Red Deer Lake, Middle St Vrain Road Trailhead - 4WD Terminus, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado

Red Deer Lake - 6.4 miles

Middle St Vrain Road Trailhead - 4WD Terminus

Red Deer Lake (10,372')

Red Deer Lake (10,372')

Round-Trip Length: 6.4 miles (13.9 miles roundtrip from Camp Dick)
Start-End Elevation: 9,655' - 10,372' (10,381' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +717' net elevation gain (+768' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Red Deer Lake - 6.4 Miles Round-Trip

Red Deer Lake (10,372') is located 3.2 miles from Middle St Vrain Road in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. It lies in a slender, isolated valley between Sawtooth Mountain (south) and St Vrain Mountain (north).

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Mild grades, good trail conditions and excellent fishing along Middle St Vrain Creek and Red Deer Lake make this an ideal family and camping destination.

The following description begins at the Middle St Vrain 4WD Road terminus, 3.75 miles west of Camp Dick. Only experienced drivers with equipped vehicles should attempt this road; others may either walk the road or equidistant Buchanan Pass Trail from the Middle St Vrain Trailhead at Camp Dick. Plan travel time accordingly and call ahead for 4WD travel conditions:

The Buchanan Pass Trail crosses Middle St Vrain Creek and bends northwest through a diminutive spruce flat. The trail rises nominally beside the creek with views of Sawtooth Mountain to the St Vrain Mountain Trail split (.7 miles : 9,832') and continues northwest in a taller forest.

It emerges in a large clearing (1.45 miles : 9,925') with a glimpse of the upper valley. Travel eases to the Buchannan Pass - St Vrain Glacier Trail split on the far side of the meadow (1.6 miles : 9,947'); bear left on the Buchanan Pass Trail toward Red Deer Lake.

The trail promptly crosses Middle St Vrain Creek and bends sharply SE back into a thick forest that can hold snow into early summer and obscure portions of the trail. The Buchanan Pass Trail moves quickly with little scenic or terrestrial variation to the Red Deer Lake Trail split (2.6 miles : 10,115').

Two sign posts mark the split - a rather anonymous one on the north side, and more visible one just steps away on the south side.

Anticipate the split, as travel is fast to this point and easy to overshoot. Turn right (west) on the Red Deer Lake Trail, where grades steepen atop a narrow ridge.

The steep pitch soon moderates (2.75 miles : 10,215') in a thin forest with partial views of a shallow valley and jagged ridges to the south. The sudden appearance of aspen signals your arrival at Red Deer Lake (3.2 miles : 10,372').

Red Deer Lake's shore is a rocky tangle of willow and krummholz, however social trails ring the perimeter to good views and clearings on the open east side. Snow fed slopes to the south support a variety of wildflowers, while aspen and leafy vegetation produce brilliant autumn colors that may hold through late September.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 08.229 W105 35.137 — 0.0 miles : Middle St Vrain Trailhead - 4WD Terminus
  • N40 08.251 W105 35.564 — .45 miles : Trail forks and merges back with self
  • N40 08.411 W105 35.697 — .7 miles : St Vrain Mountain Trail junction
  • N40 08.750 W105 35.996 — 1.2 mile mark
  • N40 08.968 W105 36.298 — 1.6 miles : Buchannan Pass - St Vrain Glacier Trail
  • N40 08.750 W105 36.294 — 2.0 miles : mIld travel through dense spruce-fir
  • N40 08.304 W105 36.051 — 2.6 miles : Red Deer Lake Trail junction
  • N40 08.427 W105 36.267 — 2.9 miles : Approaching lake atop narrow ridgeline
  • N40 08.570 W105 36.497 — 3.2 miles : Red Deer Lake

Worth Noting

  • The Middle St Vrain 4WD Road is challenging. Only experienced drivers with ample clearance should attempt this road. Those who can't complete the drive will have many turnoffs and turnaround points to choose from. Call ahead for travel conditions, as the road is periodically flooded or obstructed by deadfall.

  • Arrive early to allow time for unplanned foot travel in the event of a road obstruction. Be mindful of changing weather patterns and get below treeline before storms develop. Anticipate lingering snow through mid-june.

  • Look for wildlife foraging in Red Deer Lake's quiet outlet area. Grouse are particularly common in these food-rich spruce forests.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Permits are required for all overnight campers June 1 - September 15. Group size is limited to 12 people or people and packstock combined.

  • 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.

  • Campfires are prohibited at Red Deer Lake and in all locations east side of the Continental Divide in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Fires are also prohibited at Caribou Lake, Columbine Lake, Gourd Lake, Crater Lake and in the Cascade Creek drainage above Cascade Falls.
  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of lakes, streams and trails.

  • Camping is permitted only at designated campsites in the Diamond, Jasper, Crater and Caribou Lakes Backcountry Zones. Camping is prohibited in the 4 Lakes Backcountry Zone (Mitchell, Blue, Long, Isabelle) May 1 - Nov 30.

  • Packstock is prohibited in the 4 Lakes Backcountry Zone, in the Cascade Backcountry Zone above Cascade Falls and on the Diamond Lake Trail #975.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted along Middle St Vrain Creek and at Red Deer Lake with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Directions to Trailhead

The Middle St Vrain Trailhead - 4WD Terminus is located 3.75 miles west of the Camp Dick Campground parking lot. The parking lot is located 1.3 miles west of the turnoff from Highway 72.

The turnoff from Highway 72 is located 17.8 miles north of Nederland CO, or 2 miles south of Highway 7. The Middle St Vrain 4WD Road is challenging. Only experienced drivers with proper clearance should attempt this drive. Alternatively, you may either walk the road or equidistant Buchanan Pass Trail from the Middle St Vrain Trailhead at Camp Dick.

Contact Information

Boulder Ranger District
2140 Yarmouth Avenue
Boulder, CO 80301

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Trails are still very snowed in the last mile or more of the trail. The lake is still iced over."
Kelly  -  Boulder  -  Date Posted: June 10, 2016


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