Looking for a high country lake escape? Whether you want to cast a fly or lure, enjoy a picnic with family and friends, or take a kayak or canoe or stand-up paddleboard (SUP) out on the water, the Rio Grande National Forest has a multitude of lakes, reservoirs, creeks and ponds waiting for you to explore!
Visitors looking for an off-the-beaten path, but accessible lake, should consider Poage Lake. Located west of South Fork, Poage Lake and the surrounding area are great for wildlife viewing, outdoor adventure, nature photography, fishing and family outings. The lake is accessible via the unpaved Beaver Creek Road in the Rio Grande National Forest. From the town of South Fork, travel one mile west on US Hwy 160 then turn left and travel south on Beaver Creek Road 360 for 15 miles until arriving at a dirt parking area. Park here and enjoy the .25 mile walk to the lake shore.
The road leading to the lake is a photographer’s delight, with features including babbling brooks and scenic views. Anticipate unpaved conditions with some ruts and debris. A reliable vehicle is encouraged.
After the quarter mile hike to the lake, visitors can explore the 2.2 mile moderately-traveled hiking path that follows the lake shore with plenty of access point to the water. Anglers will be excited to know that the lake is regularly stocked with cutthroat trout in the summer. Poage Lake has designated regulations of fly and lure fishing only. Try your luck with small dry and wet flies, but watch out for shadows casting over the water – the trout in these waters can spook easily! A valid Colorado fishing license is required, which can be purchased online or in-person at a Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department office.
For those looking for even more adventure, consider hiking in with a kayak, canoe or SUP to enjoy the lake’s picturesque views of the surrounding mountains and forest. Additionally, photographers and wildlife viewers may be able to spot mule deer, bear, elk, several species of squirrel, and other wildlife along the lake edge and while hiking nearby trails.
Dispersed camping is also available near the parking area if you are seeing an overnight experience. Camping requires no reservation and is first-come, first served. Please remember to pack out all trash and keep food in a safe location away from wildlife.
Resting at 11,000 feet above sea level, Poage Lake provides scenic views and plenty of outdoor fun, but remember to bring plenty of snacks and water while you’re exploring high elevation locations and come prepared for cooler evenings.
The Rio Grande National Forest has many other lakes and reservoirs readily available for you to enjoy, including Tucker Ponds, Big Meadows Reservoir, Shaw Lake, among others.