Lake Margaret is a dainty, water-filled granite bowl in the Eldorado National Forest that sits at the end of a relatively short hike from a parking area on Highway 88. Granite slabs and boulders surround the lake and provide plenty of space for sunning or picnicking, and the lake, while quite cold, is a refreshing swim after the hike up to its ridge. Surrounded by granite walls and deep forest, there is no established path around its perimeter, but a walk is do-able.
Although the trail is open year-round, the best time to hike it is from early summer to mid-October. The trail is well-marked, but early- and late-season snow makes it more difficult to see. Featuring several ponds circled with willow trees and aspen, the burbling Caples Creek, and small meadows filled with wildflowers from June to late summer, the trail is picturesque and dog-friendly. Though it's steep in some places, almost anyone can hike it without great difficulty, and the kiddos will love climbing around on the granite slabs and boulders that alternate with forest. The undulating topography prevents boredom-induced stupor, and the ever-changing landscape holds something of interest in every step.
Birds and wildlife abound along the trail, although most of the animals are shy and you may only get rare fleeting glances of mule deer, bears, fox and coyotes, among others. Ground rodents like squirrels and rabbits are more likely to cross your path. You might even see a golden eagle above.
Highlights of the hike, depending on what you're seeking, include a meander through a maze-like aspen grove, and scrambling over downed log bridges when Caples Creek is in rush with snow melt. Slogging through the shallower summer creek water, hopping from rock to rock, may appeal more. Rocky gullies and granite ridges provide continuous adventure, and the changing leaves of the aspen in the fall inspire oohs and aahs.
The Lake Margaret Trail offers large rewards in exchange for relatively little effort. You and your furry bestie are sure to have a woofderful time!
This trail requires some steep climbs, boulder scrambling and water crossings, so be sure to come prepared with good hiking footwear and possibly hiking poles. Critters that call this area home include bears, bobcats, porcupines and wolverines. Give them plenty of room to amble away on their own.