Marvine Lakes, Flat Tops Wilderness (Oct 5-7, 2020)

Having rediscovered my love for backpacking this summer, I wanted to get in one more adventure ahead of winter. My work friend Kat had told me about Marvine Lakes and I knew the Flat Tops Wilderness with its abundance of aspen would be super scenic in the fall. Kat had also shared that a mountain lion had visited their camp near the lakes one night, which was a long running fear of mine. I was learning that not that many people liked to backpack and I would have to get my ahead around being alone in the woods with my fears if this was going to be my passion activity. I was also lucky with timing in that my days off coincided with the last days ahead of rifle hunting season.

GAIA GPS link to Marvine Lakes Trail #1823

I arrived at the trailhead after dark and stayed overnight at the nearby Marvine Campground to facilitate an early morning start on the trail. I found a campsite but there were surprisingly few available giving the time of year. These be trailhead campground sites can be reserved at . The next morning there was plenty of parking at the trailhead and I talked to a few exited hunters heading out to scout that day. I was a bit surprised that the hunters I met that day all planned to return the campground for the night, and they seemed equally surprised to see a solo backpacker this time of year.

As expected, the abundant aspen trees in the Flat Tops were pretty spectacular this time of year. I had a six-mile hike ahead but was pleasantly surprised at the trail’s gentle grade, with no significant climbs to the lakes. The high canyon walls on either side of the valley merge together beyond the lakes, so I expect the Marvine Loop option features a healthy climb. The trail follows along the edge of both lakes and I was lucky to find a nice out-of-site but established campsite just above the trail between the lakes.

I had a perfect fall day surrounded by fall colors reflecting off the lakes. I took advantage of the free time in the woods to practice some map & compass navigation and finally achieved a decent bear hang for my food bag (I have yet to replicate such a textbook bear hang in Colorado). I ended up having the lakes, at least as far as I could see, to myself that night. I was thankfully not devoured by the mountain lion, although that remote possibility never completely left the back of my mind.

The next morning’s very gentle descent out was a nice 6-mile confidence builder. I chatted with a few groups of friendly & enthusiastic hunters on their way in, and gained an even greater appreciation for their efforts with the loaded down packs some carried to set up hunting camps. Some of these folks had been returning to hunt this same area for decades, spanning multiple generations. This window between hunting seasons had turned out to be pretty ideal for a fall getaway to Marvine Lakes.

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