Independence Lake and Lost Man Lake, Independence Lake Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado

Independence Lake and Lost Man Lake - 5.5 miles

Independence Lake Trailhead

View of Lost Man Lake (12,482') from Lost Man Pass (12,810')

View of Lost Man Lake (12,482') from Lost Man Pass (12,810')

Round-Trip Length: 5.5 miles (includes both lakes)
Start-End Elevation: 11,506' - 12,482' (12,810' max elevation on Lost Man Pass)
Elevation Change: +976' net elevation gain (+1,710' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Independence Lake and Lost Man Lake - 5.5 Miles Round-Trip

Independence Lake and Lost Man Lake are located 1.8 miles and 2.75 miles from Independence Lake Trailhead on Highway 82, 17.3 miles east of Aspen in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness. These stunning high-alpine lakes are separated by Lost Man Pass (12,810'), which offers simultaneous views of the lakes and a line of summits in the Collegiate Peaks.

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Both lakes are located on the 8.9 mile Lost Man Loop Trail, which can be accessed from two points on Highway 82: The Lost Man Campground or Independence Lake Trailhead. Note the Lost Man Loop is not a true loop - it begins/ends at these trailheads, which are 4 miles apart.

To complete the loop you'll either need to arrange a shuttle or walk the road. Both starting points have merit - the following description begins at Independence Lake Trailhead for the most direct route:

The trail begins at treeline up to the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness Boundary and split for Linkins Lake, a short and worthwhile side trip (.15 miles : 11,615').

It crosses the Roaring Fork (.48 miles : 11,735') and keeps a steady pace up the east side between Twinning Peak (east) and Geissler Mountain (west). The trail gradually bends NE to the open shore of Independence Lake (1.8 miles: 12,487').

Independence Lake fills a broad alpine bench under Lost Man Pass with a large tarn .1 mile away that's easy to reach and worth exploring. The trail follows the level shore before turning sharply up to Lost Man Pass (2.35 miles : 12,810').

Lost Man Pass spans a divisive ridge between the Roaring Fork headwaters (south), and Lost Man Creek drainage (north). Views are outstanding, with hike-able routes that branch off to Geissler Mountain and points on the Continental Divide.

The trail tilts steeply down switchbacks that cross short sections of talus to Lost Man Lake (2.75 miles : 12,482'). Anticipate lingering snow through mid-summer on this north-facing slope.

Lost Man Lake is larger than Independence, but only it's east side is open. The trail continues by the lake into high alpine meadows in the upper valley, and to its west terminus at Lost Man Campground. Views down Lost Man Creek valley are worth a look, and a great place to scan high slopes and ridges for mountain goats, bighorn sheep and elk.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 07.484 W106 34.909 — 0.0 miles : Independence Lake Trailhead
  • N39 07.577 W106 34.996 — .15 miles : Linkins Lake Trail split + Wilderness Boundary
  • N39 07.833 W106 34.889 — .48 miles : Cross Roaring Fork River to east side of valley
  • N39 08.205 W106 34.694 — 1.0 miles : Steady climb in expanding upper valley
  • N39 08.543 W106 34.189 — 1.8 miles : Independence Lake (12,487')
  • N39 08.920 W106 34.035 — 2.35 miles : Lost Man Pass (12,810')
  • N39 09.119 W106 34.048 — 2.75 miles : Lost Man Lake (12,482')

Worth Noting

  • The Lost Man Loop Trail is one of the busiest trails in the Aspen area outside of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds. Crowds thin considerably on the South Fork Trail, which leads deep into a lightly used portion of the Hunter-Frying Pan.
  • The 8.9 mile Lost Man Loop Trail is not a true loop - it begins/ends at the Lost Man Campground and Independence Lake Trailhead, which are connected only by a four mile stretch of Highway 82. To complete the loop you'll either need to arrange a 2-car shuttle, or walk the road.

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 the 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 at Independence Lake, Lost Man Lake, Deadman Lake and along all related streams with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness.

Directions to Trailhead

The Lost Man Loop Trail is accessible from two trailheads on Highway 82 east of Aspen CO.

The first is at Lost Man Campground, approximately 13.3 miles east of Aspen.

The second is from Independence Lake Trailhead, 17.3 miles east of Aspen at the last switchback before reaching Independence Pass. Both trailheads are located on the north side of the road.

Note the Lost Man Loop Trail is not a true loop - it begins/ends at these two trailheads, which are connected only by Highway 82. To complete the loop you'll either need to arrange a 2-car shuttle, or walk the road.

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

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"There are several steep and deep snowfields leading to Lost Man Lake when traveling clockwise on the Lost Man Loop. The final approach is mostly covered and getting soft. Expect some potentially hip-high postholing. "
ProTrails Admin  -   -  Date Posted: July 6, 2015


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