Hike of the Week: Seven Sisters Lakes hike offers alpine basin without the crowds
Walking Mountains Science Center
There are dozens of stunning alpine lakes to found in the mountains surrounding Vail. The East Vail trails all lead to spectacular destinations, if you can put up with the crowds, and ever popular favorites such as Missouri Lakes attract dozens of hikers every day. However, some of the most spectacular alpine basins in our area lie just off the beaten path. Instead of jockeying for a spot in the Missouri Lakes parking lot, on your next outing, continue a couple miles down the road and hike into the stunning Seven Sisters Lakes.
The easiest access into the Seven Sisters Lakes basin is via the Holy Cross Jeep Road. Take U.S. Highway 24 toward Leadville and turn right onto the Homestake Road, just after Red Cliff. Follow this road 4 miles to a fork in the road, and take the right, following the signs towards Missouri Lakes. When you reach the Missouri Lakes trailhead, continue down the road for about 2 miles. The road is rough but passable in a two-wheel-drive car — I can vouch that my low-riding Mazda made it. There is a road that veers off to the left about 1 mile from the Missouri Lakes trailhead. Continue straight here to a cleared parking area.
What to Expect
This hike has two distinct sections. The first 2 miles follow the rocky Holy Cross Jeep Road. From the parking area take a short connector and then when you hit the obvious jeep road, go up. These 2 miles climb steadily, and you may encounter a few jeeps along your way. About a mile and a half up, you will encounter a creek crossing. Our water has dropped enough that you should only need to get your feet wet, if that — there are often rocks that are easy to cross. Shortly after the creek crossing, look out for a small trailhead sign on your right. If you continue on the jeep road as it starts to leave the creek valley, you have gone too far. Turn onto this hiking trail and into the Holy Cross Wilderness. Once you enter the wilderness, you will leave the jeeps behind and likely not see anyone else for the rest of the hike. Follow the Fall Creek trail past Hunky Dory Lake and up into the beautiful Seven Sisters Lakes alpine basin. The trail passes directly by the first two of the four largest lakes, and then you can either continue up to the trail to the summit of Fall Creek Pass or hike a few hundred yards off trail to the third of these larger lakes.
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A round trip hike to Fall Creek Pass involves an 8.5 mile hike with 2,000 feet of elevation gain. If you only hike to the second or third larger lake, the elevation gain is less.
Note on Conditions
Walking Mountains Science Center has not hiked up into this basin as of the writing of this article. This is a very moist basin, and muddy and wetland conditions are often encountered in various parts of the trail. Once you enter the alpine basin, the trail becomes faint in areas. Bringing a map and a sense of adventure is recommended. The trail is possible to follow the entire way and generally sticks to the valley floor. Walking Mountains guided this hike on Monday, Aug.19 — please feel free to reach out for an up-to-date trail report.
Nathan Boyer-Rechlin is the community outreach coordinator for Walking Mountains Science Center. For more information on this hike and others with Walking Mountains, you can reach him at 970-827-9725, ext. 144, and firstname.lastname@example.org.