Often hikers have to walk miles to get to a spectacular, rarely seen lake in Colorado, but not with this trek. Brady Lake may be one of the most beautiful lakes in Colorado and the hike is just 1.4 miles to get there. For an added treat, a walk off-trail through the woods, brings visitors to a second amazing lake, Sopris Lake.
The hike to Brady and Sopris lakes starts near the Missouri and Fancy lakes trailheads (directions below). Drive 1.2 miles past the Missouri Lakes trailhead to where the road ends at a very small parking. Grab your stuff and walk a few steps to an unnamed reservoir. Even without hiking, you’ve come to a spectacular place. Come at the right time and you’ll see a cone shaped peak’s reflection in the water. Stand at the water’s edge, near some rocks that form a short path into the reservoir and frame your shot with the rocks, the reservoir and the cone-shaped peak for a great picture.
After a photo stop, look down the path on the right side of the reservoir for a sign, which is the trailhead for this hike. The trailhead may not have a name on it, but it does have free permits.
From here, you’ll quickly notice this is a rarely visited the area. There is a trail, but it’s overgrown, hard-to-follow at times and has many downed trees. In the beginning I was hopeful about the trees. Most had been sawed off, clearing the trail. But within a short distance that project had been abandoned and we were climbing over trees — sometimes one tree at a time, sometimes two or three.
The good news? This path follows Sopris Creek almost the whole way to the lake. As you hike, enjoy the sound of the water crashing over the rocks, downed trees and drop-offs in the creek bed. You may even want to photograph some of the small cascades along the way.
About 0.4 miles from the trailhead is a stream crossing. How do you decide which way to go? We found a trail that stayed on the same side of the creek and one on the other side. After much debate, we crossed the creek. That worked. Another 0.4 miles away we came to a large open meadow. This meadow is almost more of a marsh, filled with wildflowers in mid-summer.
From here, the trail is about to get steeper. There’s just 0.6 miles to go, but it won’t be easy. The entire trail climbs 725 feet in the 1.4 miles to Brady Lake and it feel like most of the climbing is in the second half.
Just before Brady Lake, we found a scenic tarn surrounded by wildflowers. Many of us stopped to take pictures, only to find out that just a few steps away was our first view of Brady Lake.
Incredible. Beautiful. Amazing. Spectacular. Yes, many lakes in Colorado are a treat, but this one may wind up in your top 10 for beauty. It was so amazing, we circled the lake to enjoy it from several different angles.
After numerous photos, it’s time to hike to Sopris Lake. You’ve come this far, why not add another quarter mile to Sopris. You’ll want a topo map and/or a GPS with a good map to find your way to Sopris Lake. There is no trail, you’ll be hiking off-trail and climbing over more downed trees to get to Sopris, but it’s worth it. Sopris is another backcountry beauty. You’ll need a wide-angle lens on your camera or you’ll have to walk around the lake to find a good angle to take a photo of this wonderful place.
After exploring Sopris and its tarns, I would highly suggest backtracking to Brady Lake for lunch and the hike back down the trail. Yes, we tried to find the trail from Sopris back to the trailhead, but the trail is faint and we don’t know if we found it or not. We caught back up with the Brady Lake Trail at the meadow 0.8 miles from the trailhead.
Details: The hike to Brady Lake, around it, over to Sopris and back is about 4 miles with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain with all the ups and downs.
Directions: From I-70, take exit #171 for Minturn, Leadville, and Hwy 24. Turn south onto Hwy 24. Drive south 13 miles to Homestake Road #703 (dirt). Turn right. Drive past the Gold Park Campground to mile 8.5. Turn right onto Missouri Creek Road #704. Drive 3 miles on this dirt road to a T. Turn left and you’ll see the Missouri Lakes trailhead. Go past the trailhead, over a creek bed and drive 1.2 miles to the trailhead for Brady & Sopris lakes. If your vehicle can’t make it all the way, there’s a nice parking area about half way down the road (.06 miles). Then just walk the road the rest of the way.
In the area, don’t miss the Missouri/Fancy Pass loop, Hunky Dory Lake and the Seven Sisters Lakes. To find more hikes in Colorado and through the west, check out my extensive list of great hiking ideas.
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