September 2, 2018 · San Isabel National Forest
The hike to Native Lake is one of the many Family Friendly trails just outside of Leadville, just past Turquoise Lake. That it is couched as a Family Friendly trail is kind of funny, documented maps show this trail as short, but very steep, nearly straight up. The trail has since been fixed to not be straight up, it has many switchbacks in it, but it is a steep trail nonetheless. This hike came in at 6.1 miles roundtrip for me.
I chose this trail for day-two, after a long hike the previous day to Brown's Pass. When I think of Family Friendly trails, I think of relatively smooth gently rising trails with plenty of views to keep kids visually engaged. The majority of this trail is in tall thick stands of conifers and is dark. I can easily see this trail being a bit scary for smaller children and boring for pre-teen and teen-aged kids.
Due to the grade of this trail I could easily see this as a forced march for little kids. On the way out, after finishing the steepest part of the trail the Family Friendly thing came to mind again, and as if on que, I heard a tiny set of lungs wailing and screeming "IIIIII Waaaaant Toooo Go Hooooome! Nooooow! Pleeeeease!!!" A family with two young kids, a pre-teen boy and small girl with a beet red face crying and wailing at the top of her lungs. As I passed the parents I smiled, and they returned with a "Having the time of our lives! Really!" smile.
Aside from what I felt was a mis-categorization of this trail, the switchbacks help with tackling the steep inclines. The weather started out questionable and the forecast called for rain in the afternoon. The thick canopy and dark colors of the first part of the trail have a Medieval-European forest feel to it.
Once you breakout of the thick canopy, there is an impressive view of the ridgeline for Hagerman Pass and a bow in the ridge and the top of Mt. Massive is barely visible. The trees give way to an impressive vista of knee and waist-high shrubs that have rusted to golden Fall colors.
The weather changed quickly and often from cloudy to big blue skies, changing the colors of Mt. Massive dramatically. I did not make the decent down from the vista to Native Lake but could see it on the valley floor at the foot of Mt. Massive. It's truly deserving of its name; the peak and the Continental Divide that disappears behind Mt. Massive are massive against a bright blue sky.
If the weather forecast was better, I would have stayed on this vista longer. There was a mild breeze and it was very peaceful. I only ran across one couple at the vista. A very peaceful day in The Collegiate Peaks Wilderness - on this Family Friendly trail.