Mystic Island Lake, Lake Charles worth the drive from Vail to Eagle
Mystic Island Lake and Lake Charles offer moderate hikes to a pair of stunning alpine lakes. Accessed from Brush Creek Road, near Eagle, these lakes are well worth the drive. The pair of lakes, offering 11- and 9-mile round-trip hikes respectively, feature a beautiful mountain stream, alpine views and ample opportunity to see wildlife.
To access these hikes, drive on Interstate 70 to Eagle. From Eagle, work your way through the historic downtown to Brush Creek Road. Shortly after the Sylvan Lake Visitors Center, take the left fork of a Y in the road, heading toward Yeoman Park. Continue past Yeoman Park to the Fulford Caves Campground. A well-marked trail leaves from the parking area heading up the valley. Take the left fork toward Lake Charles. Continuing up the gravel road takes you to the Iron Edge Trail.
What to Expect
The Lake Charles trail is relatively moderate for hiking in the central Rocky Mountains. Around 3 miles in, expect the trail to change character and ascend steeply for a mile up to Lake Charles — this is the most challenging part of the hike. The first few miles of this trek take you through beautiful old spruce forest.
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At one of many openings in the forest you’ll see a boulder field with a particularly large old-growth spruce standing right in the middle of the boulders. The two lakes each offer worthy destinations depending on how big of a day you are looking for. Continuing to Mystic Island Lake will add 2 miles, but minimal elevation gain, to your trip.
Lake Charles sits just below treeline and is a beautiful large tree-lined lake with good opportunities for a cold dip in the lake or relaxing afternoon fishing along the shore. Mystic Island Lake is a slightly smaller lake but is tucked right up against the craggy slopes of Eagle Peak. Marmots, mountain goats, deer and other iconic Colorado species are commonly seen here.
Hike with walking Mountains
To discover more off-the-beaten-track trails and immerse yourself in the ecology of the Rocky Mountains, join Walking Mountains Science Center on a full-day backcountry hike. Our fall schedule features full-day hikes on Mondays and Thursdays, as well as shorter half-day hikes on Tuesdays. These hikes in September and October feature beautiful alpine treks and, as we get into fall colors season, hikes highlight our valley’s beautiful aspens.
Nathan Boyer-Rechlin is the community outreach coordinator for Walking Mountains Science Center. For more information on this hike and others, you can reach him at 970-827-9725, ext. 144, and firstname.lastname@example.org.