Loch Lomond Colorado: Off-Road Guide
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Loch Lomond is a perfect getaway that offers gorgeous views, beautiful lakes, and plenty of trails. You can hike up to the lake, which is about 4.6 miles, or drive up with your 4×4.
Whichever route you take, you get absorbed into an Arcadia of exquisite streams, seasonal wildflowers, and idyllic nature.
Loch Lomond is an off-road trail and popular hiking spot near Denver, Colorado. This adventurer’s paradise featuring a glacier-fed waterfall and steep ledges is one of the top Jeep trails near Idaho Springs frequented by 4x4s, ATVs, and cyclists.
Adventure seekers see Loch Lomond as a great alternative to the busier Rocky Mountain National Park and Indian Peaks Wilderness. From Denver, it is a short, one-hour drive that leads to picturesque Reynolds Lake, Steuart Lake, Ohman Lake, and Ice Lake just below the summit of James Peak.
The Loch’s popularity has always been an open secret with hobbyists who go fishing, camping, or off-roading on the property. This article highlights one of the best lesser-known spots in the area.
Loch Lomond Colorado
Loch Lomond is a 4.6-mile out-and-back trail in the Arapaho National Forest managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The area is well-known for dispersed camping, fishing, and hiking.
Throughout the trail, you pass through dense forest, creeks, and meadows.
At 0.7 miles into the track, you reach the Continental Divide Trail. At 1.2 miles, the views start to open up, and you see majestic vistas of Mt. Evans and Mt. Bierstadt.
When you get closer to the Loch, you’ll notice the creek and many campsites along the side of the road. Impending granite peaks indicate how close you are to Loch Lomond.
Loch Lomond Off-Road Difficulty
This dirt road leads to beautiful lakes, blooming wildflowers, stunning wilderness, and a grassy but rocky landing at the top.
The trail’s difficulty stays consistent the whole way through, so do not expect surprises along the way. But depending on the season, water crossings along the path can range from very shallow to a height that can submerge your tires.
There are also closure gates that are only open in certain months within the year. To get the most out of your drive up to Loch Lomond, plan your trip between June and September. Take note that the upper gate is closed during winter months or heavy snow.
Loch Lomond 4×4 Vehicles
Loch is mainly known as a hiking trail, but it also permits ATVs, 4x4s, and motorcycles. However, these vehicles must be either street-legal or registered yearly through the state park’s OHV Registration Program and are restricted to open routes designated for recreation use.
Unlicensed vehicles are allowed to park alongside Steuart Road, but cannot ride or park in Alice before the trail. Additionally, there is no parking allowed on Fall River Road or within the surrounding subdivisions.
Other Activities to Enjoy
Other activities that you can do in the area are mountain biking and fishing. Drifting is another thing you can indulge in – there is a slant, doughnut-shaped off-road loop at the top of the Loch that spells fun.
Staring at the night sky is a captivating experience, too, so bring up your telescope if you’re into astronomy.
Likewise, the peak of Loch Lomond provides a gorgeous backdrop for guests who would like to meditate or do their yoga stretches after hours of driving or trail hiking.
Directions to Loch Lomond
From I-70 westbound, take the Fall River Road exit #238 towards St. Mary’s/Alice Road. Drive approximately 8.4 miles and turn left onto Alice Road. After a few intersections at 1.1 miles, then turn right onto Steuart Road, NFSR 701.
You’ll come across a wooden sign on a tree pointing to Loch Lomond and James Peak. You may opt to park here or continue up the forest road to the Loch.
Loch Lomond has a #2 trail rating, which translates to Dirt road.
- Moderately easy to navigate around obstacles
- Shallow water crossings
- Rocky terrain
- 2WD is sufficient in most conditions
- Rain or snow may make 4WD necessary
- Ruts and washouts
The U.S. Forest Service categorizes this trail rating as easy and defines it as follows: The routes are appropriate for novice to advanced users and have obvious well-marked trails and roads. Grades are gentle, and some obstacles will be encountered.
