Macey Lakes – 2015, Backpacking

I just realized that, much to my surprise, I have not posted about my previous Macey Lakes trips. I was last there several years ago with Joshua and Luke. Prior to that we backpacked in there in June and the area still had plenty of snow, so we always camped lower, about a mile from the lower lake.

Joshua and Luke on the previous trip to Macy Lakes

Joshua and Luke on the previous trip to Macey Lakes

This weekend Jeff and Troy and I backpacked to lower Macey Lake and hiked to, and fished, the two upper lakes.  This is a 6 mile trek which took 4 hours to hike in and 2-1/2 hours to hike out. I wanted to drive since  Jeff drove on the last trip and Troy on the one before that. But, Jeff planned to bring his Golden Retriever Zeke, and the Avalanche has open places in the back when the seat is down and I didn’t like the odds that the dog might hurt himself. Jeff suggested putting him in the bed, but I didn’t like the idea of closing him up in there for the two hour drive so, I quickly made a platform and added a yoga mat to allow him to be inside the cab.

Wide gaps in Avalanche backseat. Not good for Zeke

Wide gaps in Avalanche backseat. Not good for Zeke

I quickly cut out some OSB to make a platform to cover the gaps

I quickly cut out some OSB to make a platform to cover the gaps

Covered with an old yoga mat the backseat becomes dog-friendly

Covered with an old yoga mat the backseat becomes dog-friendly

We arrived at the Horn Creek trailhead/parking lot, 9000 ft. elevation, about an hour before dark and hiked up to the Rainbow Trail and camped at roughly 9,100 feet.

On Friday morning, at 8AM, we got back on the Rainbow Trail and hiked the 2-1/2 miles to the Macey Lakes Trailhead. Even though the Rainbow Trail is not a particularly steep trail, the Macey Lakes Trailhead is at 10,100 feet, so there is roughly a 1,000 foot elevation gain over this distance.

The sign at the Macey Lakes Trailhead. Note that North Colony Lakes TH is still another 2.75 miles!

The sign at the Macey Lakes Trailhead. Note that North Colony Lakes TH is still another 2.75 miles!

Shortly after we headed up the Macey Lakes trail we signed in.

Jeff signs us into the Wilderness area log

Jeff signs us into the Wilderness Area log

The trail itself is relatively easy and is listed as moderate on the Sky Terrain Trail Map. After hiking 2-1/2 miles we passed the Copperstain Cliffs and the Macey Falls.

The Copperstain Cliffs on the route to Macey Lakes

The Copperstain Cliffs en route to Macey Lakes

We arrived at the lower lake, 11,500 feet, at noon. This is only about 400 feet of elevation gain per mile over this distance, which isn’t bad, but the overall distance of 6 miles is what makes it tiring. There are three lakes in the Macey Lakes group.

The view of Lower Macey Lake from the trail

The view of Lower Macey Lake from the trail

We camped along the northern edge of the lake right off of the trail in the same camp that Joshua, Luke and I used last time.

We used the same camp as my previous trip

We used the same camp as my previous trip

Upon doing more exploring we found some additional good campsites around the southwest side of the lake, so if the first ones are taken, keep on hiking around the lake.

There are some nice camps around the lower lake (marked using my GPS)

There are some nice camps around the lower lake (marked using my GPSmap 62s)

After setting camp, we hiked up to the upper lake west of the lower lake. The trail to that upper lake can be difficult to follow at times but if you keep heading up the route becomes more obvious and you’ll keep running into the narrow trail.

Meadow flowers along the trail to the upper west lake

Meadow flowers along the trail to the upper west lake

The stream-crossing on the way to the upper west lake. Keep heading uphill

The stream-crossing on the way to the upper west lake. Keep heading uphill

We passed a couple of ponds as we approached the upper lake which were nice, but didn’t hold any fish. Keep going past the ponds as the big lake is behind a large rock wall.

