Loch Lomond, Steuart Lake, Ohman Lake & Reynolds Lake – Arapaho National Forest, Colorado
First, so as not to be confused with Loch Lomond of Scotland, this is Loch Lomond of Colorado. This is a popular trail, probably due to the trail’s easy access by car, which you can drive all the way to the lake, when the upper gate is open. Loch Lomond is a man-made lake and not part of the James Peak Wilderness, but the lakes above it are and it is worth huffing and puffing to get to. If you haven't been to the upper lakes, believe me, you will be greatly rewarded with stunning views. We discovered this when we hiked to St. Mary's Glacier all the way to the Rock House/Loch Lomond Viewing Point on an earlier hike, from where we could see these lakes.
From the Rock House/Kingston Peak Trail, you will see Loch Lomond below and one of the lakes above it feeding the waterfalls. But look at Google Maps and you will find more lakes. There are three lakes above - Steuart Lake, Ohman Lake and Reynolds Lake. Then there are another two higher up lakes - Lake Caroline and Ice Lake.
The three lakes above Loch Lomond are great enough to hike to. From there is a stunning view of the mountains, including two fourteeners, Mt. Evans and Mt. Bierstadt, as well as Loch Lomond itself.
TO GET HERE
For non-hikers, you can drive all the way to Loch Lomond, but the upper gate only opens on July 15 and the lower gate on June 1. Some people can get lost driving to this lake so you have to pay attention to the road signs. From Denver to Loch Lomond is about 1 hour 15 minute-drive via I-70 heading west. From I-70 take exit 238 and follow Fall River Road/275 for about 8.2 miles. Turn left to Alice Road and for about 0.9 miles turn right to Steuart Road. From here the road is rough and rocky all the way to the to the lake and you will need a high clearance vehicle or 4WD if you decide to drive all the way. You can choose to park at the lower gate like we did, but that will add about a mile to your hike - each way.
- HIKING TRAIL -
LOCH LOMOND, STEUART LAKE, OHMAN LAKE & REYNOLDS LAKE – 6.3 miles
So, hiking here and parking at the lower gate along Steuart Road is about a 2-mile hike to Lake Lomond. It’s all uphill and a rocky trail and you get to share the road with vehicles. With dense trees on both sides, the views only become scenic as you get higher. When we hiked here in early July, the upper gate was still close, that probably explains the few people we encountered that day.
Hiking from the lower gate to the upper gate might be a little boring but past the upper gate the view opens up. And with the stream along the trail and the sound as it flows as you hike will make you understand why this is a popular place. Bring along a camera, there are plenty of photo ops along the way.
Most people probably end their hike at Loch Lomond, but don't just stop there! The three lakes above - Steuart Lake, Reynolds Lake and Ohman Lake - are more spectacular. We made it a loop hike starting from Loch Lomond, hiking counterclockwise following James Peak Trail. Doing it this way you will get a fantastic view of the surrounding landscape.
It is a steep uphill ascent to these three lakes, but worth the stunning views you will see from above, all the way along the trail. Stopping once in a while to look at the view is a good excuse to catch your breath. You will need one or more stops.
There is no sign to get to the three lakes but a metal pole at a junction will warn you to take the trail to your left. We found that this trail is not well used. Going uphill on the other side is much easier, but the view from this side is well worth the extra effort, as you will see from the photos below.
Before reaching the three lakes, enjoy the colorful wildflowers along this trail. We found several beautiful varieties on this slope such as columbine, alpine sunflower, bladderpod, moss campion. Nothing beats capturing a stunning view with wildflowers in it.
THE THREE LAKES
When hiking to these lakes from this side, you will reach the Steuart Lake first. Then the Ohman Lake and Reynolds Lake last, before descending back down to Loch Lomond. The water level in the lakes was high at that time so we did a little bushwhacking to reach the other lakes.
If you have time and energy you can hike to Lake Caroline. There's a separate trail which also begins at Loch Lomond. But then again, that is another hike to look forward to the next time.