Wheeler Lake

Alma, Colorado 80420

Wheeler Lake

Wheeler Lake Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"Wheeler Lake is a gem of an alpine lake, tucked in an elbow turn of the Continental Divide. A hillside covered with white cascades pours into the lake from snow melting under the crystal blue Colorado sky. The hike follows an extreme four-wheel drive road under part of the old Magnolia Mill and past various relics of mining days. Hikers should expect to see vehicles on this multiple-use road. Mount Lincoln at 14, 286 feet watches over the broad valley of the Middle Fork of the South Platte River, above which lies Wheeler Lake. Below the waters of Montgomery Reservoir lie the remains of the town of Montgomery.

The little town started in 1859 after gold was discovered on nearby mountains. Within two years the town had two hotels, seventy cabins, and two sawmills. In one two-week period, miners found between fifteen and twenty rich strikes. Citizens decided to name the towering peak to the west, which they believed to be the highest in Colorado, after President Lincoln. They even sent him a bar of gold from one of the mines located on his namesake. The following year 1, 000 people called Montgomery home. A drugstore, mercantile, dry goods store, and various saloons served their needs. Six gold mills worked the ore from the area ’s mines, with the Magnolia, Montgomery, and Pendleton being top producers. As many as 2, 000 people may have lived in town at one time. They even proposed Montgomery as the state capital!"

More Wheeler Lake Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Guide to Colorado Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails, Vol. 1 (FunTreks)
Charles A. Wells
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"For hard-core four-wheelers, the main feature of this trip is the last obstacle. Other interesting features include Montgomery Reservoir, the Magnolia Mill, and Wheeler Lake. Climbs beautiful valley to high mountain lake with waterfall. Pass directly under Magnolia Mill. Gorgeous seasonal wildflowers. Fun during early-season runoff. Take a fishing pole. ATVs allowed. Absolutely stay on main trail at all times- abuses threaten trail closure. Several large rock obstacles. Very narrow in spots with tight brush that could scratch paint, especially if you have to pull over to pass. Water rushes down the trail during early season snow melt. Not recommended for stock vehicles although I went through with a group of upgraded Land Rovers. They managed the trail with no problems."

Wheeler Lake Trip Reports

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What can I say, but WOW! Beautiful scenery, and a very challenging trail.

There are three very difficult obstacles, right at the beginning. After that, it gets a bit easier. Just a bit. I drove this trail while it was raining. This made the rocks slick, and much more difficult to get over the obstacles. I was able to get over the first two obstacles with some difficulty, but made it. The third, however, I just could not get the traction needed to get over it. I ended up using my wench to get on top of it.

Once at Wheeler Lake, WOW! If only the clouds weren't looking so ominous. I didn't hear any lightning, but it sure was getting dark.

Anyway, thanks to the off road club that cares for the trail. What fun!
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Lots of snow still there lost the trail but still made it to the lake. It was frozen and patches of snow around it up to 6' deep. Nice views down to the river from the trail and snow capped mountains all around.

Wheeler Lake Photos

Trail Information

Nearby City
1,220 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Skill Level
2.8 to 4.5 hours
Best from July to early October
Pike National Forest
Local Contacts
USGS Alma,Climax; Trails Illustrated:#109 Breckenridge,Tennessee Pass
Local Maps

Trail Log