Deadman Lake, Independence Lake Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado

Deadman Lake - 13.6 miles

Independence Lake Trailhead

Scaling Lost Man Pass on the way to Deadman Lake

Scaling Lost Man Pass on the way to Deadman Lake

Round-Trip Length: 13.6 miles
Start-End Elevation: 11,506' - 10,965' (12,810' max elevation on Lost Man Pass)
Elevation Change: 541' net elevation loss (+3,615' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Deadman Lake - 13.6 Miles Round-Trip

Deadman Lake is located 6.8 miles from Independence Lake Trailhead in the Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness. It lies in a wide, level meadow along the South Fork Frying Pan River. While the lake aesthetic is nondescript, the hike in is exceptional.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

There are two ways to reach Deadman Lake from the Lost Man Loop Trail off of Highway 82 (east of Aspen, CO). Arguably the most scenic begins at Independence Lake Trailhead and scales Lost Man Pass to Lost Man Lake, and on to the South Fork Pass Trail.

The South Fork Pass Trail leaves the busy Lost Man Loop and drops into the South Fork drainage, a lightly visited area that supports high concentrations of wildlife. Visitors will enjoy two alpine passes, three lakes, three valleys and great camping on the hike to Deadman Lake:

The trail begins at treeline up to the Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness Boundary and split for Linkins Lake (.15 miles : 11,615'). It crosses the Roaring Fork (.48 miles : 11,735') and keeps a steady pace between Twinning Peak (east) and Geissler Mountain (west) up to Independence Lake (1.8 miles: 12,487').

Independence Lake fills a shallow 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 the Lost Man Creek drainage (north). Views of the Collegiate Peaks are outstanding from the pass.

The trail tilts down steep switchbacks across short sections of talus to Lost Man Lake (2.75 miles : 12,482'). Anticipate snow patches through mid-summer on this north-facing slope. The trail continues around the lake and arcs NE down valley in a high-alpine landscape.

It drops steadily to a swale-like meadow (4.25 miles : 11,680'), and undulates ruggedly above to the South Fork Pass Trail split (4.95 miles : 11,635'). Expect sections of faint, shifting trail that can be hard to follow with lingering snow or after washouts from here to the lake.

The South Fork Pass Trail breaks NE on a mild climb to South Fork Pass (5.25 miles : 11,725'), which is fairly subtle and perhaps only obvious once you begin a steep descent into the valley below.

Travel moderates in the narrow upper valley back to treeline and the top of Deadman Gulch (6.25 miles : 11,305'). Here it drops 270' in just .3 miles to an abrupt opening in the central valley, and spills into a vast meadow cut by the South Fork (6.55 miles : 11,015').

Take note of this transition point, as the trail between forest and meadow can be hard to find on the return. The trail all but fades in this damp open space, with faint tracks marked sparingly by cairns on the far west side down to Deadman Lake (6.8 miles : 10,965').

Deadman Lake is more of a glorified marshy pond, but the meadows around it are a virtual playground, and major thoroughfare for wildlife. The trail continues about 3.5 miles to its northern terminus.

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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')
  • N39 09.480 W106 33.988 — 3.25 miles : Drop below lake into alpine meadows
  • N39 09.551 W106 34.447 — 3.75 miles : Moderate descent in upper Lost Man Creek valley
  • N39 09.791 W106 34.878 — 4.25 miles : Undulate above large meadow/swale
  • N39 10.043 W106 35.552 — 4.95 miles : South Fork Pass Trail split
  • N39 10.259 W106 35.428 — 5.25 miles : South Fork Pass (11,715'); begin steep drop
  • N39 10.579 W106 35.108 — 5.75 miles : Descent moderates in upper valley
  • N39 10.941 W106 34.861 — 6.25 miles : Begin steep drop into Deadman Gulch
  • N39 11.140 W106 34.723 — 6.55 miles : Trail opens into large meadow and fades
  • N39 11.352 W106 34.854 — 6.8 miles : Deadman Lake (10,965')

Worth Noting

  • Day-hikers need to manage time wisely with Lost Man Pass (12,810') to climb on the return. If weather threatens, consider following the Lost Man Loop Trail to the Lost Man Campground Trailhead and hitching a ride back to your car.
  • Mosquitoes can be a nuisance on this trail, particularly once over South Fork Pass. Long sleeves and repellants are recommended.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Hunter-Frying Pan 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-Frying Pan 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-Frying Pan 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

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