Olsen Lake, Grouse Creek Trailhead, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado

Olsen Lake - 11.2 miles

Grouse Creek Trailhead

West Grouse Creek

West Grouse Creek

Round-Trip Length: 11.2 miles (see Worth Noting for details)
Start-End Elevation: 7,835' - 11,268' (11,315' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +3,433' net elevation gain (+3,625' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Olsen Lake - 11.2 Miles Round-Trip

Olsen Lake is located 5.6 miles from Grouse Creek Trailhead in the Holy Cross Wilderness.  This small lake is ringed by thick timber at the base of a steep ridge, just over which is the Beaver Creek Ski Area. Its open south shore is ideal for camping, with access to a rolling landscape of talus bowls and alpine ridges that see few people.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

While the lake is nondescript, the hike itself is compelling, especially the first two miles through long stretches of flower-studded aspen groves. Olsen Lake comes highly recommended in the fall for its brilliant colors and abundant berries along West Grouse Creek:

The Grouse Lake Trail heads SW across open grassy slopes to the Grouse Lake – West Grouse Creek Trail split (.52 miles : 8,145’).

The West Grouse Creek Trail veers right to a bridge (1.0 miles : 8,435’), then enters a long stretch of grassy aspen groves beside the creek. Young aspen coupled with the relative absence of mature conifers indicate a recent disturbance that renewed the arboreal cycle. This leafy, food-rich area is a good place to find wildlife.

The trail climbs steadily to an unmarked split for an old portion of the Meadow Mountain Trail (1.5 miles : 8,793’), and through a young lodgepole forest thinned by a blow-down (2.0 miles). The forest service has done an excellent job clearing the way, though some trees still cross the trail.

The trail rises in a thicker, healthier forest to a bridge crossing (2.6 miles : 9,481’), past which grades moderate across a long, open slope with good views back at the Gore Range. Note swaths of skunk cabbage in sunny areas along the damp creek bank.

Grades are variously moderate and steep on a more rugged path through 3.65 miles (10,130’), skirting a few large talus slopes that seem a bit out of place. Pockets of level terrain between the trail and creek are good places to improvise a campsite.

The trail graduates into a thick, moss-draped subalpine forest up to the Holy Cross Wilderness Boundary, where backpackers must self-register (4.7 miles : 10,675’). You’ll run just below Waterdog Lake before reaching the boundary, however it’s largely concealed by timber.

Despite great efforts to clear the way, deadfall still spans the trail in several places leading to the Olsen Lake Trail split (approximately 5.05 miles : 10,860’).

The Olsen Lake Trail breaks west and twists past talus bowls and small ponds, leveling on the final approach to Olsen Lake (5.6 miles : 11,268’). Pick your way to the open SE shore, which has good views of the immediate area and space to camp and fish.

Scale the unnamed ridge above to an unnamed 12,161’ peak that has excellent views across the Beaver Creek Ski Area and Holy Cross Wilderness.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 35.633 W106 26.056 — 0.0 miles : Grouse Creek Trailhead
  • N39 35.367 W106 26.464 — .52 miles : Grouse Lake Trail - West Grouse Creek Trail split
  • N39 35.235 W106 26.933 — 1.0 miles : Cross creek on wide, sturdy bridge
  • N39 35.184 W106 27.433 — 1.5 miles : Trail intersected by faint service road
  • N39 34.817 W106 27.633 — 2.0 miles : Pass through lodgepole forest blowdown area
  • N39 34.414 W106 27.880 — 2.6 miles : Cross creek on bridge
  • N39 34.143 W106 28.138 — 3.0 miles : Variously steep and moderate intervals along creek
  • N39 33.926 W106 28.458 — 3.5 miles : Trail grows more rugged in thick forest
  • N39 33.697 W106 28.878 — 4.0 miles : Skirt base of talus fields
  • N39 33.451 W106 29.277 — 4.5 miles : Moderate segment leading to Wilderness Boundary
  • N39 32.947 W106 29.768 — 4.7 miles : Holy Cross Wilderness Boundary
  • N39 32.958 W106 29.833 — Olsen Lake Trail turns west and up from West Grouse Creek Trail
  • N39 32.954 W106 30.165 — Olsen Lake Trail skirts small pond
  • N39 32.992 W106 30.188 — Final Approach
  • N39 33.029 W106 30.234 — 5.6 miles : Olsen Lake

Worth Noting

  • When this trail was hiked, snow covered the Olsen Lake Trail split. Distances provided here for the split are very close but not precise. Anticipate the Olsen Lake Trail split shortly past the Holy Cross Wilderness Boundary.
  • The forest service has done an excellent job clearing deadfall, but numerous fallen trees still cross the trail. Anticipate some improvisation through obstructed areas.
  • Portions of the trail are faint leading to and past the Holy Cross Wilderness Boundary, and along the Olsen Lake Trail. Look for cut logs and tree etchings along the way for guidance.
  • Be bear aware, especially through lower portions of the trail where berries are abundant.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area. Self-registration permits are available at the trailhead and/or Wilderness Boundary. There is no fee or limit to the number of permits issued. Backpackers must carry a completed registration form with them for the duration of the trip.

  • 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 (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any lake or stream in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area.

  • Contact the Holy Cross Ranger District (970.827.5715) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip. The office is open M - F from 8am - 4pm.

  • There are numerous developed campgrounds in the White River National Forest. Contact the Holy Cross Ranger District for information on these sites.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • The Holy Cross Wilderness requires a member of each party to self-register at the trailhead and carry a copy of this form with them for the duration of their trip. There is no fee or limit to the number of permits that can be issued. These free permits are designed to help the Holy Cross Wilderness manage land use for the future.
  • Dogs must be leashed at all times.

Directions to Trailhead

The Grouse Creek Trailhead is located 1.4 miles south of I-70 (Exit 171) on Highway 24.

From I-70, take Exit 171 (just west of West Vail) and follow it south past the Holy Cross Ranger District Office to the Trailhead on the right.

Contact Information

Holy Cross Ranger District
24747 US Highway 24
Minturn, CO 81645

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

Trip Reports

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