Although the trail rating is #2, the altitude on Loch Lomond can become a real hiking challenge if you aim to reach the upper lakes, and you are from the lowlands like Missouri. If you have a 4WD vehicle, you would still need a 2-inch lift and 31-inch tires, at least, to run the rocky road leading to the Reynolds Lake properly.
Expect to park 2.4 miles from the trailhead and hike up the lake (if you are not in a 4×4). After reaching the first lake, you can hang out or hike up a short incline to the upper lakes, providing a 2,000-feet elevation gain.
Beautiful scenery, a meadow of wildflowers, and diverse terrain will greet you in every turn until you go past the end of the route.
This shared 4×4 and hiking dirt road starts easy but gradually gets steeper with more implanted rocks on the trail. Most mid to high-clearance, 4WD SUVs, and Jeeps can manage this route on 4 Lo, but careful tire placement may be required.
There is no need to engage 4WD if your four-wheeler has high ground clearance and decent all-terrain tires. Just make sure to drive slowly and not flood your engine or cabin should you come across deep water crossings early in the season.
Also, there’s a small mud pit after this section. It will be best to have another car with you to tow you out if your cables get stuck.
Chinns Lake vs. Loch Lomond
These areas are very similar in terms of aesthetics and trail composition. The road up to Chinns Lake looks like a mining road. It requires a maximum of 5 mph to crawl over the rocks. It supports dispersed camping, where you will need to bring firewood up to the campsites surrounding the lake.
There’s a small waterfall that connects the upper Chinns Lake to the lower one, and rocky terrain starts from the route up to the lakeside.
Despite these similarities, Loch is better in the sense that it is a well-rounded destination. Generally, Chinns stands out only as on off-road trail and fishing site but does not cater to the hiking community as much as Loch Lomond does.
Both have pristine lakes, but Loch has four of them, where Chinns only has two. There’s also that added thrill and sense of accomplishment in discovering Ice Lake at Loch Lomond as you will need to hike your way up to 12,000+ feet to view it.
Customary to traveling to a national forest, here are some helpful tips.
- You can access the Loch Lomond Trail map and learn about the map markers on the USDA website. However, you will need a good quality, detailed topographic map for navigation purposes.
- Get to Loch Lomond early if you want to avoid the crowd as traffic can get pretty heavy from mid-morning onwards.
- Make sure to check Loch Lomond Colorado weather forecasts when planning your outdoor adventure and gear up accordingly. Avoid going up the trail if there are snow forecasts as some gates will be closed, and it will make some sections of the route impassable.
- Travel in groups and a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle. This is a precautionary measure since you are miles away from help if anything untoward happens. Hikers usually brave the Loch Lomond on foot, but 11,000+ feet is no joke. So it’s best to have a support vehicle to bring you to Reynolds Lake.
- Strictly observe the Leave No Trace principle, which includes reusables and firewood ash.
- Be sure to air down your tires for better traction and riding comfort if you are driving.
- If you are staying the night, bring bug spray to ward off mosquitos. You may also want to bring sunscreen as there is little shade in the area.
- Do not binge on alcohol. Besides the fact that it is not wise to drink and drive, high altitude can adversely affect you if you are not used to it – so do not consume alcoholic drinks mindlessly.
- Don’t forget to bring warm gear as it could be windy and chilly at the top even during the summer.
Loch Lomond Colorado – An Off-Road Guide to Arapaho’s Hidden Jewel
There are mixed opinions from those who have been to Loch Lomond Lake Colorado. Outdoor enthusiasts may find the trail a bit boring from the start until you get to the stream. Some perceive the entire track challenging, especially those who do not own a 4WD with reasonable clearance.
Others wish the road closed off entirely to motorized vehicles so that the area can be better preserved and become a hiker’s paradise. Whatever the reaction, two things are for sure – the slew of activities at Loch Lomond guarantee fun times, and the gorgeous views at the end of this dirt road will leave you speechless and wanting more.