Wheeler Lake

Alma, Colorado (Park County)

Last Updated: 05/26/2020
4.3 / 5 ( 4 reviews )
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Partially Open
Length: 3 miles
Highest Elevation: 12204 feet
Duration: About 3 hours
Shape of Trail: Out & Back
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Alma
Nearest Town w/ Services: Fairplay
Official Road Name: 408
Management Agency: Pike National Forest / South Park Ranger District
District:
Showing 0 trails within 2 miles

Highlights

Highlight: Wheeler Lake
This off-road trail offers breathtaking alpine scenery and challenging obstacles in Breckenridge, Colorado's back yard and is only 1.5 hours from Denver, Colorado. You'll be in constant awe from Montgomery Reservoir, to the Magnolia Mill, all the way up the valley to Wheeler Lake itself.

Weather

7 day forecast for Wheeler Lake

Route Information

Technical Rating:
(DIFFICULT - SEVERE)

Read more about our rating system

Waypoints

1. Parking Area (1.5 mi)
This is a good area to park trailers and air down. Picture is a view from the parking lot overlooking Montgomery Reservoir.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 39.359740, -106.077290

Starting Point: Fairplay, Colorado

From the city of Fairplay, head north on CO-9 for about 10.3 miles. You will pass through the city of Alma. Once you start climbing a large hill, your turn will soon come on the left. Turn left onto Co Rd 4. The road will turn to dirt. Continue down this main road until you reach a fork. Stay to the right at the fork. *** A half a mile down you will reach a parking area next to Montgomery Reservoir. This is a good place to air down and also park trailers. Continue down the dirt road, being cautious as it's only big enough for one vehicle, and the first turn on your right is the start of the trail. ***Note: If you are coming from Breckenridge (heading south) and have a trailer, the turn onto Co Rd 4 is too tight of a hairpin to make. It's a lot easier to pass Co Rd 4 and come in the road at the bottom of the hill, also marked Co Rd 4. The turn is still hairpin but is easier to manage on flatter ground. Take this dirt road 3.2 miles. Be sure to stay on Co Rd 4. The road appears to fork twice; stay left to the first one, and right to the second. The final fork/intersection, take the (high) road to the right along the reservoir.

Camping

Dispersed

Trail Reviews (18)

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Awesome trail. Ran it on a Monday and saw more hikers than 4-Wheelers. Our group of 4 included a TJ Rubicon, XJ with lockers, nearly stock '42 MB and '50 Willys Jeepster with a limited slip rear. Mostly took the easier lines going up and harder lines coming down.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Trail is open to the lake. Very busy on a Saturday. Get there early.

Author:
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Open to a few hundred yards before the lake. Had to cross some snow patches on the way up. Probably another week or so before you can get to the parking area.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Trail is open till the V-notch with some snow. Not sure how much farther it is passable.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Trail is open all the way to the top and in good condition.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
The trail is open to the lake. The trail is in normal condition.

Author:
Status: Impassable
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Impassable due to snow drifts covering trail starting at about a mile from trailhead. Hiked up to the lake and there is about a half dozen more snow drifts across the trail. Some 50+ yards long and several feet deep. I don't see the trail being clear up to the lake for at least another 5 weeks.

Author:
Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
Not sure what for, but the gate is closed.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
The trail will be closed this Friday and Saturday, August 17th & 18th for a work project with the Forest Service.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
There are online reports that Wheeler Lake is clear up until the last ledge where there is a small drift. A few large crawlers manged to plow through the drift but the snow should hopefully clear in the next week or two.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
First time running this trail it is awesome the only drawback is a lot of pinstripes but so be it this trail is a good balance of challenge and fun the lake is great for fishing and there's plenty of things to see along the way this is my new favorite

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Reports that you can now travel all the way to the lake in a vehicle.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
As part of the Set The Free event, we took a group to Wheeler Lake. We hit 2 patches of snow before even coming to Bowling Ball Hill. One of the sections we were able to drive along the top of, the other we had to dig a channel on the high side to keep the Jeeps from sliding down into the brush. Bowling Ball hill was clear and just above the hill we hit one snowfield that wasn't more than a foot deep, but was no issue for us as we were on level ground. The lake was still frozen in a few spots, but the weather was amazing and the views were epic. On our way down, we had to dig a little more in the snow but not a lot. There was a ton of traffic up there for the holiday weekend and the group that ran the trail the next day had no issues.

