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Tucked away in the Routt National Forest in the northwest Colorado Rockies, Hidden Lake offers some fantastic camping for those desiring a smaller campground away from the beaten path. At 10 acres, Hidden Lake is big enough to hide some trophy sized fish, but small enough to feel like you are on your own private lake. Visit the area during the non-peak times and you just may be. Due to the number of campgrounds in the National Forest, the smaller ones are often overlooked. Established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905 the Routt National Forest covers 1,126,346 acres of Federal land.
Hidden Lake, or Hidden Lakes as it is sometimes called, is located within the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area of the Routt National Forest and offers more privacy than neighboring Grizzly Lake and the more popular Teal Lake. Campsites around Hidden Lake are well spaced and include plenty of shade and room to set up camp. Facilities at the campground include picnic tables, fire rings, hand pumped water, and vault toilets. There are also a limited number of RV sites. Tent campers can pitch their tents as close to the crystal clear mountain water as they would like.
Fish waiting to be caught in the quiet waters of Hidden Lake include rainbow trout and bluegill. Most of the small lakes in the area are stocked regularly by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Small, non-motored boats, canoes and kayaks are allowed on Hidden Lake. Paddling is one of the best ways to truly enjoy the tranquility of the surrounding forest. Fishing in nearby rushing, world-class streams is also a great way for fly fishermen to land some trophy sized trout. Note: Although most fish taken from Colorado lakes and streams are safe to eat, refer to the Colorado Fish Advisory (link below) before eating fish caught from Hidden Lake or any Colorado waterway.
For hikers and mountain bikers visiting Hidden Lake, there are over 150 miles of wooded trails that lead into the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area. There are 10 designated Wilderness Areas within the Routt National Forest. The Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area is one of the original areas protected under the 1964 Wilderness Act and has since been expanded twice to its present size of 160,648 acres. Over 70 lakes can be found within the wilderness area as well as 15 mountain peaks over 12,000 feet, the highest being 12,180 foot Mount Zirkel. Some areas of the wilderness are more popular than others and receive a high level of use, but guests looking for solitude can find it if they visit during a weekday or seek out the less-popular areas.
Wildlife enthusiast will enjoy the large populations of elk and deer that make their home in the National Forest. Bear, bighorn sheep, mountain lion, coyote, and antelope can be seen in the higher elevations. Beaver, marmot, ptarmigan, osprey, eagle, and other smaller species may be sighted in and around Hidden Lake. Famous for its hunting, the National Forest has designated hunting areas during seasons set by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
For shopping, restaurants, and more comfortable accommodations, Hidden Lake is located 30 miles southwest of the town of Walden. Known as the "Moose Viewing Capital of Colorado," Walden is a charming little western town with vacation rentals and real estate options to make your visit feel a bit more civilized. There are also larger campgrounds throughout the National Forest which offer a variety of outdoor services. These campgrounds do fill up quickly and can get crowded during peak times.
East of Hidden Lake, on the western side of the National Forest, is the bustling resort town of Steamboat Springs. This small mountain town comes alive every winter with its incredible downhill ski slopes that attract visitors from all over the country. Many Olympic athletes train in this town. In the summer, visitors can explore the western side of Routt National Forest on foot or bike, or take a gondola or a hot air balloon ride over the majestic mountains. Lodging and vacation rentals in Steamboat Springs are plentiful. Golfers will be delighted by several golf courses in the area. The golf courses also offer spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding mountains during summer and fall months.
From its high mountain peaks to its rolling open meadows, the Routt National Forest offers many opportunities for enjoying the great outdoors. For those who want to get away from it all, smaller campgrounds such as Hidden Lake are perfect for fishing, hiking, or just relaxing without having to compete for space or peace and quiet.
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