WILLIS LAKE Trail
Hiking & Hot Springs
MOUNT PRINCETON HOT SPRINGS RESORT
This lake is a steady 6.2 mile hike (one way) up Little Willis Gulch. Mt. Hope (13,933 ft) and Hope Pass are in the vicinity of the lake. The approach to the lake is difficult because of willows, boulder fields, and lost trails at times. Target the cirque above the lake and you eventually arrive after crossing a very large boulder field. Because of the fact that this lake does not get fished very often (distance) there are large cutthroats compared to other lakes. Good camping spots are located on the west side of the lake. Because of the distance into this lake an overnight trek is recommended. Fly patterns (streamers with midge droppers) are best and areas of the lake that have been most productive can be found in a guidebook “Central Colorado Alpine Lakes“.
Willis Lake Trailhead:
About The Author
Tom Parkes spent 12 years fishing, hiking, and camping at these alpine lakes, enjoying the solitude and scenery surrounding them. For the most part, these lakes have trails leading to their locations on public land and are open to everyone will ing to expend the effort to hike to them. The most prominent lakes are located in the San Juan, San Isabel, Sangre de Cristo, and Swatch Mountain Ranges.
The best times to hike into these lakes are from late May thru November with lower elevations best done in early and late season. July, August, and September are the best months to reach the higher lakes. To successfully complete these treks, physical conditioning and preparation are very important. The following items are essential: adequate water (at least 1.5 liters per person per 5-6 hours}, compass and topo map, sunscreen, adequate food, protective clothing for cold and wet weather (backup socks/have gloves}, flash light, matches or lighter, whistle, mosquito repellant, aspirin, and a CD for reflective device. Included in this pack of course is the essential fishing gear including a four-piece 5-6 weight rod and reel, for windy conditions I have always had a spin-casting rod and reel with clear plastic bubble. My arsenal of flies is both dries and nymphs. Parachute Madam X is an excellent dry fly and most midge nymphs with wooly bugger patterns are normally productive.
It is important to know what to expect in terms of distance and elevation profiles. A GPS or Topo Map complete with routes up and into the lakes are crucial. Also, it is prudent to be familiar with what I call "points of caution" when hiking into these lakes. Elevation gain and altitude can greatly change the difficulty of the hike.
10 Hiking Essentials
- Water (1.5 Liters per person per 5-6 hours)
- Snacks (Beef Jerky, nuts, power bar)
- Navigation (map and compass and/or GPS)
- Extra clothing (hat, socks, gloves)
- First aid supplies
- Light (headlamp or flashlight)
- Fire starter and matches/lighter
- CD Rom or mirror, whistle, mosquito repellant
- Emergency shelter (Biffy Bag)
12 popular trailheads in the Nathrop area with hikes for all abilities and age levels. Surrounding areas have additional options for exploring our beautiful valley.