Bill Moore Lake
Empire, Colorado (ClearCreek) Technical Rating: 3-4
Last Updated: 08-12-2016
Red Elephant Hill, Miller Creek, Bill Moore To Mill Creek Cut Off, The Chutes
Bard Creek, Democrat Mountain, Jones Pass, Mill Creek, Red Elephant Hill
Arapaho National Forest/Clear Creek
Bill Moore Lake Highlights
About 1 hour from Denver, Colorado and situated within the Arapahoe National Forest the Bill Moore Lake 4X4 Road is one of the trails in the Empire Loop, a network of trails just above Empire, Colorado. Offering amazing alpine scenery and fun hill climbs for both the novice and seasoned, this trail is a must do. While you are at it, visit the Hard Rock Cafe in Empire, the original, dating from 1934, and named for the hard rock miners that were its early customers. It predates and is not affiliated with the chain of restaurants that also call themselves the Hard Rock Cafe.
Technical rating: (3-4) Easy
Rutted and/or rocky road. No shelves but rocks to 9". Water crossings usually less than hub deep. Passable mud. Grades moderate, up to 15 degrees. Side hill moderate up to 15 degrees. 4WD under most conditions. No width problems, vehicle passing spots frequently available if less than two vehicles wide.
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Directions to Trailhead
Take I-70 to Highway 40. Go north to the town of Empire. Turn right on Main (this intersection does not have a street light). Travel approximately 1 mile just after turning on Main to the air down area.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates:
39° 46' 20.89"N
105° 41' 1.46"W
GPS Exchange File:
The Bill Moore Lake Trail is part of the Empire 4X4 Loop. The road follows County Road 251 for the first few miles before it joins Forest Service Road 183.1. 95% of the trail has passing areas except at the very end when you climb down into Bill Moore Lake. It starts within a more wooded area along Country Road 251 which is filled with whoop-de-dos and washouts. Once you pass the Conqueror Mine it follows a shelf road before one last narrow switch back. It finally joins with Forest Service Road 183.1 where the forest thickens before it climbs to the fringes of timberline giving way to a general alpine and open space. Once in the alpine zone there are plenty of moderately steep climbs with loose rock. It connects with the Mill Creek and Red Elephant Hill Loop. 4 low and high clearance recommended.
1: Air Down Area
Turn right at the fence to head to the official trailhead. This is also a great location for airing down and disconnecting sway bars. The road will start climbing immediately.
2: Whoop-de-do Number 1
Continue on the main road as it climbs up this first switch back. Each year the make up of this section of the trail changes. This is a fun section of the trail to test your vehicles ability to flex.
4: Whoop-de-do Number 2
Stay straight. Years past this was more whoop-de-do and less wash out. Today its more washout so just pick and plod your way through.
5: Conqueror Mine
Follow the switch back uphill. The Conqueror Mine was an active gold mine back in the mid to late 1800s; production from this mine helped establish the town of Empire.
7: The Chutes
Optional: You can turn uphill here for a more challenging hill climb. It does get narrow with loose rock. If you choose this optional route, turn left at the top of the hill where it meets the main trail.
Stay straight: Continue straight and follow the switch back uphill. Be sure to watch for oncoming vehicles just after the next switch back, there is little to no passing area until you reach the next waypoint.
Stay right. The split ends at the same place. GPS mapping shows the lower road to be the official route.
9: The Chutes - Top
Stay straight. If you choose to come down this way, its a good idea to send a scout down and radio up as there is no passing.
10: Bill Moore Lake Trailhead (183.1) and Miller Creek Dead End Trailhead (171.2)
Follow the trail left uphill.
12: FR 171.3C
Follow the trail left uphill. There are a few different lines to take on this uphill, with the right side being the more easy.
13: FR 183.1A Bypass
Stay right for an easier route. Stay left for the more challenging and scenic route. The route to the left is steep with loose rock, it is a fun climb, but 4 low is recommended.
14: FR 183.1A Bypass
Stay straight on the main road. You will have amazing views down below from this point and also get to see the hill climb you will partake in. There are several pull outs, but keep an eye on newer drivers that may not know uphill has the right of way. The trail generally gets more rough and challenging from this point forward.
Stay left on 183.1. This road eventually dead ends with 1 or 2 dispersed camping locations and includes views to the eastern plains and Denver Metro off in the distance.
Stay straight. USFS MVUM mapping shows this road as 183.1D, but signage shows it as 183.1L
Stay straight. Shortly after this area the trail will descend into the Bill Moore Lake area. It will get narrow and slightly more challenging with few passing spots. Take caution to mind oncoming uphill trail traffic which would have the right of way.
18: Bill Moore Lake
End. There are a few dispersed camping spots which can fit vehicles. Surrounded on 3 sides by nearly sheer cliffs, the lake is framed by Breckenridge Peak to the southwest at 12,889 feet and Witter Peak to the north at 12,884 feet. There are remains of an old cabin within the parking area. Be courteous and leave everything cleaner than when you found it.
Camping and Lodging
There is dispersed camping along the trail after waypoint 10 along the trail. There is also one or two secluded areas at the end of 183.1C and a couple at Bill Moore Lake.
