Olsen Lake

September 7, 2019 · Holy Cross Wilderness

The hike to Olsen Lake inside the Holy Cross Wilderness is a hidden gem. The first half of the trail is outside of the Holy Cross Wilderness and is well traveled by trail runners and people walking their dogs. It's a straight trail with a steady incline. However, because the first half of the trail is so well traveled it doesn't feel like you're working too hard on the trail. From the trailhead up to the Meadow Mountain crossing would probably be a good endurance trek for snowshoeing.

It's always easy to tell the difference between areas outside of Wilderness areas and areas inside of Wilderness areas. Outside of the Wilderness areas the trails are generally worn well and heavily traveled and fire mitigation has a different look to it. It is clear fire mitigation is done with chainsaws. Inside of Wilderness areas the trail gets thinner and lumpy. The groundcover is thicker and looks wilder. Fire mitigation is not as overwhelming since even the Forest Service cannot use gas powered chainsaws; they must use hand saws. as such fire mitigation is minimal and typically cut trees are those that have fell across the trail, but not always.

It was a beautiful sunny day for the trek, it had rained hard the night before, and the ground cover was covered in dew, as such your boots become soaked through and through as if you were making several river crossings. After crossing the Wilderness boundary, the trail and terrain changes dramatically. The canopy is thick and there is thick moss on the rocks in and along West Grouse Creek River. The trail is basically in a drainage ditch. A large portion of the trail is in thick canopy, which always seems to make the trek go faster.

Every now and then there is break in the canopy and the big bright blue-sky shines through and everything turns a bright vibrant green. However, it is clear the seasons are changing. Small ponds have dried up. Even though everything is so green, there are hints of rust in the groundcover every now and then.

It seems that most people don't go further than the Meadow Mountain Crossing and even fewer go past the Wilderness boundary. I only saw one other person on the trail, and that was on my way back out. It's always a great feeling of having the trail to yourself, the surroundings are so quiet and peaceful.

Since there is so little traffic on the trail it begins to blur on the first major push to Olsen Lake. There is a lake just after the first major elevation incline, but I could not find a decent approach to that lake. I would have really like to have reached the lake called Waterdog Lake; that's a great name for a lake. In a way, it's not surprising the trail is fuzzy in this area. The trailhead is right off a road leading into Minturn. There are several thin social trails that dead-end in the middle of nowhere.

The last push to Olsen Lake is steep and the trail is very faint. The conifers are very thick and then there is a break in the trees and there, rather unexpectedly is Olsen Lake. The lake set against a green walled bowl and brilliant blue skies with clouds dotting the sky, the view is simply breathtaking.

The shoreline is thin, and the conifers go right up to the water's edge. Where there are breaks in the trees there are thick stands of grasses mingled among boulders, making for a marshy shoreline. I found a small nook along the shore that had a specular view of the bowl and Olsen Lake. At this time of the year, the alpine lakes turn a greenish color. The other thing I noticed about this lake was the amount of fish in the lake along the shoreline. If I was into fishing this would be a perfect place to go fishing. All the fish I saw were about the same size, about the length of your forearm.

This was a perfect spot for lunch, with a great view and the wind pushing the clouds around, creating dramatic shadows on the face of the bowl across the lake. This is a great remote location and given its proximity to Minturn it is very surprising how lightly traveled the trail is after the Wilderness boundary. It's a long round-trip trek, coming in at 13.1 miles round-trip.

I got very lucky with the weather, it was windy, but the thick canopy on the trail and along shoreline creates a unique experience of hearing the wind, but the surroundings at ground-level are peaceful and tranquil. That coupled with the gentle sound of a slow-moving river along the trail makes for a very special day on the trial.


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AREAS HIKED

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness9
Eagles Nest Wilderness10
Fossil Ridge Wilderness1
Fraser Experimental Forest1
Gunnison National Forest1
Holy Cross Wilderness12
Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness3
Indian Peaks Wilderness17
James Peak Wilderness1
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness2
Mount Evans Wilderness2
Mount Massive Wilderness2
Pike National Forest1
Raggeds Wilderness1
Rocky Mountain National Park41
San Isabel National Forest6
Sangre de Cristo Wilderness1
White River National Forest10
Zirkel Wilderness1

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SEASONS ON THE TRAIL

2021

The 2021 Season has started. Though the pandemic created a challenging 2020 season, I am looking forward to building on the 2020 season to create an incredible 2021 season. The pandemic has taught me a few things about when and where to go hiking. As such planning for the 2021 se...

2020

The 2020 hiking season has been incredible, even in the face of adversity. The pandemic has made for a logistically challenging season. Somehow, I was still able to piece together an incredible 230+ miles on the trail this season and able to see some truly spectacular places. Enj...

2019

The 2019 hiking season was an interesting season, this was the first season that I started and ended the season snowshoeing and a full summer of hiking for a total of just under 225 miles on the trail. What this season has taught me is that it's winter in the mountains for a long...

2018

The 2018 Summer Hiking Season has come to an end. What a season, incredible views and just over 230 miles on the trail. Even with 230 miles, this season seems short to me, perhaps I'll add something to it during the winter season - snowshoeing perhaps. In the meantime, I hope you...

2017

The 2017 hiking season was interesting, I was able to explorer more of Colorado's National Forests and get in some camping, not as much camping as I would have liked, but hopefully next year I'll able to get in more multi-day hikes. This season came in just under 129 miles roundt...

2016

The 2016 hiking season was about spreading out and exploring more of Eagles Nest Wilderness, Indian Peaks Wilderness and touching on White River National Forest - and of course a few trips into Rocky Mountain National Park. These are amazing National treasures. This season came i...

2015

The 2015 hiking season was a big hiking season, I decided to do a fundraiser for The Red Cross (I learned a lot about fundraising - it was very interesting) with my pledge to hike over 200 miles for this season, I came in at 217 miles for the season; what a great time out on the ...

2014

The 2014 hiking season was almost all about exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, it really is a beautiful park. What I learned during the course of this hiking season is, although people may roll their eyes when you say you're going on a hike in RMNP, it really is spectacular ...

2013

2013 is the year this all started. The hike to Pitkin Lake started it all. Although it was a difficult trail, I was hooked immediately. However, I didn't have the right gear and the seasons were changing quickly. So, even though this season only brought two hikes, I new this was ...