Fourmile Lake (Weminuche Wilderness)

  • Rating: Difficult

  • Distance: Fourmile Trail: 5.6 miles (1-way), Anderson Trail: 8.1 miles (1-way)

  • Elevation

    • Trailhead: 9200 feet 

    • Gain: Fourmile Trail 2500 ft (1 way), Anderson Trail 2900 ft (1 way)

    • Max: 11,500 feet (Anderson)

    • Lake: 11,190 feet

  • Road Status: Fourmile Road (FR645)

  • Trail: Fourmile (569) or Anderson (579)

  • Trailhead Directions (13.2 miles north of Pagosa Springs)

  • Trail Map

  • Notes: A long day hike - leave early to beat the thunderstorms).  Stream crossing will be impassible in early summer. 

Nestled high in the Weminuche Wilderness near Pagosa Springs, Fourmile Lake is one of the more accessible subalpine lakes in the Weminuche Wilderness because the trailhead is fairly high (9,200 feet), and the lake sits just below treeline at 11,190 feet. The Fourmile Watershed supplies residents in Uptown Pagosa Springs with drinking water. The spruce beetle have recently killed the majority of the mature spruce and fir, but there is an abundance of younger trees replacing the standing dead.  

Fourmile Lake can be accessed from either Fourmile Trail (569) or Anderson Trail (579).  Both trailheads begin at the same parking lot at the end of Fourmile Road.  The 1st parking area that you encounter is mainly for horse trailers.  Bypass the 1st parking area and drive just a little further to the upper parking area at the end of the road.  There are pit toilets in both parking areas.

Fourmile Trail is the most direct route to the lake.  Anderson Trail is longer because it has a more gradual grade with many switchbacks, but it also has more elevation gain.  Combining both trails can make a great 13.6-mile loop.  "Descending" the Anderson Trail is not all downhill - you gain over 1,100 feet and crest two 11,500 foot ridges on your way "down". 

Fourmile Falls is a popular day hike and is located 3 miles from the Fourmile Trailhead.  The falls is actually on Falls Creeks, which is a small tributary to Fourmile Creek.  The mainstem of Fourmile Creek has an even more impressive waterfall just upstream of Falls Creek, but there is not a well-established trail to its base.  

From the Fourmile Trailhead, the trail drops about 200 feet in elevation, and after crossing 2 small streams, begins to parallel Fourmile Creek.  In early August the trail is loaded with wild raspberries, but be careful because they are intermixed with toxic twinberry and baneberry.  Just after mile 1, there's an unmarked trail junction.  Take the left fork rather than the outfitter trail to the right.  About halfway to the falls, you'll have to cross a fairly large tributary that may be impassible at during May and early June.  The grade is moderate until you reach Fourmile Falls. 

 

As you approach the falls, it's confusing because the trail forks.  Take the left fork and climb towards the falls as opposed to taking a well-worn path that dead ends at Falls Creek and some serious deadfall. You'll climb briefly and then have to cross Falls Creek.  Once you cross Falls Creek, the trail climbs steeply toward the base of Fourmile Falls. The trail splits again - left provides direct access to the falls (worth seeing), right continues to climb steeply toward the lake.

The most difficult part of the hike is between mile 3 and 5 because this rocky section of trail gains about 1500 feet.  The trail also crosses Fourmile Creek 4 times, which can be difficult at high water.  At mile 4.4, you'll reach a trail sign directing traffic either to Fourmile Lake or Turkey Lake.  Stay left and begin climbing to an open meadow with amazing mountain views and lush vegetation lining Fourmile Creek.  At this point, the trail mellows significantly, and you're almost to the lake, which sits in a bench surrounded by trees with peak 12,603 towering 1,400 feet above.  The shoreline around the lake is flat and relatively open.  Near the outlet of the lake, the Fourmile Trail and Anderson Trail merge.    

If you want an off-trail excursion, Upper Fourmile Lake sits on the bench directly north.  It's a half mile further and 500 feet higher.  Also, peak 12,603 can be accessed from the Upper Lake.  You may encounter bighorn sheep on the slopes of this rugged (but accessible) peak.  There is a faint outfitter trail that passes by both the upper lake and peak, splitting off Anderson Trail about a third of a mile from Fourmile Lake.

If you choose to take Anderson Trail back to the parking area, be prepared for another 1,100 feet of climbing, lot of switchbacks, and it crosses an exposed ridge so be weary of lightning.  The wildflower-lined trail passes on the edge of lush wetlands surrounded by 12,000-foot peaks (including Pagosa Peak).  The trail also provides an alternative way to access Pagosa Peak (you'd have to leave the trail at your discretion).  The lower section of the trail passes through beautiful aspen groves.  

 
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