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Hiking on Berthoud Pass: Exploring Urad Lake State Wildlife Area

The trail to Urad Lake starts here
The trail to Urad Lake starts here
Deb Stanley

After being closed for nearly three years, Urad Lake reopened in June 2014 as a State Wildlife Area. While it's very popular for fishing, there are also two lakes with hiking trails -- Urad Lake and Hassell Lake.

Urad Lake
Deb Stanley

The trailhead for Urad Lake is about 3.4 miles from U.S. 40/Berthoud Pass (directions below). Park in the parking lot, then hike up the road, past the closed gate. A sign here explains the rules for the state wildlife area including that dogs must be on leash (except when used as hunting aid), boating is prohibited and that the area is only open from June 1 through the end of the 4th, regular big game rifle season.

The "trail" starts on the old dirt road that goes to the lakeshore. You'll gain about 100 feet of elevation walking to the dam about 0.3 miles from the parking area. Just before you get to the lake and dam, you'll see a sign that simply says "Urad Lake." A few steps later, you should see the dam to to your right and a partial view of the lake. Just past the dam, we turned and walked down to the lake shore.

This is a pretty spot. While there are sections of forest around the lake, you can see the surrounding mountain peaks above tree line. If you look at the shoreline around the lake, you'll likely see several people fishing.

From here, you can find a spot to hang out, then return to your car for a short hike of about 0.6 miles. Or you can hike around the lake. However, if you decide to hike around the lake, I recommend hiking about 3/4 of the way around the lake to a waterfall/inflow, then returning the way you came. Why? As you stand at the shoreline here, look directly across the lake at the other side of the dam. While there is a nice trail ON the dam, you'll notice the trail on the other side of the lake is faint and iffy. This area, at least in July 2014, did not have a good trail and I expected to twist an ankle on the scree fields and walking on the steep hillside. I recommend avoiding this section.

For now, hike back up to the road, and continue hiking around the lake. The trail is fairly flat here and if you look to your right, you'll get glimpses of the lake and the surrounding scenery through the trees. As you hike around the southwest end of the lake, you may notice signs in the trees that say camping permitted. Camping up to five days is allowed here. Learn more on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

Continue hiking around the lake until you come to a trail split. We saw one trail going up slightly behind us, but fortunately, there was a sign on our trail that simply said "trail," so we continued on. Just a few steps later, there was a second trail split. Again, one trail went up, the other trail stayed low. Stay on the low trail. From here, it's just a few more steps to the waterfall/inflow to Urad Lake. This is a nice cascade If you want to see more of it, go back to the last trail split, go uphill a few feet to a bridge that crosses the cascade for another view.

From here, I highly recommend turning around and not trying to circle the lake. Again, the trail seemed a bit iffy to me.

Details: The hike around Urad Lake to the waterfall and back is about two miles with 200 feet of elevation gain.

Admission fee: In July 2014, there was no fee for hiking here. But you do need a license to fish.

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Directions: From I-70, take U.S. 40 toward Winter Park. Drive through Empire and just past the town of Berthoud Pass, just before U.S. 40 takes a big turn to the right, turn off on the Henderson Mine Road. Drive about 0.6 miles and turn left on the unsigned Woods Creek Road (it's the first left). Drive 2.8 miles on this dirt road to the trailhead. Note, while a carefully driven passenger car can make it to the trailhead, it is not recommended. There are some serious ruts, bumps, etc. in the road.