Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lincoln Creek Road - Petroleum & Anderson Lakes

Snuck out of the tent just after 6 a.m. to get in a few miles exploring what lay further up the valley above the campground. 

Time:  2:50
Distance: 13.43 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Average
Weather: Partly sunny and warm

With the sun just striking the tops of the thirteeners down the valley from the campground, I set off jogging up the Lincoln Creek Road. Past the campground, the already-rough road narrows and winds its way through sub-alpine meadows and fingers of forest that drop down toward Lincoln Creek from the wooded slopes above. A few early risers camped in the dispersed camping sites along the road were stirring as I ambled by.

An early morning view up Lincoln Creek Road.

 I didn't have a clear plan for the run, just planned on going until I ran out of road or time. After several miles, the road enters the Lincoln Mining District. Silver mining began in the area in the late 1800s and got busy around 1900 when the Ruby Mine opened. Today, the mining district is still comprised of private mining claims and a couple of modern cabins sit on that land. The Ruby Mine area is typically completely hammered, producing a toxic stew of metal-laden waters evident in the stained rocks and lifeless tailing piles. Still, seeing the impressive switchbacks that climb Ruby Mountain up to the mine forces one to pause and consider the perseverance, persistence and pluck that miners of that era had to have to endure the challenging conditions of mining at about 12,000 feet. 

The sign welcoming visitors, including runners, to the Lincoln Mining District.

Not far past the Ruby Mine, the Lincoln Creek Road ends rather unceremoniously. In fact, the road simply disappears into a grassy meadow a fair distance from the head of the valley.  Some of the lands at the end of this valley, a 3.8 square mile parcel that includes Ruby Lakes, is included in the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal a coalition of organizations is now working to build support for. For info on the Ruby Lakes parcel proposal, click here.

 Looking up the valley from the end of Lincoln Creek Road.

From the road's end, I turned around and ran back about half-mile and hung a left up another rocky road to the Petroleum and Anderson Lakes trailhead. After bushwhacking for a few minutes through the dense underbrush to find a place to cross Lincoln Creek (I hate running with wet feet...unless absolutely necessary), I ran up to the trailhead, past a couple of gates and started climbing to Anderson Lake. This trail follows an old two-track (now closed to vehicles) that snakes up through the woods, quickly emerging above treeline.

First up was Anderson Lake.

After a short climb, the first of the two Petroleum Lakes appears, this one filled with good-sized trout and surrounded by one of the most amazing wildflower displays I've ever seen. 

After a steep, but quick climb up alongside a stream cascading down the slope to this lower lake, the main Petroleum Lake appeared, with the surrounding mountains reflecting perfectly in the lake's still waters.

From the lake's edge, I could see a faint trail continuing up and over a relatively low pass. I spent a good five minutes debating whether to head up to see what was over the other side, but good sense and time obligations won out and I headed back the way I came, pausing now and then to soak up the scenery.

The return run back down Lincoln Creek Road was relaxing and quick. I managed to pick up the pace and bit and put in a good effort from the trailhead back to the campground. By the time I got back to our site, the morning clouds had pretty much cleared out, giving us the fourth perfect day of this long weekend.

JP, jP and CP were just finishing breakfast when I showed up. Leftover oatmeal and cereal awaited.

After a bit of food and before it was time to pack up the gear, I had a bit of time to kick back and contemplate the foresight, hard-fought battles and good luck whose legacy are the public lands that so define Colorado.  What's more, those battles continue today in the form of citizen-led efforts like the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign

Elevation gain: 2,103 feet.


  1. Jim, fantastic photos and write up of your family camping trip. Now you got me really itching to hit the high country this weekend!

  2. There be no finer place! I strongly recommend the Lincoln Creek area. There are a couple others trails off this road - New York Creek and Tabor Creek Trails.

  3. Just checking out your blog for the first time. It's awesome. When you said you were driving through Leadville on Sunday, you didn't mention you were heading home from these incredible runs! Love the pictures and accompanying adventures. What a weekend that must have been. Lincoln Creek Road is now on my list!

  4. Thanks for the shout-out, Woody. Good to know someone reads this stuff (besides my dad). The Lincoln Creek area is nice. We will definitely be back!