Looking at a topo map, I spied a lake called Hunky Dory. How can you skip a lake called Hunky Dory?
Hunky Dory Lake is in the Holy Cross Wilderness, a breathtakingly, beautiful area between Vail and Leadville (directions below). The hike is interesting, it begins on a Jeep road. Not just any Jeep road, but a rough, rocky, lifted-vehicles-with-special-gear, Jeep road.
From the parking area, hike up the road labeled 727. Just a few steps from here, turn left on the Jeep road. Just a few steps in, you’ll see a sign that warns downhill drivers to turn off here.
A quarter mile in, a second sign appears. It warns drivers that “beyond this point, the trail goes from moderate to difficult.” They’re not kidding. A few feet away is a rocky obstacle. Even hikers have to watch their footing, you can only imagine trying to drive here.
As you hike up the steep, rocky road, there is a treat. Often the road is near a loud, gushing creek. When the trees open up, you’ll be able to take photos of the cascades.
About 1.5 miles from the trailhead, there is suddenly a series of signs warning, no snowmobiles. Here you may see a trail split. Walk to the left of the snowmobile signs and look for a way over the creek. Hopefully you’ll see several logs piled up.
On the other side of the creek, the Jeep road and Fall Creek Trail begins. The Jeep road continues 0.8 miles to Holy Cross City, an old mining town with just a couple foundations left. Go right and you should see a sign for Fall Creek Tr. No. 2001. It’s hard to miss it because there’s a funky structure on the trail to keep Jeeps and snowmobiles from traveling this way.
Fall Creek Trail starts next to a large open cirque filled with a scenic meadow and surrounded by towering peaks. The trail can be difficult to follow at times, but try because you don’t want to damage the fragile flowers and plants in this area.
The trail winds along the edge of the meadow about 0.4 miles to a boundary sign for the Holy Cross Wilderness. There’s a permit station here for groups and backpackers. There’s also a trail split. Go straight ahead, Hunk Dory Lake is just a few feet away.
Hunky Dory lake is a peaceful, quiet place away from the Jeep road. The lake sits between a rocky wall and a forest. Up high you may spot a waterfall from Cleveland Lake that feds Hunky Dory Lake. Walk along the rock wall to get different pictures. Then return to the main trail to walk to the opposite side of the lake for more photos. After that, find a spot in the trees or along the shoreline for lunch.
Details: The hike to Hunky Dory Lake is about 4 miles roundtrip with 1,200 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: From I-70, exit 171/Minturn/Leadville. Take Highway 24 south through Minturn. It’s 13 miles to Homestake Road #703. Turn right and take the dirt road past the Gold Park campground to mile 8.5. Turn right on Homestake Road #704 and drive 3 miles to a T. Turn right, go past the Fancy Lake trailhead and a bathroom. Take this rough, dirt road about 1.9 miles past the Fancy Lake trailhead to road 727. (At one point, the road you’re on looks to the left and another road goes straight ahead, take the road straight ahead.) In 2011 and 2012, part of the road was washed out. You can get around the wash out in a high-clearance vehicle or park here and walk to the trailhead.
To find more hikes in Colorado and through the west, check out my extensive list of great hiking ideas. If you haven’t hiked at nearby Fancy Lake, put that hike on your to do list.
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