One of the dramatic ponds on the way to the upper west lake

One of the dramatic ponds on the way to the upper west lake

Jeff and I fished the upper lake for a few hours and while I could see the fish swimming, I couldn’t figure out what they were eating, changing flies periodically. Jeff had a little better luck and landed a few, including the largest fish I’ve seen taken in the lakes in this mountain range. He used a Panther Martin lure, I believe.

We returned to camp and ate dinner. It was very windy and fairly cool. The overnight temp reading showed a low of 47 degrees F.

In the morning it was still cool and breezy. We ate breakfast, packed our day packs, and hiked back up to the upper west lake.

Troy kicks back during breakfast, relaxing in his hammock

Troy kicks back during breakfast, relaxing in his hammock

Jeff takes a ground-floor approach to breakfast

Jeff takes a ground-floor approach to breakfast

I brought a folding seat to use around camp. It was a cool 55 degrees, but overall comfortable

I brought a folding seat to use around camp. It was a cool 55 degrees, but overall comfortable

The views are great from the upper west lake, as is typical for the Sangre de Cristo Range. The fishing, however, was slow. I tried everything in my fly box (using fly-and-bubble) and only managed to get four strikes. For the first three strikes, I missed or failed to reel them in before they wiggled off, but the fourth one, in the 10-12 inch range, I landed. All of them ignored my dry flies, though they did strike the Hare’s Ear nymph.

You can barely make out Jeff fishing on the far side of the lake

You can barely make out Jeff fishing on the far side of the lake

Troy landed a really large trout from that spot shortly after I took this photo

Troy landed a really large trout from that spot shortly after I took this photo

After a couple of hours Jeff decided to go exploring. He traversed up a very steep slope, which I thought ill-advised, but he made it and was rewarded with some great views and some caves to explore.

Jeff heads up some steep stuff

Jeff heads up some steep stuff

After noon, I didn’t get any more hits and even tried some lures without any luck. Troy landed a large trout as well using a Daredevil lure, and returned it, after which he took a break and read for a while.

Around 2PM, I did a little exploring of my own, hiking up the basin to the south of that lake.

View of the upper west lake from above

View of the upper west lake from above

Upon returning to camp and after eating dinner I went down to the lake to get some water. I noticed the water was boiling with fish rising. I returned to camp, retrieved my fishing pole, told Troy about the activity and we fished the lake from about 7:30PM until about 8PM each catching small to medium-sized fish. Saturday night was much warmer with much less wind. We made a campfire and enjoyed sitting around, talking about books, and previous trips, etc.

On Sunday morning Jeff hiked back up to the west lake to fish, while I hiked up to the upper south lake where Troy hiked the day before. I took the trail, if you could call it that, along the creek flowing from the upper lake.

The trail I took to the upper south lake

The trail I took to the upper south lake along the creek

I didn’t see any fish in this lake and there was a fisherman there as well who didn’t catch anything during my short visit.

The view of Lower Macey Lake from the upper south lake

The view of Lower Macey Lake from the upper south lake

The upper south Macey Lake, looking south

The upper south Macey Lake, looking south

We left camp at noon and made it out in good time. Our feet were a bit sore from the rocky trail, but as seems to always be the case when backpacking in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, it was a good trip and worth the hike.

I’ve been driving the road to the Horn Creek Trailhead for years and always saw the point of interest sign along the way but never stopped to see what it was, until now. It provides a brief description of Zebulon Pike’s (think Pike’s Peak) exploration in this region.

The Zebulon Pike, Point of Interest sign, along the road between Schoolfield Road and Horn Road

The Zebulon Pike, Point of Interest sign, along the road between Schoolfield Road and Horn Road

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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One comment on “Macey Lakes – 2015, Backpacking

  1. […] for this summer to Macey Lakes and I was invited along. We were there together a few years ago and I was there last summer but it’s become a favorite spot. The hiking distance from the Horn Creek trailhead/parking area […]

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