Most of the time when I read about a hike, I have to do it. I add it to a list in my phone, and know that one day (even if it’s a year from now), I’ll do it. To make it on my list, there isn’t a lot of criteria I have – mostly I just want it to be pretty, which I mean, aren’t 99% of hikes pretty anyways? I don’t care how long it is, how short it is, or where it is – if it looks pretty, it probably made the cut.
About six months ago I added a hike called Fancy Lake to my list. The only thing I knew about it was a photo I saw on Instagram – that of course made it look absolutely beautiful. After I saw that I knew one day I would need to see it for myself. So last week, myself and a friend (and her adorable puppy) headed West at 6am to see the beauty of Fancy Lake for ourselves.
- Starting Elevation: 10,017 feet
- Ending Elevation: 11,551 feet
- Net Elevation Gain (because of ups and downs): 1,534 feet
- Round Trip Length: 6.4 miles
- Trailhead: Fancy Lake Trailhead, GPS Coordinates: N39 23.445 W106 28.237
- Drive time from Denver: 2.5 hours with no traffic
- Fee: None
- Dogs allowed?: Yes
The trail begins with gradual switchbacks up a forested slope, and doesn’t waste any time gaining elevation, and by the time you get to the bridge (pictured above), you will have hiked only 0.85 miles and gained about 440 feet in elevation. Here the water was SO clean and clear I filled up my water bottle right there. However I did have the perk of having a LifeStraw water bottle which I recommend (link: here). Having this water bottle has honestly made it much easier to do longer hikes (where there’s water), because I can just fill it up and there’s a water filter that doubles as my straw; I no longer have to worry about the water weight in my pack.
After we crossed the bridge the trail continues to rise steadily for the next 2.2 miles, mostly in a thick wooded forest. As the climb continues we saw occasional breaks on the left side after about a mile or so – they are definitely worth exploring – you’ll see a huge rocky canyon with a creek below. We couldn’t see a safe way down to the bottom however, so we observed from afar.
Once we reached the 3.0 mile mark we knew we had to be close, but it didn’t seem like any path we took could get us to a lake in the 0.2 miles we had left. I would take a break before you start the last stretch of the trail as it will gain about 400 feet up some steep rocky switchbacks.
As soon as we got to the top we had to sit…but I would recommend that you don’t rest! Just keep walking, because Fancy Lake is maybe 100 feet away after you get to the top of the rocky switchbacks, and it is worth the exhausted walk there!
We went on a Friday, and were lucky enough to be the only ones at the lake for the whole time we were there, so I can’t speak to how busy it gets on the weekends – but it’s worth it. After exploring around and hearing marmots squeals and echoes for a while, having a snack, and contemplating how we could build a house and just stay here forever; we decided to head back.
It seems silly, that I saved a hike because I saw a picture on social media. But with so many people posting all these beautiful places, I feel like it’s only natural to want to go to them. I feel so lucky that I am living a state that allows me to adventure to beautiful places like this (regardless of how they were found) and I can’t wait to cross the next hike off my list.