Questions & Answers
Offroaded on 08-12-2016
Conditions: Partially Cloudy
Low Temperature: 32° F
High Temperature: 70° F
Beautiful weekend of camping off the trail of Bill Moore Lake to view the Perseid Meteor Shower Aug 12th and 13th. The temps Friday night dipped into freezing and left a layer of ice on the dog dish. Better temps on Saturday night.
Jen & JD Marshall
Offroaded on 07-04-2016
Low Temperature: 73° F
High Temperature: 87° F
Went up to Bill Moore for the first time on the 4th, traffic was surprisingly light. We took the stock Rubicon so we took all of the 'easy' bypasses to get to through the trail. The trail is open all the way to the lake with only a few bits of snow. One of them pictured here, both cut/plowed out. The larger of these two snow melts has caused a little mud and rutting to occur near the tree there. Be careful on that line and be aware of momentum. I was mildly concerned that I hadn't turned on my lockers when we came across this little obstacle. The lake is in melt and standing water, soooo, mosquitoes! Bring the Deet and put it on before you reach the end of the trail to spare your bloodstream.
Offroaded on 06-25-2016
Status: Partially Open
Low Temperature: 65° F
High Temperature: 70° F
Most of the trail to Bill Moore is in its near summer time condition. There were a few small snow drifts that were less than 6" deep left and some parts of the trail were wet from snow melt. Earlier in the day we met with a Forest Service Ranger who had told us that someone had winched through some of the snow drifts that were on the downhill road into the lake, so we investigated after running Miller Creek. As the ranger had stated the snow drifts had been opened up and with the warm temperature there was almost no snow left on the trail. At the bottom near the Buck Fence a large 3+ foot snow drift was still present along with a good amount of water. We shoveled for about 20 minutes and were easily able to get past the drift. Note: that there is quite a bit of water from melting snow so be cautious not to dig any ruts. We monitored it closely. We were able to make it all the way to the lake. With the warmer temperatures the remaining snow drift should melt quickly.
Offroaded on 06-20-2016
Status: Partially Open
Snow is blocking the trail just past waypoint 15.
Offroaded on 04-30-2016
Status: Partially Open
It was the last day of April and we were on the hunt for some semi open terrain. What we found, was extremely deep, rig swallowing snow. I was in the LJ on 37s, the CJ was on 42s, and the Bronco was on 35s with tire chains. All three rigs are locked front and rear and have winches.
Several fresh inches of snow had fallen the night before and we were making the only tracks from the parking area up the trail. With only several inches under our tires, we made good progress up till the chutes at waypoint 7. The CJ went first and only made it 30 yards before progress stopped and the uphill climb was nothing but an ice sheet under the fresh snow. As he attempted to power through the chute with his big V8, Ryan decided to check out the main route to the right of the chutes. Quickly it became apparent that direction was not a possibility as I was greeted with some extremely off camber drifts towards the downhill side of the trail. While attempting to backup, the LJ slide sideways and dropped a tire of the trail. Out came the winch for a quick self correction to pull it back on the trail, and back to the chutes I went.
The CJ had made it up to the left hand turn in the chutes, but had decided it was more productive to use the winch now instead of trying to throttle out. Once past the turn, he was able to get enough traction again to continue without the winch. As for the Bronco and I, we also had to winch at the same turn spot.
Once we were out of the chute and met back up with the main trail at waypoint 9, the snow became pretty daunting. The CJ plowed the way while the Bronco had to winch a couple times. We reached waypoint 10 at the split for Miller Creek, and found the snow completely impassable to continue. This was the ample opportunity to turn around. Ahead of us, the snow had to have been 7 feet deep with extreme camber into the trees. We turned around and made our way back down the trail to check out some other nearby routes.
The trail received several inches of fresh snow just while we were on it. With the amount of snow we saw, I wouldn't be surprised if the trail is only passable this far till at least the end of May.
Offroaded on 11-08-2015
Status: Partially Open
Low Temperature: 45° F
High Temperature: 55° F
It was the 8th of November and I ran up to Bill Moore Lake with another buddy. I was in my LJ that is locked front and rear, on 37'' tires. My buddy was in a 2dr JK on 37s with only a rear locker.
We started the trail around noon and it was a gorgeous day. Close to 60 degrees all day, and no wind to speak of, even at the top. We didn't encounter any snow till about waypoint 7, and even at that point it was just an inch or so and very spotty. The trail was fairly clear and easy till we got above tree line. Once above tree line the snow got several feet deep in some place. It was a struggle to get to waypoint 15, but we did it without winching, just a lot of back and forth snow busting. We were able to continue through about 8'' or so of snow past waypoint 16 just before the trail drops back down into the trees and has a couple steep downhill sections. The snow was easily 2 feet deep at that point and even if we made it down the hill, coming back up would have proved very very difficult. We opted to turn around at this point. This was 4.8 miles into the trail. Overall, super fun day and I was actually surprised how far we were able to make it considering the snow we have had lately. Won't be open this far for too much longer as another storm is coming in on Wednesday.