Salmon Lake, Rock Creek Trailhead, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado
Salmon Lake - 15.3 miles
Rock Creek Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||15.3 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||9,487' - 11,192' (11,263' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,705' net elevation gain (+3,076' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Salmon Lake - 15.3 Miles Round-Trip
Salmon Lake is located west of Silverthorne, CO in the Eagles Nest Wilderness. It fills a narrow bowl tightly hemmed by moraines churned from the slopes of Rain Peak (13,130') and East Thorn (13,333'). Though long at 15.3 miles roundtrip, mild trail conditions make it an achievable day hike with an early start.
Follow Rock Creek Trail to the Gore Range Trail and bear left (.4 miles : 9,638'). The Gore Range Trail drops to a large meadow and crosses North Rock Creek (.6 miles : 9,505'), then rises steeply into a thick, quiet forest (1.0 miles : 9,795'). Though beetle kill is prevalent, the forest floor remains unaffected and busy with life and color.
The trail bends sharply east (1.15 miles : 9,895') and laces several small ponds before resuming a due-south course. The pace quickens beyond 1.5 miles on a gradual descent to South Rock Creek (2.75 miles : 9,888').
Once over, it climbs steeply to a signpost leading left around the north edge of two large, lily covered ponds (3.0 miles : 10,074'). Travel eases to mile 4 (10,292'), where it glides downhill and narrows over a creek (4.5 miles : 10,184').
The trail steepens past the creek into a vast blow-down area (5.2 miles : 10,315'), leveling through its skeletal remains to the Salmon - Willow Trail split (5.5 miles : 10,332').
The Salmon-Willow Trail bends southwest and rises sharply on a wide, rocky path into the subalpine. It moderates past 6.5 miles to the Salmon Lake Trail split (7.15 miles : 11,061'), which climbs the lake's north moraine with a revealing look over the basin.
The trail drops to the west shore of Salmon Lake (7.65 miles : 11,192'). Salmon Lake's inlet area is fairly open and level, but exploration is limited. Clusters of mature spruce offer good cover and privacy for backpackers.
Grays Peak (14,270') and Torreys Peak (14,267') stand on the southeast horizon, and your eyes can trace the inlet's origin to a gulch between Rain Peak and East Thorn. Salmon Lake's east shore provides a more scenic backdrop, but you'll have to scramble across rugged moraines to reach it.
- N39 42.633 W106 10.036 — Rock Creek Trailhead
- N39 42.329 W106 10.199 — .4 miles : Gore Range Trail junction - turn
- N39 42.024 W106 09.855 — 1.0 miles : Travel moderates in thick forest
- N39 42.117 W106 09.158 — 2.0 miles : Gradual descent to South Rock Creek
- N39 41.602 W106 09.090 — 2.75 miles : Cross South Rock Creek on wide bridge
- N39 41.403 W106 09.051 — 3.0 miles : Sign guiding you left at edge of large pond
- N39 40.941 W106 08.683 — 4.0 miles : Variously level-mild grades through forest
- N39 40.541 W106 08.601 — 4.5 miles : Cross small creek, begin steep climb
- N39 40.183 W106 08.528 — 5.0 miles : Steady climb to blow-down area
- N39 39.913 W106 08.189 — 5.5 miles : Gore Range - Salmon-Willow Trail split
- N39 39.952 W106 08.756 — 6.0 miles : Strenuous climb on Salmon-Willow Trail
- N39 39.940 W106 09.084 — 6.5 miles : Grade moderates in high subalpine
- N39 39.654 W106 09.649 — 7.15 miles : Salmon Lake Trail split
- N39 39.472 W106 10.072 — 7.65 miles : Salmon Lake (west side)
- Upper Willow Lake is located only 1.55 miles from the Salmon Lake Trail split, a worthwhile excursion for those with time. Camping terrain is somewhat limited at Salmon Lake. More space and accommodating terrain can be found throughout the Willow Lakes complex.
- Despite modest net elevation gains and miles of gentle grades, hikers should anticipate frequent gains and losses throughout, which are cumulatively challenging. Plan resources accordingly, and allow extra time for the return trip.
- Falling trees are a potential hazard to hikers and backcountry campers along this trail, especially when strong winds persist. Select camping locales carefully, ideally in healthy swaths of forest.
- Even though heavily wooded, morning travelers will likely face a good deal of direct sun on the hike to Salmon Lake. Sunglasses and hats are recommended to balance glare and the inconsistency of dappled light.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. No permit is necessary. Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.
- Due to heavy use, campfires are not permitted in the Salmon Lakes vicinity. Campfires are otherwise permitted for dispersed camping in the backcountry, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any lake or stream.
- Contact the Dillon Ranger District (970.468.5400) for the latest on weather, trail conditions and trail-specific usage guidelines when planning your trip. The office is open M - F from 8am - 4pm.
- For those not wishing to camp in the backcountry, there are several developed campgrounds in the Silverthorne area and White River National Forest. Contact the Dillon Ranger District for information on these sites.
- Fishing is permitted at Salmon Lake and along its drainage with a valid Colorado fishing license.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs are permitted on the Gore Range and Salmon-Willow Trail, and within the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. Dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6'.
- Horses are permitted on the Gore Range and Salmon-Willow Trail.
- Bikes and mechanized vehicles are not permitted on the Gore Range or Salmon-Willow Trail.
Directions to Trailhead
Salmon Lake is located within the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest. The Rock Creek Trailhead is located 2.85 miles west of Highway 9, 7.7 miles north of Silverthorne.
From I-70, exit 205 at Silverthorne and drive 7.7 miles north on Highway 9 to Rock Creek Road (FDR 1350). The turnoff from Highway 9 is located across the street from the Blue River Campground.
Follow the gravel road 1.2 miles and turn left on the road marked Rock Creek. Continue 1.7 miles to the Rock Creek Trailhead parking area. Though suitable for most 2WD cars in good condition, the last 1.7 miles are rough and subject to washouts. 4WD - High Clearance Vehicles are recommended.
Dillon Ranger District
680 Blue River Parkway
Silverthorne, CO 80498
M - F from 8am - 4pm
White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602