The trailhead for the Lake Fork Trail begins at a convenient parking area just outside of South Fork, which is equipped with restrooms and ample parking space. The soothing babbling and rushing of the water over the cascade falls of Lake Fork Creek will accompany you on this relatively short trail in the Rio Grande National Forest, as you hike through a high-walled canyon lined on both sides with Ponderosa Pine and shrubs. The creek remains only a few feet from the trail, so frequent stops will keep you and your pup hydrated and cool. As you reach the end of the canyon, the trail begins to climb gently and flatten out into wildflower-strewn meadows dotted with Aspens. The views from the meadow at the top of the climb are of Table Mountain in the distance, and Shaw Lake to the west, and there are boulders to sit on to rest and contemplate the scene, perhaps have a snack or lunch.
If there is a difficult section on this trail, it's at a rock slide crossing in the canyon, and good hiking boots are handy as you clamber over the boulders and rocks. A few spots could be called steep, but those are mercifully brief, and the sometimes narrow path brings you and your pooch closer to the natural beauty around you. This is not a heavily trafficked trail, but if you meet up with a horse, bike or other hikers, be sure to move to the side to let them pass safely.
You may see elk as you walk, along with other mammals and many birds, including majestic birds of prey like hawks and eagles. In the fields, mice and other small rodents rustle among the grasses, and at times you'll encounter hundreds of butterflies and bees hard at work pollinating the wildflowers and raspberries.
The Lake Fork Trail ends at its intersection with the Tie Hill Trail, and this is a pawrfect spot to begin the "back" part of "out-and-back." If you're looking for solitude, and a fun trail for Fido with lots to see, this is the one for you!
Part of this trail crosses an area of rock slides and necessitates climbing over the boulders and rocks. Wear good hiking shoes and possibly hiking gloves. There is also very little shade on the trail itself, so come prepared with sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.