Wheeler Trail to Mohawk Lakes, McCullough Gulch Trailhead, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado

Wheeler Trail to Mohawk Lakes - 8.3 miles

McCullough Gulch Trailhead

One of five alpine lakes and tarns above Mohawk Lake

One of five alpine lakes and tarns above Mohawk Lake

Round-Trip Length: 8.3 miles (unmaintained travel continues to upper lakes)
Start-End Elevation: 10,975' - 12,073' (12,073' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,098' net elevation gain (+2,260' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: Yes
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Wheeler Trail to Mohawk Lakes - 8.3 Miles Round-Trip

Mohawk Lake is located 4.15 miles from McCullough Gulch via the Wheeler National Recreation Trail, which stretches over 10 miles S-N across the Ten Mile Range.

Though most hikers access Mohawk Lake from Spruce Creek Trailhead, this longer alternative enjoys light crowds and additional wildlife viewing opportunities on the steep up-down traverse between the McCullough Gulch and Spruce Creek drainages.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Wheeler Trail joins the Spruce Creek Trail after 2.3 miles, which turns west past Continental Falls, historic mining cabins and Lower Mohawk Lake to Mohawk Lake.

An unimproved route continues above Mohawk Lake through expansive alpine meadows to five more spectacular lakes in the upper valley:

The Wheeler Trail begins on the north side of McCullough Gulch with a terrific look at Quandary Peak (14,265’), the tallest peak in the Ten Mile Range.

It climbs steeply through a patchy subalpine forest along an east-facing slope to a crest (.55 miles : 11,503’), where grades moderate with good views of the Boreas Pass area.

The trail drops gradually then steeply into a thick spruce-fir forest leading to the Spruce Creek Trail split on the edge of a large marshy meadow (2.3 miles : 10,965’).

The Spruce Creek Trail turns west beside the meadow up to Spruce Creek Road, (2.8 miles : 11,120’), which you’ll follow to its terminus at a water utility station. Cross the dam and follow signs (right) off the road to resume the trail (2.9 miles).

Travel steepens to the Mayflower Lakes split (3.15 miles : 11,285’) and crosses a creek, past which the trail braids in several places. These social trails typically lead to views of Continental Falls, mining remains or established campsites - and in most cases link back to the main trail artery. Do your best to stay on track, and avoid trampling sensitive vegetation.

The trail twists steeply by a mining cabin to a marked split for Lower Continental Falls Vista (3.35 miles : 11,385'). It follows a useful mining cable past the falls split up open rock, moderating to the edge of Lower Mohawk Lake (3.75 miles : 11,810’).

Lower Mohawk Lake lies at treeline below Mount Helen (13,164’), a fine stopping point if limited by time or weather. Continental Falls pour from its outlet, and there’s plenty of shoreline to explore.

The trail continues along the shore before breaking away on a twisting (and braided) climb through treeline to Mohawk Lake (4.15 miles : 12,073’).

Mohawk Lake fills a large circular bowl with scalable walls and a tight but navigable shoreline. Large cutthroat trout are abundant, and you’ll likely find anglers ringing the lake.

A well-traveled route continues up Mohawk’s north side into the dramatically wide upper valley, capped by Pacific Peak (13,950’), Crystal Peak (13,852') and Father Dyer Peak (13,615’).

It skirts a small lake (4.35 miles : 12,219’) and continues across relatively flat open tundra to three more - 4.7 miles (12,334’), 5.05 miles (12,372’) and 5.35 miles (12,438’). A fifth – Pacific Tarn – requires a steep, rocky climb with no discernable route past the fourth lake.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 24.257 W106 04.213 — 0.0 miles : McCullough Gulch - Wheeler Trailhead
  • N39 24.484 W106 03.886 — .5 miles : Steep climb to crest
  • N39 24.885 W106 03.654 — 1.0 miles : Moderate drop toward Spruce Creek
  • N39 25.308 W106 03.531 — 1.5 miles : Fast descent into Spruce Creek drainage
  • N39 25.422 W106 04.058 — 2.3 miles : Wheeler Trail - Spruce Creek Trail junction
  • N39 25.278 W106 04.250 — 2.55 miles : Cross creek to right
  • N39 25.293 W106 04.455 — 2.8 miles : Reach and walk on Spruce Creek 4WD Road
  • N39 25.297 W106 04.512 — 2.9 miles : Resume trail on north side of road
  • N39 25.266 W106 04.754 — 3.15 miles : Mayflower Lakes Trail split
  • N39 25.243 W106 04.872 — 3.3 miles : Continental Falls access trail split
  • N39 25.243 W106 04.993 — 3.52 miles : Trail follows mining cable up by old cabin
  • N39 25.283 W106 05.187 — 3.73 miles : Lower Mohawk Lake
  • N39 25.144 W106 05.377 — 4.15 miles : Mohawk Lake
  • N39 25.225 W106 05.597 — 4.35 miles : Upper Lake #1
  • N39 25.311 W106 05.904 — 4.7 miles : Upper Lake #2
  • N39 25.347 W106 06.247 — 5.05 miles : Upper Lake #3
  • N39 25.487 W106 06.510 — 5.4 miles : Upper Lake #4

