Three Lakes Loop — Kebler Pass, Colorado — Mini Review for Hikers with Joint Disease, Joint Replacements, or Neuromuscular Deficiencies

© 2013 Peter Free


07 July 2013


Photograph of Three Lakes Loop vista, Kebler Pass, Colorado for Peter Free review of that hike.


Though short and easy, this trail will cause arthritics problems with inflammation


This trail is about as easy as it gets in Colorado’s mountains.  But its close to three mile length is rocky enough in places to cause arthritic inflammation for people who are prone that way.


The review is intended for folks (like me), who have significant enough physical deficiencies to make the longer, steeper hikes more taxing than they for are for people with a full set of abilities.



What lakes are in the loop?


The three lakes in the loop are Lost Lake Slough, which you can see as you enter the parking lot area, Lost Lake, and Dollar Lake.


Knowing this makes it a bit easier to know where you are on the loop trail, which is sometimes confusingly signed.





The trail head for Lost Lake reportedly sits at 9,629 feet (2,935 meters).  The trail tops out at 9,973 feet (3,040 meters).


Keep in mind that this physiologically far below Colorado’s higher peaks.  Just because you handle the Loop well does not forecast how you will respond to exertion a few thousand feet higher.



How to get to the Three Lakes Loop


Take the Kebler Pass Road (County Road 12) from Crested Butte for about sixteen miles and turn left on County Road 706.  Drive another two miles to the Lost Lake Campground.  Go right, past the fee area sign — which is located at the end of Lost Lake Slough — and uphill.  There is a separate lot designated for hikers and picnickers.  No fee applies to hikers and picnickers.



The trail


Begin by walking through the campground to find the sign for 0.9 mile uphill trail to Lost Lake.


The trail sign for the Three Lakes Loop is first posted a few meters below Lost Lake, at its outlet stream.  The sign indicates that you should cross the narrow stream there.  If you do, you are likely to get wet.  It is easier to cross on downed logs at the edge of the lake proper.  But watch your balance.  Some of the rotting logs will move, as you step on them.


Although it is not obvious, you will be hiking counterclockwise on the Loop and away from Lost Lake.  A second Three Lakes sign shows up on the flat portion of the trail, shortly before you get to a sign designating a sightseeing detour to a waterfall (which is worth seeing) 0.1 miles off the circuit.


After visiting the waterfall, the Loop continues on to another detour to Dollar Lake (which prettier than Lost Lake) and then downhill to Lost Lake Slough, which you drove by when you passed the fee area sign.



Easy hiking for people, without physical impediments


The trail to Lost Lake is less than a mile and constitutes a mild uphill.  On July 4, when we were there, some of the people coming down were wearing flip-flops.  A little girl bounced her merry way down the trail in a pair of Crocs and no socks.


Especially notable, an obese and admirably intrepid woman was wearing a shoulder surgery sling on her left arm, carrying a fishing pole in her right hand, while simultaneously leading the way for her two children.  She had the energy and the breath to give us a friendly greeting.


Most of the Loop is characterized by a gently undulating dirt path with granite rocks embedded in it.  These present little difficulty because most of them are solidly planted and do not move, when you step on them.


However, below Dollar Lake, along the mild descent to the Slough, the rocky trail character increases.  In my arthritically decrepit condition, this section quickened the inflammatory process.  By the end of the short hike, I was having my characteristic difficulty walking.


That is why I recommend this trail as test case for people, who are uncertain of their ability to tackle Colorado’s easier 14ers.  Even the least challenging of these peaks are double the Loop distance, much steeper, and feature noticeably less stable rock.



What about the aesthetics of the Three Lakes Loop?


This is not a spectacular trail, but the waterfall and Dollar Lake are satisfying.


On the other hand, Lost Lake and Lost Lake Slough are too crowded to please the wilderness-inclined, at least during the summer.


The vista, pictured above, is visible from a couple of places on the trail.



Recommended, especially for those with mild physical impediments


This is an easy, sub-three mile trail.  People with mild physical impediments can use it as an initial indicator of their ability to tackle more difficult terrain.