Author:
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Snow still in valley before Bowling Ball hill going over the top of the stream and then the main climb up Bowling Ball hill is covered and very deep. Lake is still not accessible in vehicle.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Reported that snow has melted and the trail is now clear up to Wheeler Lake.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Reports that the trail is open for use but there are still large snowdrifts that are blocking the trail that you are not able to reach the end. I have updated the status to Partially Open.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
We couldn't have asked for better weather to run this trail in, especially being October in Colorado! Last year at this time the trail was nearly impassible by the amount of snow on it. The traffic was pretty minimal, a few hikers and a few other Jeeps. Our group consisted of two Toyota pickups. Both trucks are built up quite a bit so this trail isn't much of a challenge for them. We did enjoy taking some of the harder lines that we couldn't do in our other truck usually. The Magnolia Mill is still in good shape, but unfortunately someone did graffiti various parts around the entire structure so it kind of takes away from any photos. I'm hoping that will be fixed sometime soon. We made our way to the first big obstacle The Flopper. Both rigs took the right line which made for some good flexing photo opportunities. Once we reached the V-Notch area, we chose to go up the left most route to provide an added challenge. This obstacle is steep and made more difficult because of the added dirt that covers it and the fact that there's always a puddle of water at the bottom to get your tires slick and mud covered. With a little skinny pedal we made it up. Continuing on through the trail and enduring lots of pin striping from the surrounding vegetation, we reached Bowling Ball Hill. It always has a unique feeling driving up this hill as you feel like you're giving it gas but feels like you're going nowhere from all the rocks rolling around underneath your tires. One new change is at the top of Bowling Ball Hill where a large boulder now sits in the middle of the trail. Someone must have used it as a winch point and it got drug from the side. It's big enough that you wouldn't want to rub into it with any body panels. It also makes it a bit difficult getting a good line at the next little rock ledge just around the corner at the top. You may have to back up a few times to line up better. Once to the top we did a little hiking and explored around Wheeler Lake a little. We checked out the mine, hiked out to the car, and checked out all the artifacts still left behind from the old days. It ended up getting pretty windy at the top so I didn't get to fly my drone unfortunately. I was pretty amazed how brown everything was as I'm used to running this trail when everything is such a vibrant green. After a quick lunch it took us no time to get back down to the trail head. Great day on the trail!

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
1st Visit in 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee 29" tires 2" lift. My friends truck was broken down at the top of the trail so he begged me to take him and 200lbs of parts up for recon. We took the alternative "east" route on all obstacles. Even my Grand Cherokee with a 2" lift wasn't tall enough to clear everything in 2009 (and the ruts have gotten way worse. I destroyed the bottom of my Jeep by bending in all of the stock skid plates so badly that the front skid was rubbing on my driveshaft. Please don't take anything truck or SUV UNLESS YOU HAVE 33"-35" TIRES MINIMUM . After I came back I had to replace a drive shaft and a control arm $1200. I've gone up the trail with traffic jams 40 jeeps deep because someone thought there stock 4 runner had "off road capabilities", then had to be towed down the trail. I've also seen tourist try to take a rental suv up here and destroy the sides of the trail because the rock sections were to difficult (so they drove in the bushes). I've now driven this trail about 30 times over 10 years in a 4dr 2013 Jeep Wrangler with a 3.5" lift and 35" tires

Questions & Answers (8)

Q: Am I crazy thinking a stock JL Rubicon Unlimited on 33's could make it through the first 2 large obstacles taking the easiest lines? I'm sick of hiking this trail.
–Josh S (05/22/2020)
–Ryan Boudreau (05/27/2020)
Q: Any recent updates on Wheeler? We'd like to try it tomorrow with 7 Jeeps. We know the trail well and are a little concerned about not being able to turn 7 of us around if snow blocks us. Any info would be appreciated... Thanks!
–Shawna (07/18/2019)
–Shawna (07/18/2019)
–Ryan Boudreau (07/18/2019)
Q: Is camping allowed at the lake?
–Justin Bedard (07/10/2019)
–Ryan Boudreau (07/11/2019)
Q: I was looking to do this trail some time this summer, has anyone been up there lately or know the status of the trail? Thanks, Luke
–Luke (04/23/2019)
–Ryan Boudreau (04/25/2019)
Q: Could a lifted f150 on 35's make it up this trail or is that crazy?
–Nick Obletz (09/28/2018)
–Ryan Boudreau (10/09/2018)
Q: I have a Cherokee XJ w/ 5 inch lift, 31's, open diffs (well, lsd in the rear). Not afraid of a bump or bruise. Any chance I'll be able to make it up this? I've done trails rated at 6 without ever needing to winch, but never a 7.
–Brian Spittell (07/25/2018)
–Gerrad Reynolds (08/05/2018)
–Lauren Martin (07/26/2018)
–Chris K (07/26/2018)
–Alex (07/25/2018)
Q: Does anyone know the status of this trail? Looking to possibly make the trip in the beginning of June, will it still be snowed in?
–Christian Gies (05/28/2018)
–Lauren Martin (06/10/2018)
Q: Any news on this trail for this year yet?
–Colin (06/22/2017)
–Colin (06/25/2017)
–Lauren Martin (06/25/2017)

Writer Information

Lauren Martin

Mapping Crew - Colorado

Lauren Martin started offroading as a small child with her father in a 1996 Toyota Tacoma in the beautiful state of Colorado of which she now calls home. Like many, once they first made the trek to Moab, Utah, they were addicted. Still a lover of all things Toyota, especially Tacoma's, Lauren now has a Tacoma of her own that she enjoys on the trails of Colorado and makes the journey to Moab yearly. Rig: 1998 Toyota Tacoma 3.4L V6 TRD 33" BFG KM2s Siped, 16" TRD Ivan Stewart Wheels, ADS Racing Shocks 2.5" Extended Travel Coilovers with Reservoirs, Total Chaos Uniball Upper Control Arms, All-Pro 3" Rear Suspension Kit, Rear E-Locker, Tundra Brake Upgrade, Trail Gear Front Stinger Bumper and Sliders, CBI Offroad Rear Tube Bumper, Smittybilt XRC8 Winch, Skid Row Offroad Front and Transmission Skid Plates, Low Range Offroad E-Locker Guard, Rock Lights, Rigid DOT/SAE Fog Lights, CB/PA, Custom Satoshi Grille with 12" LED Light Bar
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