Granite Lakes, Granite Lakes Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado

Granite Lakes - 13.4 miles

Granite Lakes Trailhead

Upper Granite Lake (11,568')

Upper Granite Lake (11,568')

Round-Trip Length: 13.4 miles
Start-End Elevation: 8,815' - 11,568' (11,626' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +2,753' net elevation gain (+3,359' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Granite Lakes - 13.4 Miles Round-Trip

The Granite Lakes are located 5.95 and 6.7 miles from Mt Nast Colony Road in the Hunter - Fryingpan Wilderness. The lower lake (11,319') sits just below treeline against the west valley wall, and the upper lake (11,568') is .75 miles ahead in a more open setting at treeline.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Both lakes are relatively small but with enough space to camp and fish abundant trout stock.

The trail begins in Nast (31 miles east of Basalt) and follows the Fryingpan River 3.4 miles before turning up Granite Creek and climbing 2100' in just 3.3 miles to the lakes.

It sees light use with short sections along Granite Creek that may require route finding. Visitors will enjoy miles of river access, healthy forests and solitude on the hike to Granite Lakes:

Walk from the designated parking lot and bear left onto Mt Nast Colony Road to find the trailhead on the left. The trail begins on a level path between private homes and the river.

It runs fast to the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness Boundary (.98 miles : 9.045') and undulates along the river in a heavy forest. Stay alert across vague and shifting sections. 

The trail reaches a sparingly marked fork where social trails continue along the river and the main trail splits right into the Granite Creek drainage (3.4 miles : 9,490').

It steepens considerably to meet Granite Creek at an outcrop over a small waterfall (3.75 miles : 9,835') and keeps a challenging pace beside scenic (albeit hard to reach) cascades. 

The trail abruptly fades in a cluttered forest where cut logs indicate a designated route but little else (4.35 miles : 10,330'). Options are limited, but the intended route crosses the creek (left) at 4.55 miles, follows a short rugged stretch along the water and crosses back (right) over a small stream at 4.7 miles into a big meadow. 

Cairns lead up the right side to another stream crossing (4.83 miles : 10,575') past which travel clarifies on a steep push up the valley wall to Lower Granite Lake (5.95 miles : 11,319').

The lake is embedded in the west valley wall with open grass and level timber on the east side. There are a few particularly good campsites at the lake. The main trail moderates in a high and thinning forest to Upper Granite Lake (6.7 miles : 11,568').

This final segment can be vague (especially with snow cover) but is generally easy to follow. The upper lake is small with open grass around much of it that creates a spacious feel.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 17.862 W106 36.323 — Granite Lakes Parking Lot
  • N39 17.698 W106 36.183 — 0.0 miles : Granite Lakes Trailhead
  • N39 17.370 W106 35.877 — .5 miles : Level travel between river and private property
  • N39 17.026 W106 35.660 — .98 miles : Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness Boundary
  • N39 16.782 W106 35.318 — 1.5 miles : Rolling travel in heavy forest along river
  • N39 16.591 W106 34.884 — 2.0 miles : Rolling travel in heavy forest along river
  • N39 16.383 W106 34.425 — 2.6 miles : Pass thru small meadow
  • N39 16.206 W106 34.101 — 3.0 miles : Trail undulates away from river
  • N39 16.025 W106 33.760 — 3.4 miles : Main trail splits right up Granite Creek
  • N39 15.826 W106 33.807 — 3.75 miles : Outcrop over waterfall
  • N39 15.732 W106 33.860 — 3.9 miles : very steep climb beside Granite Creek
  • N39 15.363 W106 33.880 — 4.35 miles : Trail becomes vague and cluttered
  • N39 15.223 W106 33.872 — 4.55 miles : Cross creek to left side, find vague trail
  • N39 15.079 W106 33.916 — 4.7 miles : Cross creek back to right, enter meadow
  • N39 14.986 W106 33.926 — 4.83 miles : Exit meadow, x-creek and resume steep climb
  • N39 14.758 W106 34.070 — 5.5 miles : Steep climb up west valley wall
  • N39 14.511 W106 34.261 — 5.95 miles : Lower Granite Lake (11,319')
  • N39 14.248 W106 34.187 — 6.35 miles : Variously clear-faint path through treeline
  • N39 13.862 W106 34.172 — 6.7 miles : Upper Granite Lake (11,568')

Worth Noting

  • The Fryingpan River features 14 miles of Gold Medal Fishing between Basalt and Ruedi Reservoir. Gold Medal Waters are defined as having a minimum of 60 pounds of trout per acre and 12 trout greater than 14" inches per acre.

  • The Roaring Fork Watershed has one of the longest contiguous sections of Gold Medal water in the state, including 14 miles of the Fryingpan and 28 miles of the Roaring Fork. Only 168 miles (approximately 2%) of Colorado's 9,000 miles of trout streams carry this Gold Medal designation.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness. No fees or permits are required.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals (or 25 with people + stock).

  • Campfires are permitted in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Location-specific restrictions may also apply.

  • Contact the Aspen Ranger District (970.925.3445) or Sopris Ranger District (970.963.2266) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted in the Granite Lakes, Granite Creek and Fryingpan River with a valid Colorado fishing license. Special rules apply to cutthroat trout in these waters. Contact the Aspen Ranger District (970.925.3445), Sopris Ranger District (970.963.2266) or Colorado Parks and Wildlife (970.947.2920) for details. See details for fishing the Fryingpan River in this link.
  • The Fryingpan River supports 14 miles of Gold Medal Fishing between Basalt and Ruedi Reservoir (from its confluence with the Roaring Fork River in Basalt upstream along Fryingpan Road to Ruedi Dam).
  • Artificial flies and lures only.
  • All trout, except Brown Trout, must be returned to the water immediately.
  • Bag and possession limit and maximum size for Brown Trout is 2 fish, 14" long.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness.
  • The trailhead and first mile pass through private property. Park in the designated lot .25 miles from the trailhead and remain on designated roads and trails at all times while outside the Wilderness Boundary.

Directions to Trailhead

The Granite Lakes Trailhead is located 1.15 miles south of Fryingpan Road on Mt Nast Colony Road. The turnoff from Fryingpan Road for the trailhead is 30.5 miles east of downtown Basalt CO.

Follow signs from Highway 82 into downtown Basalt. Turn through the center of town on Midland Ave, which becomes Fryingpan Road and enters the canyon. Remain on Fryingpan Road 30.5 miles to the marked turnoff for Fryingpan Ranch Road, Nast Site and Granite Lakes on the right.

4WD is not necessary but high-clearance is advisable. 2WD cars can make this short drive (.9 miles) when the road is in good condition.

Turn right on Fryingpan Ranch Road and follow it .9 miles to the trailhead parking lot. You must walk the remaining .25 miles on Mt Nast Colony Road to the trailhead on the left.

Contact Information

Aspen Ranger District
806 West Hallam
Aspen, CO 81611

Sopris Ranger District
620 Main Street
Carbondale, CO 81623

White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602
970.945.2521 | 970.319.2670

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