Field Notes

Hike of the Week: Chapman Lake Trail

This short hike in the upper Fryingpan Valley has a big payoff.

By Aspen Sojourner Staff June 24, 2020

Chapman Lake Trail

Rating: Easy
Distance: 1.4 miles round-trip
Elevation gain: 300 feet
Estimated hiking time: 1 hour
Dogs: Must be leashed

Trailhead: Drive 28 miles from downtown Basalt up Frying Pan Road and turn right at the entrance to Norrie Colony (road 504); the road turns to dirt but is navigable to passenger cars. Cross the river and drive up the switchbacks for about 3 miles. Turn left at the T-intersection, drive another mile, then turn right at the next T-intersection. A small parking area at the trailhead is 0.6 miles ahead on the left.

Route: It may seem like a long way to go for a hike this short, but part of the experience is the drive up the gorgeous Fryingpan Valley. You’ll travel by vibrant, red sandstone cliffs in the lower reaches (and perhaps a few bighorn sheep), circumnavigate the west and north sides of sparkling Ruedi Reservoir, and get views of high-alpine peaks closer to the trailhead. Plus, there’s a great payoff for not very much hiking effort: The shady shores of Chapman Lake are a very pleasant spot to linger, so bring lunch and maybe a book or fishing rod. (Note: the lake is different from the nearby reservoir and campground of the same name.)

The first half of the trail heads northeast up a steady but gradual incline, tracing a diagonal route through forest thick with ponderosa pine. You’ll walk by the boundary sign for the Hunter–Fryingpan Wilderness along the way.

The trail’s second part hooks east and flattens out, passing a large marshy area before arriving at the lake. The north end is studded with lily pads (spot your frog prince!). Find your rock and while away some time at 9,800 feet.

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