Added by Ben Thomas
8 Miles round-trip (to Fence Crossing)Only 1000 feet elevation gainedStunning views of the Elk MountainsEasy, gradual trailAmazing Wildflowers in SummerBeautiful Foliage in FallGreat for hiking, running or bikingEasy alternative to Thomas Lakes/Mount Sopris Trail starting from same trailhead
Head south out of Carbondale on Highway 133. Two miles from the Main Street roundabout, take a left on Prince Creek Road. Follow this road up to Dinkle Divide and follow the signs to Dinkle Lake. Continue up the road until you see a large, fenced in parking area with a toilet on the left. This is the Thomas Lakes Trailhead (also known on this site as the Mount Sopris Trailhead, it's all the same).
From the parking lot, you head south on the trail up an old forest service road. Don't worry, the first mile is the hardest and steepest part of the trail leading up to a gate to keep the cattle in. Pass through the gate and in 0.5 miles you'll hit the crucial trail Junction. Here, the Thomas Lakes/Mount Sopris trail breaks off to the right. Take the left trail up toward Hay Park. The trail meanders up here through Aspen and Pine forests with a couple of bridged creek crossings before heading into a large meadow. Continuing up the trail, eventually you will hit a fence crossing where you will pass through (or over) a second gate. This marks the 4 mile mark of the trail and an ideal turnaround point. At the fence crossing, you'll get views to 14,131 foot Capitol Peak to the East, Mount Sopris's Three Peaks to the West, and views sweeping North over the entire Roaring Fork Vallley and beyond; from the Flattop Wilderness across to the Sawatch Range.
In the Summer, the meadows are carpeted with wildflowers and in the Fall, the Aspens' colors can't be beat!
Bonus Tip: The Hay Park Trail continues another seven miles to the Capitol Creek Trailhead for a long shuttle hike, but the views become more limited in the trees. For a longer bike ride or trail run, this can be nice, but turning around at the Fence Crossing is the common route.
In the Fall, hunters are active in the backcountry around Hay Park. I've never had any problems with them but high visibility clothing for you and your pup is recommended!
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