One of the first hikes I ever did in Colorado was Silver Dollar Lake. After 15+ years, I decided it was time to go back. The Silver Dollar Lake Trail is popular because it’s short. However, because the hike starts at 11,235 feet and climbs another 750 feet to the lake, it’s not easy.
The hike starts on Guanella Pass Road, depending on your vehicle (directions below). Some people park at the turnoff for Naylor Lake Road, others take the turnoff and drive the rutted, dirt road another 0.7 miles to the trailhead parking lot. I would recommend a vehicle with some clearance for this drive, but I did see small cars at the main trailhead and a Jeep back at the turnoff, so it’s really up to your driving abilities and where you’re willing to take your vehicle.
If you drive the road, you’ll need to look for a parking lot on your right and a trail sign on your left about 0.7 miles from the turnoff. The road continues past this point to private property, so make sure you’re looking for the trailhead.
The trail starts with a few steps, then a sign that says “trail” and a second sign that says, “Silver Dollar L. Trail No. 79.” That tells you that you’re in the right spot.
The trail starts in the forest. About a quarter mile in, the trail crosses a small stream, goes up around a bend and crosses the same stream again, just slightly up hill. You’ll need to pay attention as you hike this trail because it’s not well marked and there are lots of places where you may suddenly find yourself off the main path.
About 0.4 miles from the trail, you’ll see a sign that says trail and points left. The Forest Service asks that you stay on the trail here, because Naylor Lake is behind that sign and it’s private property. Don’t worry, you’re not missing anything. You’ll see lots of Naylor Lake coming up.
For now, turn left, hike up a hill and follow the trail as it turns right and goes up the Naylor Lake valley. The trail goes in and out of the trees before suddenly coming out above treeline. From here, you’ll start seeing Naylor Lake below. You may also spot three to four cabins on the lakeshore.
As you hike up the trail, it’s not far until you start seeing the valley to the west. There are two 13,000-foot high peaks up there — Square Top Mountain on the left side of the valley and Argentine Peak on the right side of the valley.
As you enjoy the views of the valley up ahead and Naylor Lake below you, you’ll start hiking through the willow trees. The willows line quite a bit of the trail and can be a pain when they get overgrown.
Keep hiking up the main trail until you come to a plateau of sorts and get a chance to catch your breath. When the trail begins to drops slightly, you should soon see Silver Dollar Lake in a shallow basin on your left.
Silver Dollar Lake sits at at an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet with Square Top Mountain as its backdrop. This spot can get windy, but it’s a nice place to hang out, catch your breath and take in the scenery. After lunch or a snack, it’s time to decide if you’re turning around here and if you’re ready to climb the next hill. You can see it from Silver Dollar Lake — it’s that hill to the west. From Silver Dollar Lake, it’s just under a half mile, and about 250 feet in elevation gain to Murray Lake.
When you’re ready, cross the outlet stream from Silver Dollar Lake and hike west up the hill. The trail is easy to follow here. It goes up the hill, across the ridge and drops down to Murray Lake.
Murray Lake, at about 12,170 feet, appears to be a man-made lake with a dam. Some maps refer to this as Murry Reservoir, without the a in Murry. You can see the lake from a ridge slightly above it or you can walk to the dam and see the remnants of a metal structure that was here.
I thought Murray Lake was a nice spot for lunch and the turnaround spot for my hike. However, you could continue on from here, exploring the ridges and peaks in the area.
Details: The hike to Silver Dollar Lake and back is about 3.35 miles with 750 feet of elevation gain. The roundtrip hike to Murray Lake and back is about 4.25 miles with 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
In the Guanella Pass area, don’t miss Three Mile Creek Trail and Shelf Lake. Find more than 200 other great hikes in Colorado here. Don’t miss any of my hiking articles, click the “subscribe” button at the top of this article and follow me, DenverHikingExaminer on Facebook.
Directions: From I-70, take exit 228 for Georgetown and turn south. Stop at the Visitor Center for a bathroom break and to check the condition of Guanella Pass Road. Reset your odometer and turn right/west on Argentine Street. Take Argentine Street, following the signs/turns for Guanella Pass Road. About 9.6 miles from the Visitor Center, you’ll see Guanella Pass campground. The next right turn, past the campground, is Naylor Lake Road. Park at the turnoff, in parking lots on either side of the road, or drive the nutted, dirt road of Naylor Lake Road about 0.6 miles to the trailhead.