Lost Canyon

Buena Vista, Colorado (Chaffee) Technical Rating: 2-4

Last Updated: 05-22-2018

Highlight
Status: Open
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 11.7 Miles
Category: Altitude, Forest, Mine
Highest Elevation: 12,503 '
Duration: about 3 hours
Shape of Trail: Out & Back
Best Direction to Go: N/A
Connecting Trails:
Nearest Town:
Buena Vista
Nearest Town w/ Service:
Buena Vista
Nearby Trails:
Flume Creek
Forest Service Road: # 398
Forest Service / Park District:
San Isabel National Forest / Leadville Ranger District

Lost Canyon Highlights

Highlights: Lost Canyon - Buena Vista, Colorado

Situated in the San Isabel National Forest, halfway between Leadville and Buena Vista, Lost Canyon is a fantastic day drive for any 4wd vehicle. Home to some great primitive camping, this off-road trail delivers some of the best overall views you can find in the area. You can observe multiple, 14,000+ foot peaks on this drive and also gaze down on several of the largest bodies of water in the area including Clear Creek Reservoir, Twin Lakes, Mt Elbert Forebay, and even Turquoise Lake. During the fall, this trail provides spectacular aspen viewing because of the plethora of Aspen all along the trail. If scenery really isn't your thing, try your luck at gold panning and hope to strike it rich in the popular Cache Creek.

Technical rating: (2-4) 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

From Granite, Colorado, halfway between Leadville and Buena Vista on Highway 24, look for County Road 398 directly behind SAGE Outdoor Adventures. There is a green and white sign on the west side of the highway marking the direction for Lost Canyon Road.

 

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:

39° 2' 36.78"N
106° 15' 58.97"W

Topo Maps:

GPS Exchange File:

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Route Description

Lost Canyon starts as a graded dirt road and stays this way till it climbs up out of the trees near Gold Basin Mine. From here the trail climbs a somewhat steep slope riddled with small rocks, typical of most high alpine routes, and will require a low-end transfer case. Still suitable for stock 4wd vehicles, the trail continues across the ridge line over the same small rocks keeping the trail bumpy and slow. Nearing the end of the trail, drivers will encounter two short, fairly steep declines that could provide a significant challenge to a stock vehicles when it's wet.

1: Turn onto County Road 398 (0.0mi)

Lost Canyon - Waypoint 1: Turn onto County Road 398 Lost Canyon - Waypoint 1: Turn onto County Road 398 Lost Canyon - Waypoint 1: Turn onto County Road 398

From highway 24, turn west onto County Road 398, right behind Sage Outdoor Adventures.

2: Stay Left (2.8mi)

Lost Canyon - Waypoint 2: Stay Left Lost Canyon - Waypoint 2: Stay Left Lost Canyon - Waypoint 2: Stay Left

After about 3 miles, the easy dirt road you came in on splits at a Y. Take a left and head south on FS 398.

At this Y intersection you will find lot's of open space for primitive camping. This is also where the unlicensed route starts, so you may see a number of truck and trailers in the area.

3: Flat, Open Camping Area (3.7mi)

Lost Canyon - Waypoint 3: Flat, Open Camping Area Lost Canyon - Waypoint 3: Flat, Open Camping Area Lost Canyon - Waypoint 3: Flat, Open Camping Area

Not long after starting the trail, you come to a very flat, wide open area amongst the trees. This is a very popular camping location since it is easily accessible. If you are looking to camp in a trailer, this is a fantastic location. Stay straight on the main road to continue the trail.

4: Camp Spot (5.3mi)

Lost Canyon - Waypoint 4: Camp Spot Lost Canyon - Waypoint 4: Camp Spot Lost Canyon - Waypoint 4: Camp Spot

At the third switchback, look to your left where you will see a small camp site hidden in the trees. This site provides amazing views back down into the valley you started in where you can see all the way to Leadville. Two or three tents should be able to fit in this area.

5: Hard Right at Private Log Cabin (6.9mi)

Lost Canyon - Waypoint 5: Hard Right at Private Log Cabin Lost Canyon - Waypoint 5: Hard Right at Private Log Cabin Lost Canyon - Waypoint 5: Hard Right at Private Log Cabin

Follow the trail as it heads north, making a hard right. The property in this area is all private, so please be respectful.

6: Climb Uphill (7.9mi)

Lost Canyon - Waypoint 6: Climb Uphill Lost Canyon - Waypoint 6: Climb Uphill Lost Canyon - Waypoint 6: Climb Uphill

You will see an old metal mining structure on your left to the south. At this point the trail becomes slightly rougher as you climb uphill.

7: Stay Left (8.1mi)

Lost Canyon - Waypoint 7: Stay Left Lost Canyon - Waypoint 7: Stay Left Lost Canyon - Waypoint 7: Stay Left

After the mining structure, stay left on the more maintained road. Both roads do parallel each other and eventually meet again, but at the time of this write up (July 2016), the higher route to the right had a dangerous, off camber washout not suitable for stock vehicles or novice drivers.

8: Stay Right (8.6mi)

Lost Canyon - Waypoint 8: Stay Right Lost Canyon - Waypoint 8: Stay Right Lost Canyon - Waypoint 8: Stay Right

It's not long before the two roads meet again. Stay right at every opportunity as the two roads to the left lead to the active Gold Basin Mine. The public is welcome to visit the mine as long as the gate is open. The mine provides an opportunity to rent gold panning equipment so you can pan like a real old time miner.

9: Stay Left (9.7mi)

Lost Canyon - Waypoint 9: Stay Left Lost Canyon - Waypoint 9: Stay Left Lost Canyon - Waypoint 9: Stay Left

Once above tree line, after the road has leveled off from climbing, you come to another Y intersection. Stay left and go south to continue the trail. Going right will take you to a scenic overlook where you can gaze down upon Twin Lakes and across the valley to 14,439 foot Mt Elbert.

Don't forget to stop and check out the abundant wildflowers.

10: Stay Left (10.2mi)

Lost Canyon - Waypoint 10: Stay Left Lost Canyon - Waypoint 10: Stay Left Lost Canyon - Waypoint 10: Stay Left

As you appear to crest the ridge, continue left towards the old cabin ruins southeast. The route to the right will lead you towards another scenic overlook where you can see Quail Mountain, Mt Belford, and Mt Oxford.

11: Trail Ends (11.7mi)

Lost Canyon - Waypoint 11: Trail Ends Lost Canyon - Waypoint 11: Trail Ends Lost Canyon - Waypoint 11: Trail Ends

3.3 miles past the cabin ruin, and after a few steep descents, the trail comes to an end at a scenic overlook of Clear Creek Reservoir. The is a large turnaround here and we found it to be a great spot to stop for lunch and enjoy the views.

Camping and Lodging

Camping & Lodging: Lost Canyon - Buena Vista, Colorado

There are no commercial campgrounds in the immediate area, but the trail has many established primitive camping spots from bottom to to top that are very accommodating whether you are looking for a large opening for a few RVs or a secluded spot in the trees for your single person tent.

Wp7c

Ryan Boudreau

Hi, I'm Ryan! I am a Colorado native and I've been wheeling since I was 16 years old. I grew up with a relentless passion for...

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