5 Aspen-Area Lakes Perfect for Wetting a Line
Old Pond Park, Basalt
Rimmed with grass and boulders, this lake’s annual influx of stocker trout makes it the perfect place for kids—and only kids—to wet a line. Regulations limit fishing to ages 16 and under, and the drive-up access in downtown Basalt makes it easy for tykes (and cane-wielding elders) to reach the shoreline—no hiking required.
Most visitors focus on Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells, those mesmerizingly beautiful twin summits slicing into the sky beyond the lake. But anglers have good reason to train their eyes beneath the surface. Maroon Lake holds sizable populations of stocked rainbow and brook trout. They’re hungriest in late spring, when receding ice restores their access to insects and other food from the water’s surface.
Visit as soon as Maroon Creek Road opens (generally in mid-May) to cast streamers and fuzzy stimulator patterns at big trout cruising the shallow shorelines. Trophy-size fish are harder to catch come midsummer, but smaller trout remain willing (often eager) to munch anglers’ lures.
Getting to this idyllic high-mountain lake involves a rough road but an easy hike. The 3.4 miles between Portal Campground and the trailhead require a high-clearance 4WD vehicle that can handle loose, rocky tracks. (The driving isn’t technical, but it exceeds the clearance and climbing capability of, say, your standard Subaru Outback.) Yet the eye-popping scenery is well worth the bumpy ride.
Half the hiking route crosses alpine tundra, affording views of the snaggly Collegiate Range, and the trail gains just 500 feet of elevation over 1.2 miles (one way), making it suitable for most kids and anyone still acclimatizing to higher altitude. Spread out a picnic lunch, drink in the views, and cast for Anderson Lake’s plus-size cutthroat trout. To reach Portal Campground, take Highway 82 to Lincoln Creek Road and follow it for 6.5 miles.
Colorado’s native cutthroat trout inhabit this mountain-framed lake, which sits at a lofty 12,520 feet. At such high elevations, food is scarce for more than half the year, so fish eagerly gobble what anglers offer—provided you don’t spook them with your approach.
Scan the banks for fish before stomping right up to the water, then toss out a Griffith’s gnat or Royal Wulff, maybe with a bead-head hare’s ear nymph tied on as a subsurface dropper. With overcast skies and a slight breeze ruffling the water, you stand a better chance of hooking these wary wild residents.
Should action be slow, the views supply plenty of excitement. Nearby Grizzly Peak is just a few notches shy of Fourteener status, at 13,988 feet. Get there by driving your high-clearance vehicle up Lincoln Creek Road to the trailhead at Grizzly Reservoir, then hike 3.6 ever-steepening miles to Grizzly Lake’s tundra-covered shoreline.
Lost Man Lake Loop
The 8.8-mile Lost Man Trail visits not just one high-elevation lake, but three—all containing trout, and all surrounded by wildflower meadows and steely peaks. About 4 miles of Highway 82 connect the trail’s two ends, so turn the hike into a loop by parking one car at the lower trailhead (14 miles east of Aspen) and leaving the other 4.5 miles farther east, at the last switchback before Independence Pass.
Starting at the upper trailhead, hike uphill along the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River to Independence Lake, 2.5 miles from the start. Big, 15-inch brook trout live here; cast for them in the deeper water along the west shore. Then hike up and over Lost Man Pass (the hike’s high point at 12,800 feet) before descending through thickets of wildflowers to Lost Man Lake. Wiggle a streamer or lure beneath the boulders protruding from this lake’s northern and eastern banks, then continue for 5 more miles on a gradual descent to your final shot at trout in Lost Man Reservoir—a good place for bait-fishing. Target the brookies feeding by the lake’s inlet.
Local Knowledge: Trouty Field Trip
Ogle native cutthroat trout at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. Its Hallam Lake facility includes a glass-walled indoor stream that gives visitors an up-close look at these beautiful golden fish with black spots and a ruby-red “necklace.”