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