Stone Lake, Roaring Fork Trailhead, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado

Stone Lake - 12.3 miles

Roaring Fork Trailhead

Stone Lake (10,643')

Stone Lake (10,643')

Round-Trip Length: 12.3 miles (add .8 miles roundtrip to Upper Stone Lake)
Start-End Elevation: 8,320' - 10,643' (11,195' max elevation on pass)
Elevation Change: +2,323' net elevation gain (+3,825' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Stone Lake - 12.3 Miles Round-Trip

Stone Lake is located 6.15 miles from Roaring Fork Trailhead in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. This challenging hike begins at Lake Granby and follows the Roaring Fork drainage up to Irving Hale Pass. It rolls through airy meadows before diving steeply into Hell Canyon and rising back to Stone Lake.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Upper Stone Lake is located .4 miles ahead at the top of Hell Canyon between Hiamovi Mountain (12,395') and Cooper Peak (12,296'). The lakes are aptly named for large rock features that form the basin, though the lakes themselves are surrounded by gentle terrain ideal for camping and exploration.

Stone Lake sees less traffic than nearby Mirror, Crater and Gourd lakes, primarily for the degree of difficulty. The Stone Lakes compare favorably to each, with greater diversity along the way:

The trail runs level around Pete’s Cove to the IPW Boundary (.18 miles), past which it climbs 810’ in just .8 miles to a bridge across the Roaring Fork (1.0 miles : 9,172’). Enjoy views over Granby and a colorful mix of aspen and thimbleberries on this challenging segment.

Travel eases up the north side of the creek in a progressively healthier forest (1.5 miles : 9,295’). Despite some beetle damage, the herbaceous layer is verdant and diversely vegetated.

The trail rises in short spurts to bridges at 2.35 miles and 2.58 miles into a damp clearing at the Watanga Lake Trail split (2.65 miles : 9,805’). There’s good camping in this area, and the last level terrain before reaching the pass.

The Roaring Fork Trail splits right up the south valley wall on a steady, leg-burning climb in a healthier forest. This shaded north-facing slope can hold snow well into June and make travel difficult, especially with heavy packs.

Grades finally moderate across the first of several large glades (3.7 miles : 10,855’) that open to airy meadows on Mount Irving Hale Pass (4.1 miles : 11,195’). This is a great place to camp, explore and look for wildlife - particularly elk. It’s also a fine turnaround point if not aiming for the lakes.

Mount Irving Hale (11,754’) stands prominently above, which can be scaled for rangy views over the meadows and Hell Canyon. Berry patches cover the area, and peak in late September.

The trail rolls through open space to cabin remains on the far end (4.75 miles : 11,095’), where it begins a steep and shifting descent down the north wall of Hell Canyon.

It loses clarity in places, which can be exacerbated by snow. Views of Crawford Lake and Long Lake briefly emerge in Hell Canyon before losing sight amid rugged terrain.

The trail gradually levels into a meadow in the upper valley, again vague in places but now with a clear heading (5.5 miles : 10,595’). It dips across before rising gently back in a thin forest to the north side of Stone Lake (6.15 miles : 10,643’).

The lake opens to grassy shorelines, rocky outcrops and elevated terraces with great views and places to camp. Rock jetties extend far into the lake with unique access for anglers.

The trail fades but easily follows the inlet stream through treeline to Upper Stone Lake (6.55 miles : 10,736').

Upper Stone Lake is surrounded by large, level meadows and a few tree-topped knolls. Hiamovi Mountain's distinct summit looms above, with an easily reached saddle near the Rocky Mountain National Park boundary. A more challenging pass to the SE can be scaled to access Cooper Peak and Island Lake on the far side.


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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 07.771 W105 45.845 — 0.0 miles : Roaring Fork Trailhead
  • N40 08.060 W105 45.826 — .5 miles : Steep climb over Lake Granby
  • N40 08.371 W105 45.493 — 1.0 miles : Cross bridge over the Roaring Fork
  • N40 08.553 W105 45.119 — 1.5 miles : Travel moderates along north side of creek
  • N40 08.763 W105 44.734 — 2.0 miles : Short steep intervals along creek
  • N40 08.936 W105 44.487 — 2.35 miles : Cross bridge
  • N40 09.017 W105 44.306 — 2.58 miles : Cross bridge
  • N40 09.025 W105 44.237 — 2.65 miles : Lake Watanga trail split
  • N40 08.990 W105 43.933 — 3.0 miles : Steep switchbacks up north valley wall
  • N40 08.935 W105 43.631 — 3.4 miles : Travel moderates on upper valley wall
  • N40 08.877 W105 43.387 — 3.7 miles : Level across small meadow
  • N40 08.846 W105 42.976 — 4.15 miles : Open, level travel across Irving Hale Pass
  • N40 08.860 W105 42.639 — 4.5 miles : Mild drop off crest of pass
  • N40 08.749 W105 42.449 — 4.75 miles : Pass old cabin, drop into Hell Canyon
  • N40 08.800 W105 41.981 — 5.25 miles : Steep, rugged, shifting descent
  • N40 08.895 W105 41.704 — 5.5 miles : Travel moderates across meadow
  • N40 09.002 W105 41.439 — 5.85 miles : Trail dips across low point in upper valley
  • N40 09.122 W105 41.154 — 6.15 miles : Stone Lake (10,643')
  • N40 09.318 W105 40.805 — 6.55 miles : Upper Stone Lake (10,736')

