Wheeler LakeTrail Re­port

A high-moun­tain gem in Colorado

Jp Magazine - - Table Of Contents -

Wheeler Lake Trail sits nes­tled in a high alpine val­ley in Colorado’s Park County.

This 5-mile in-and-out trail is rated in the mid/up­per mod­er­ate level at a 5 to 7, but it does of­fer a good pucker fac­tor for those will­ing to push their Jeeps a bit. The trail starts at the high el­e­va­tion of 10,800 feet and ends at just more than 12,100 feet at the lake. Most of the fun ob­sta­cles are within the first 1.5 miles of this trail, and it can take you a cou­ple of hours to tra­verse this dis­tance as you play along the way.

Much of this trail crosses pri­vate prop­erty and is nar­row and over­grown with brush, so pin­strip­ing and scratches will hap­pen. There are very few places to pull off and let other ve­hi­cles pass and a very limited sight dis­tance, so pro­ceed slowly and with cau­tion. This area was set­tled in 1861 when gold was dis­cov­ered, and there is still ev­i­dence of the past min­ing ac­tiv­ity as you head up the trail. The gold played out in the late 1860s when min­ers moved on to richer grounds. Sil­ver dis­cov­er­ies brought re­newed pros­per­ity to the dis­trict in 1881, but the sil­ver crash of 1893 ended the hopes and dreams of those that lived here. What re­mains of the town of Mont­gomery lies at the bot­tom of the reser­voir near the park­ing area at the trail­head.

The trail re­quires low range al­most from the get-go, and the scenery is out­stand­ing. You pass the old Mag­no­lia Mill with its beau­ti­ful water­fall. The first ma­jor ob­sta­cle you en­counter is known as “The Flop­per”—a slightly milder by­pass op­tion is avail­able to the left side, but the right­hand line of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to get the pas­sen­ger-side front tire in the air. Those want­ing more of a chal­lenge can try a tippy line up the mid­dle. A short dis­tance up the wind­ing over­grown trail is the best ob­sta­cle sec­tion of the trail, and here you have mul­ti­ple op­tions for break­age and mishaps. I like to call this area “Pick Your Poi­son,” but it is com­monly known as the “V Notch.” The left side of­fers the great­est chal­lenge and has been known to snap axle­shafts if you are too heavy on the throt­tle. The V Notch is the right­hand line, and hav­ing a good spot­ter is es­sen­tial to not slip­ping off the line. The by­pass is a Z-turn through the mid­dle of both harder lines.

From here the trail me­an­ders through heavy brush, water, and some rocky sec­tions. As you near tree line you come to Bowl­ing Ball Hill, a fairly steep and very rocky sec­tion that can change af­ter each rig passes through. A large boul­der marks a tight right­hand turn into a ledge area where you can get in a bind if you aren’t care­ful. From that point on, it’s just a short, bumpy jaunt to the top where you will be greeted with views down on the val­ley and over the lake and water­fall, with wildf low­ers ga­lore. For ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion on Wheeler Lake Trail please con­tact Mile-Hi Jeep Club at mhjc.org; they have adopted and main­tain this trail.

By Traci Clark jped­i­[email protected]­magazine.com Pho­tog­ra­phy: Traci Clark

Martin Cas­tro flexed out his 2005 Jeep Wran­gler Un­lim­ited on the top exit of the V Notch. A Savvy Mid Arm 3 Link and Cur­rie TJ 4-inch coils in the front and Savvy Mid Arm 4 Link with Cur­rie TJ 4-inch coils in the rear of­fer more than enough ar­tic­u­la­tion for the Milestar Patag­o­nia M/T 315/70R17 tires to nav­i­gate the tough­est ter­rain.

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