Worth Noting

  • The trail braids in several places between the Mayflower Lakes split and Mohawk Lakes. These social trails typically lead to views of Continental Falls, mining remains or established campsites. In most cases they link back to the main artery. Lingering snow will exacerbate these minor navigational challenges.
  • Travel beyond Mohawk Lake (4.15 miles) is fairly well defined and intuitive to the 4th upper lake (see map). These lakes are located in broad, open tundra. Be mindful of changing weather and aim for treeline well before storms develop.
  • The Wheeler National Recreation Trail runs approximately 11 miles S-N across the Ten Mile Range, from McCullough Gulch on the north flank of Quandary Peak to Copper Mountain.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the White River National Forest. No permit is necessary. Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.

  • Campfires are permitted for dispersed camping in the backcountry, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles of treeline, or within 100' of any lake or stream.

  • Contact the Dillon Ranger District (970.468.5400) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip. The office is open M - F from 8am - 4pm.

  • For those not wishing to camp in the backcountry, there are several developed campgrounds within the White River National Forest. Contact the Dillon Ranger District for information on these sites.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted at Mayflower Lakes and all Mohawk Lakes with a valid Colorado fishing license.
  • The Mohawk Lakes hold large populations of native cutthroat trout that can reach 16".

Directions to Trailhead

The Wheeler Trail begins on Road #852, 2.4 miles west of Highway 9 near Breckenridge, CO.

From I-70, take Exit #203 for Breckenridge - Highway 9 and travel 18.3 miles south to Blue Lakes Road (#850). Turn west (right), then make an immediate right on Rd #851 (this is the Quandary Peak Trailhead area).

Continue on #851 past the Quandary Peak Trailhead for 1.7 miles to the split for Rd #852.

Bear right on #852 and drive .5 miles to the trailhead on the right (small sign). There's very limited parking, so be sure to economize space for others.

Road #851 is an improved dirt road suitable for 2WD cars. Road #852 is better suited for high clearance, but most 2WD cars in good condition should have little trouble with a careful approach.

Contact Information

Dillon Ranger District
680 Blue River Parkway
Silverthorne, CO 80498
M - F from 8am - 4pm

White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Starting from Wheeler trail was the perfect beginning. I was the only person at the trailhead in the morning (around 8am) and still the only one when I returned. It's an easy to miss TH, just pops up in the bend of a road so pay attention. Due to the solidarity on the trail, I questioned myself several times if I was even on the right trail, especially as it dropped more and more in elevation. Remember, what goes down must come up! Eventually meeting up with Spruce Trail, I was still the only hiker. Eventually at the lake by approx 10am, I was STILL the only soul in sight. Now comes the entire reason I'm writing this comment: the trail to thr upper lakes is to the LEFT side of the valley when you ate first looking at the lower lake. LEFT. I saw a "well defined social trail" that headed toward the waterfalls directly behind the lower lake and thought, surely this must be the way! And it "felt" like it was the way. However, once I hit the steep wall in front of me, all signs of a trail were lost, but there were the occasional cairns marking a faint path so I thought I was still on track. I placed my own cairns at strategic points so I could find my way back. When I reached the top of the waterfall, there was a beautiful pool that I knew wasn't the upper lakes, but was an amazing place of solitude and respite nonetheless. I could garner from here the lake was over another steep ridegeline ahead of me, but based on the time it took me to route-find and scale the wall I just came up, I didn't have enough time left before the storms rolled in to adventure further. I was a little disappointed in not making it to the proper final destination but satisfied anyway. On the return trip, there were gobs and gobs of people, but again no one on Wheeler trail. Message of the day: YES you are on the right trail but stay LEFT!"
Becky W  -  Colorado  -  Date Posted: September 10, 2017
"Wheeler Trail was empty. We saw no hikers. Spruce Creek Trail was very busy. We ran into at least 40 hikers and three other groups who had gear to camp out. Many of the hikers didn't have water. Water is definitely needed especially for the hike UP to the Mohawk lakes. TONS of mosquitoes at Mayflower Lake but up higher fewer bugs for sure. We didn't know that up at the Lower Mohawk Lake there were campsites under the few scattered trees. If there hadn't been a thunderstorm in the forecast we might have hiked and camped at Lower Mohawk Lake but decided for safety to camp at Mayflower."
Jet  -  Englewood, CO  -  Date Posted: July 19, 2016


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