Colchuck Peak, Sherpa Peak, Aasgard Pass, Mount Stuart--all present and accounted for.  The last mile of the trail switchbacks up alongside a pretty waterfall and through a stunning grove of Quaking Aspen trees.  These beauties were just getting their fall colors when I passed through, and I was stunned by the combination of green and golden leaves, pure white bark and blue skies set against the backdrop of mountains.  The trail levels out not far from the aspen grove and reaches pretty little Stuart Lake on the side of Mount Stuart.  Unlike many of the lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area, the trail does not drop steeply to reach the shore--it just emerges from the woods at the lake's elevation.  Follow the trail to the left for solitude and views or follow the trail along the right side to views and solitude.  Larches were just starting to turn gold on the steep mountains above the lake when I was there, and the slopes of Jack Ridge were bursting with fall color. 

A shadow hung over the day, however.  Helicopters and search teams broke the silence of the wilderness, searching for two missing climbers who had not returned from a climb on Sherpa Peak.  Their bodies were recovered later that day--a sad reminder that the backcountry is to be enjoyed and savored but most of all respected. 

1650' Elevation gain

10 miles roundtrip