Fancy Lake, Missouri Lakes Trailhead - Fancy Creek Trailhead, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado

Fancy Lake - 5.4 miles

Missouri Lakes Trailhead - Fancy Creek Trailhead

Fancy Lake (11,540')

Fancy Lake (11,540')

Round-Trip Length: 5.4 miles
Start-End Elevation: 10,017' - 11,540' (11,540' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,523' net elevation gain (+1,597' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Fancy Lake - 5.4 Miles Round-Trip

Fancy Lake (11,540') is located 2.7 miles from Homestake Road in the Holy Cross Wilderness. It fills a steep-walled bowl at treeline, and is one of many highlights on the Missouri Pass - Fancy Pass Loop.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Fancy Creek Trail rises quickly in a moss-draped forest to the lake, and continues on a challenging .7 mile, 888' climb to Fancy Pass (12,390'). While Fancy Lake is more confined than the Missouri Lakes basin, campers will enjoy privacy among knolls that ring the lake, and in thick forests just below it:

The trail crosses the Holy Cross Wilderness Boundary (.2 miles) and undulates to Zen Bridge over Fancy Creek (.85 miles : 10,445'). The bridge is elevated and can be slippery; in some cases it may be easier/safer to cross in the water.

Here it begins a steady climb through a pleasant (if nondescript) forest to a large clearing and vaguely marked creek crossing (2.18 miles : 11,145'). The trail closely follows the creek to this point, but it's largely concealed by timber until the cross.

It crosses the creek and steepens considerably on a corkscrew-like path to the open east shore of Fancy Lake (2.7 miles : 11,540'). Note portions of the trail can be faint on this final approach. Fancy Lake is fairly walled-in, but social trails lead around the bowl to interesting nooks and tall knolls.

The main trail twists above the lake and crosses back over the creek to the Holy Cross City Trail split (2.8 miles : 11,560'). The Fancy Creek Trail clears treeline on a steep climb into the tapered upper valley. Even if not aiming for the pass, it’s worth reaching this point for great aerial views of the lake.

The trail is funneled into a narrow, boulder-lined chute below jagged crags to Fancy Pass (3.4 miles : 12,390’). Snow can make this strenuous approach even more difficult; traction devices are often useful.

Views from the pass, a small notch on the south end of the Holy Cross Ridge, are stunning. The trail drops from the pass into the Treasure Vault Lake basin and joins the Missouri Lake Trail to form an 8.8 mile loop.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 23.445 W106 28.237 — 0.0 miles : Fancy Creek Trailhead
  • N39 23.580 W106 28.265 — .22 miles : Holy Cross Wilderness Boundary
  • N39 23.888 W106 28.583 — .85 miles : Cross Fancy Creek to north side on Zen Bridge
  • N39 24.217 W106 29.156 — 1.65 miles : Moderate climb in thick forest
  • N39 24.353 W106 29.581 — 2.18 miles : Cross creek to S. side and begin steep climb
  • N39 24.466 W106 29.894 — 2.7 miles : Fancy Lake (11,540')
  • N39 24.496 W106 29.810 — 2.8 miles : Fancy Creek - Holy Cross City Trail split
  • N39 24.638 W106 30.399 — 3.4 miles : Fancy Pass (12,390')

Worth Noting

  • Portions of the trail can be faint between the 2.18 mile creek crossing and lake, especially coming downhill. Be mindful of social trails in this area, which lead to viewing areas and backcountry campsites along Fancy Creek.
  • The Fancy Creek drainage is more confined than the adjacent Missouri Creek drainage, with fewer water features and less open space along the way.
  • The Missouri Lakes and Fancy Creek trails see many visitors, especially on summer weekends. Arrive early to secure choice campsites at the lakes.

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 not permitted in the Missouri Creek and Fancy Creek basins (this includes each trail corridor and anywhere on the loop).

  • Campfires are otherwise permitted in the Holy Cross Wilderness 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.

  • Gold Camp is a developed campground on Homestake Road. There are also many undeveloped campsites along Homestake Road with no fees. These are not marked but the turnoffs for each are fairly clear. Be mindful of adjacent private property.

  • 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.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted at the Missouri Lakes, Treasure Vault Lake, Fancy Lake and all creeks in the watershed with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Campfires are not permitted in the Missouri Creek and Fancy Creek basins (this includes each trail corridor and anywhere on the loop).
  • Dogs must be leashed or under strict voice control at all times.

Directions to Trailhead

The Missouri Lakes - Fancy Creek Trailhead is located on Missouri Creek Road, 9.8 miles west of Highway 24.

From I-70, take Exit 171 (just west of West Vail) and follow Highway 24 south for 12.4 miles to Homestake Road (right turn). Anticipate this turn, as it comes quickly on a bend in the road.

Take Homestake Road 7.6 miles to Missouri Creek Road - turn right. Follow this road 2.2 miles to the parking area for each trailhead. The trailheads are located several dozen yards apart in the same parking lot (Missouri is to the left, Fancy to the right).

Homestake and Missouri Creek roads are on graded dirt suitable for all vehicles. The final 2.2 miles are nominally rougher and narrower. Watch for wildlife on the road, especially moose at dawn and dusk. Spaces are limited but roadside parking is permitted in designated areas.

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

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Very interesting"
dale  -   -  Date Posted: October 12, 2016


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