Forest Lakes Trail is located deep within the James Peak Wilderness Area, and as the name implies, features gorgeous forests and lakes. Lower Forest Lake and Upper Forest Lake are the main stars of this trail, with some streams and outlying ponds that can be found off-trail. Hikers, trail runners, dog walkers, and adventurers of all sorts love this hike for the moderate grades, abundant wildflowers, and fishing opportunities.
At the East Portal Trailhead, you’ll find plenty of free parking and restrooms. The road to get to the trailhead is gravel and dirt, but relatively smooth. Once you arrive at the trailhead, you’ll need to hike along South Boulder Creek Trail for about 1.2 miles before reaching the Forest Lakes Trail junction.
From here, Forest Lake Trail leads you across a footbridge over the Arapaho Creek, and passes through a thick spruce-fir forest. The trail reaches the small, Lower Forest Lake first, which is set into a marshy flat below tree-line. Continue west, over a boardwalk through a marshy inlet, and up a rugged, steep, portion of the trail. The effort is worth it, as this brings you to Upper Forest Lake, which fills a deep bowl at tree-line. Along these lakes and streams, you can cast a line while Fido cools his paws in the water.
This trail is heavily trafficked, but if you head out on a weekday, you’ll likely be able to avoid the crowds. As you head into the woods, the trail clears out and you’ll be able to enjoy some peaceful solitude with your best pal. From the trailhead, you’ll be hiking almost 10 miles roundtrip, so be prepared to spend most of your day out in the woods! If you’d like to stay a while, camping is permitted 100 feet away from any trails, streams, or lakes, but campfires are prohibited. Please remember to keep your canine companion leashed at all times, and to follow Leave No Trace principles.
The forests, lakes, streams, and flowers along this trail are sure to put a smile on your face and a wag in your dog’s tail!