Hike of the Week: Iron Edge Loop offers a challenging hike around Lake Charles
Hike of the Week
If you had to pick one hike in the Eagle Valley to experience a little of everything our mountains have to offer, the Iron Edge Loop would have to be that hike. Located outside of Eagle, past Yeoman Park, this hike features high alpine ridgelines, mixed forests, lush wetlands, and an iconic subalpine lake. Additionally, in a valley where most of our hikes consist of out-and-back treks, this loop only repeats about 100 yards of trail!
Follow Brush Creek Road out of Eagle past the Sylvan Lake State Park Information Center. At the fork in the road just after the center, bear left towards Yeoman Park. Continue past Yeoman Park to the Fulford Caves Campground. Park here and hike on the obvious fire road heading up the creek valley. About 100 yards into the hike, you will see signs for the Iron Edge and Lake Charles trails, and you can hike the loop in either direction.
What to Expect
The Iron Edge Loop is a challenging hike, and you should be acclimatized to high altitude and in good hiking shape before attempting this route. The full day measures at 11.5 miles and 2,700 feet of elevation gain. Expect sustained climbs, some loose and rocky sections of trail, and primitive, sometimes hard to follow, sections of trail through subalpine wetland.
The recommended approach to this loop is to hike it counter clockwise, starting with the ascent to the Peter Estin Hut on the Iron Edge trail and returning down the Lake Charles trail. This front-loads the elevation gain, and will more quickly get you through the high alpine terrain—which is beneficial as we are starting to see regular afternoon thundershowers.
3 miles of steady uphill travel will bring you to the Peter Estin Hut. From the hut, follow the trail another mile to treeline. Continue along the ridge for another mile before beginning your descent to Lake Charles. The trail becomes faint in places, but regularly placed cairns guide your way, just make sure you see the next one before continuing on. Once at Lake Charles, enjoy the vistas across the lake before crossing the outflow and merging onto the well traveled Lake Charles Trail. Once you join the Lake Charles trail, there’s 4.5 miles of descent get back to the trailhead.
Note on Conditions
Walking Mountains Science Center guided this hike on July 25. The trail is in great condition, with the section between the Iron Edge Ridge and Lake Charles being better marked than in previous years. The creek flowing out of Lake Charles is flowing quickly at the standard ford. Hike 50 yards upstream to find a sturdy board bridge that easily crosses the creek.
Walking Mountains guides backcountry hikes four days a week. Join us on Mondays for hikes to iconic mountain lakes, Tuesdays for a more relaxed and education hiking experiences and Thursdays for challenging treks on high alpine routes. Wednesdays are our Piney Family Adventures, where you can enjoy a two-hour hike along the Piney River trail, followed by time to enjoy the historic Piney River Ranch!
Nathan Boyer-Rechlin is the community outreach coordinator at Walking Mountains. Contact him at email@example.com.