Worth Noting

  • Day hikers must manage time wisely, especially if storms threaten. There's a 650' net climb from the lowest point in Hell Canyon back to Mount Irving Hale Pass, much of which is exposed.
  • Snow may linger on the steep north-facing slope of the Roaring Fork drainage well into June, and obscure portions of the descent into Hell Canyon. Call ahead for trail conditions.
  • Day hikers should consider Wantanga Lake if getting a later start, or if unsure about trail conditions over the pass into Hell Canyon.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Permits are required for backcountry camping in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, June 1 - Sept. 15. Permits are $5 per party (7 people max). Contact the Sulphur Ranger District (970.887.4100) or Boulder Ranger District (303.541.2500) in advance to secure a permit.

  • Permits must be picked up in person at either Ranger Station, or ordered in advance by mail. There is no online reservation system for permits.

  • Permits are required year-round for day and overnight use by large groups (8+) or organizational groups such as scouts, churches, schools and hiking clubs. Group size is limited to 12 people or people and stock combined.

  • There are no designated backcountry campsites in this travel zone. Dispersed camping only. Use established sites whenever possible to minimize impact. Camp at least 100' away from all trails, lakes and streams.

  • Fires are permitted in this travel zone, with potential seasonal and location-specific restrictions. Fires are not permitted at or above treeline, or within 100' of any lake, trail or stream.

  • Falling trees are a potential hazard, especially in areas with high concentrations of beetle kill.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted at Stone Lake, Upper Stone Lake, Watanga Lake and along the Roaring Fork with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $5 day use fee to access the Roaring Fork and Monarch Lake trailheads, payable at two self-service stations on Arapaho Bay Road. The pay stations are located on either side of the road, just after the turnoff from Highway 34.
  • Pets must be leashed at all times.

Directions to Trailhead

The Roaring Fork Trailhead is located 61.9 miles north of I-70 in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The trailhead is 9.6 miles east of Highway 34 on Arapaho Bay Road along the NE shore of Lake Granby.

From I-70, take Exit #232 for Rocky Mountain National Park and Winter Park. Drive 46.9 miles over Berthoud Pass and through the towns of Winter Park, Fraser and Tabernash to the split for HWY 34.

Veer right on Highway 34 and drive 5.4 miles to Arapaho Bay Road in Granby. Turn right (east) on Arapaho Bay Road, and don't forget to stop at the self-pay station just after this turn. Follow the graded dirt road 8.8 miles to the split for Big Rock Campground and Roaring Fork Trailhead. Turn left and continue .8 miles to the trailhead.

Contact Information

Boulder Ranger District
USDA Forest Service
2140 Yarmouth Ave.
Boulder, CO 80301

Sulphur Ranger District - National Forest Lands in Grand County
9 Ten Mile Drive
P.O. Box 10
Granby, Colorado 80446

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Hiked from Upper Lake over to Island and then Gourd Lake. It's quite pretty. The only annoying part was from Island to Gourd is a little hard to follow. "
Will  -  Denver  -  Date Posted: July 13, 2017
"This is a strenuous hike, and as others have mentioned, may not be the best for site seeing due to the difficulty. There was still snow up at Stone Lake and Upper Lake and along the trail past the 4 mile mark. Also, there are many trees (15+) down on the trail, so be careful navigating throughout the trip. If you're looking for solitude and a killer workout, this is the trail for you. "
Becks  -   -  Date Posted: July 3, 2017
"Great day for the hike. Weather cool with light to moderate rain in certain areas. I have hiked to Watanga Lake a couple times in years past. The trail is in the best shape that I have seen it in a while. All down trees blocking the trail have been cut so no crawling under or over. New bridges crossing the stream. Good to see our ANRA Fee money actually doing some good for the trails. "
Kelly  -  Granby, CO  -  Date Posted: August 8, 2016
"Indeed a strenuous hike. I hiked this trail on 21 Oct 2015 with a fairly heavy pack. When weather reports warn of snow accumulation in the high country, beware of electing this trail. While this trail offers top-shelf Indian Peaks Wilderness scenery, I found its prolonged leg-burning elevation gains detracted a bit from the overall joy of this much awaited Colorado adventure. Took me 5:40 to reach Stone Lake (I live at sea level and am 47 years old). I thought about breaking it up by bunking at Mt Irving Hale Pass, but that idea dried up with no obvious running water supply nearby, just standing water in small pond. So on to Stone Lake went I. The destination was absolutely fabulous and I had it all to myself. A bright half-moon illuminated the entire lake area which was reflected by the surrounding majestic granite walls on three sides. When snow quickly began to accumulate the next morning, I packed in near panic and departed this scene of serenity fearing the lightly recognizable switchback pathway leading up Hell Canyon would quickly disappear…and it did just as I feared. I thought once I reached Mt Irving Hale Pass and began the descent I would not have a problem with identifying the trail, but twice on the descent from that location I had to circle around and locate the snow-covered trail. Overall the trail is fantastic and has everything the BZ enthusiast longs for. Just know the skill level is on the upper end of strenuous and prepare yourself for a grueling and sustained vertical ascent subject to various micro-climate variables."
jack  -  Virginia  -  Date Posted: November 10, 2015


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