Park County, Colorado
Pike National Forest
South Park Ranger District
View this on the Colorado Trailheads Map
Forest Service Road: 408
Trail Type: Out and Back
Nearby Towns: Breckenridge, Alma, Fairplay
Nearby Trails: Mosquito Pass
Trail Length: 3.13 miles
Elevation: 10,995 to 12,200 feet
Named Obstacles: Flopper, The V, Bowling Ball Hill
Wheeler Lake is one of those trails that has a little bit of everything. It has gorgeous scenery from the start at Montgomery Reservoir and the Magnolia Mill to the valley on the way to Wheeler Lake itself. Wheeler Lake is at the end of the trail, and it is surrounded on three sides by mountains forming part of the Continental Divide. It is a chilly lake at 12,200 feet. It seems to be raining on this trail most of the time, so prepare for lots of water.
The trail also has some 4x4 challenges that are very difficult for stock vehicles and provide lines that will make even a big rig have to work to climb.
As you start the trail you are next to Montgomery Reservoir, a beautiful place for fishing. The trail starts near a gorgeous waterfall, and you travel by and under the old Magnolia Mill right after you start the trail. The trail entrance is rocky, but there are bigger obstacles to come.
Flopper is the first obstacle and it is just past the Mill, and it has a bypass on the left. If you don't have an extreme amount of suspension flex you'll get a wheelstand here, and if you don't pick the right line it's pretty easy to end up flopped over on your side. Just make sure you don't put a rear tire in one of the many holes on the way to the top and you'll be fine.
The second obstacle is found a little further down the trail. The "V" is a wedgy made of rock and is the line on the right at this obstacle. You'll need to place your tires carefully or risk body damage. The line to the left is a series of sand-covered (or mud-covered), smooth rocks that are steep and can be difficult to climb. With a good spotter you can go up the left-most line and cross over to go up the V too. There is an easier line through the middle, between both of these options.
You'll then pass through the valley with low brush and trees scratching and scraping at your vehicle. If you're worried about your paint or plastic windows this isn't a good area to be in!
After the valley comes Bowling Ball Hill, a long, steep hill of loose rocks and boulders. The rocks change every year, and sometimes it can be pretty difficult to get to the top. When you get to the top there is a right turn, and you continue to climb through a rocky, narrow section.
Once you're at the top of the last bit of rocks you're nearly to Wheeler Lake, an area with plenty of room to park a lot of vehicles. It's a great place to explore.