On the 4th of July I drove up the Fall River Road from the Fall River exit on I-70, just past Idaho Springs with some favorite hiking companions. The road winds up the river valley and trends right at the junction of Rainbow Road. We turned left onto Alice Road. . . . Alice: …”Gold was found here in the 1880’s in the valley below St. Mary’s glacier. Alice was one of many camps on the Fall River that boomed and died just as quickly. About $50,000 was taken out of the mines in the first few months and by 1889, the town and mines closed. There are still ruins of the cabins scattered among the pines and the area is one of the few where there is enough snow to permit year round skiing. There has been a little activity in the area since the late 1890’s, but not much. “ –http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/co/alice.html. At the end of Alice Road, the pavement ends at Stewart Road. We parked by the pictured trail sign and began our hike 2.3 miles from Loch Lomond.
- USGS Topo Map of the Loch Lomond area with our route highlighted in red. It shows we gained 1189’ in elevation throughout the hike, and we hiked a distance of 6.58 miles from the beginning of Stewart Road to our high point at Ohman Lake.
- With us were two young dogs: “Mollie” the golden retriever, and “Spirit, my year old Samoyed who was on his first long backcountry hike. We enjoy our canine companions in areas where dogs are allowed on the Colorado high country trails. On the Loch Lomond trail, there are no restrictions on dogs and no leash regulations. Still, we tried to be as courteous as possible with our packing companions. On his very first hike, “Spirit” was cautious, and fairly well-behaved. He even posed for pictures among the abundant wildflowers along Stewart Road, and on the Loch Lomond trail, as you see in the attached slide show.
- The wildflower of the day was the fuscia-colored, yellow-centered, Parry primrose. It is one of the showiest of Colorado wildflowers, usually growing in small groups in marshy soils along alpine streams. Obviously, 2012 is a banner year for this species on the Front Range, as they were growing in much larger than “small groups” this season! We found them in abundance both along Stewart 4-WD road as it reached above treeline and met the north fork of the Fall River. Another flower in abundance the summer of 2012 is the Colorado Blue Columbine. This delicate blue and white blossom is a favorite of many, and always a delight to find along the trail.
- As we came to the shores of Loch Lomond we paused, but followed the lake to its far inlet. Loch Lomond is special because of the stream cascading down the slope from the outlet of Reynolds and Stewart Lakes above. Not only is the inlet of the lake spectacular, but the meadows there beside the lake are laden with colorful blossoms that only get more colorful as the season advances. We back-tracked to a trail that led up a side stream flowing into Loch Lomond. The fairly steep and rocky trail traversed meadows of Scarlet Paintbrush, white American Bistort, and blue Greenleaf Chimingbells – flowers fit for a 4th of July celebration! The fairly steep trail climbs between Loch Lomond and Reynold’s Lake, the second in the “paternoster” chain of five glacially-carved lakes in the Loch Lomond basin. These lakes, viewed from the slopes above, are reminiscent of the beads of a rosary, and hence, the name: Paternoster Lakes.
- It was a relief to gain the shore of Reynolds Lake. The lake is a pretty bowl situated at the foot of a ridge off 13,250′ Mt. Bancroft. Just beyond the lake, the trail crosses a cement dam between Reynolds and Stewart Lakes. Many Colorado high country lakes have been enlarged by man-made dams used to impound water for measured use on the dry eastern Colorado plains. The outflow from the dam is the top of the beautiful waterfall that flows into Loch Lomond.
- At Stewart Lake, one of my hiking companions decided to stay for a peaceful rest on a rock at the lake’s shore. We pushed on towards the fourth lake in the chain: Ohman Lake, hiking among the rocks and cliffs between Stewart and Ohman. As we came upon a full meadow of Colorado blue columbine beside the lake, I suspected the name “Ohman” Lake might have been used because of the exclamation made when coming upon it: “Oh MAN!” With those words in mind, we were tempted to make the last steep rock and shelf track to the highest lake, Ice Lake, at 12,000′ and another half mile along the trail. The highest lake beckoned with its refreshing name, and its enviable position high in a glacial cirque between 13er’s, Mt. Bancroft and James Peak. But our companion was waiting back at Stewart Lake, and the day was getting late, so we turned and retraced our steps.
- We re-passed the glorious scenery in reverse, discovered a butterfly moth (white-lined sphinx moth) feeding at a stand of Parry primrose, and took a last look at beautiful Loch Lomond before taking off down the trail. What a great hike! Beautiful streams and abundant wildflowers, four lakes along the trail, with a fifth lake left to explore at another time, all made for a wonderful 4th of July. We were so lucky to have enjoyed every aspect of a spectacular and wonderful backcountry experience.