Trappers Lake, aka “Cradle of Wilderness”, in the Flat Tops Wilderness.
Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway is a secluded, 82-mile stretch in beautiful Northwest Colorado. It connects the towns of Yampa (to the east) and Meeker (to the west). Although remote, active ranches, mines and logging exist along the drive, with something around every turn.
The drive is at a leisurely pace, usually around 2.5 – 3 hours. About half the trip is on a smooth gravel road, the other dirt.
Camping is outstanding in this remote location, with plenty of recreation to occupy your time. The drive accesses both the Routt and White River National Forests. Many primitive spots can be found directly off the byway. More spots can be found off almost any dirt road. National Forest campgrounds are well marked with many to choose from. Many campgrounds are close to lakes, like Trappers or Chapman.
Scenic drive from Yampa to Meeker
The Flat Tops Trail is a remarkable place to get away to and enjoy nature in Northwest Colorado. Connecting Meeker and Yampa, this 82 mile byway is suitable for mostly all cars. Gas up in Meeker or Yampa, as there is no where else to fill once on the drive.
The drive takes anywhere from 2.5 hours and up, depending on stops. There is some winter access for recreation like snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling. Summer/fall recreation includes biking, camping, fishing, hiking and hunting.
Gas up in Yampa or Meeker before you head out. There’s nothing on route. The only public restaurant on route is the Trappers Lake Lodge, open seasonally, near the middle of the drive. It’s a nice refreshment after driving on this remote byway. They also rent out cabins, and do horseback, fishing and hunting tours.
Trapper’s Lake in a minor, 6-mile detour near of the middle of the byway. Known as the “Cradle of Wilderness”, it’s a must stop. It’s the 3rd largest natural lake in Colorado. Signs mark the turn for Trappers Lake Road.
Boating – Wakeless boating in 300-acre Trappers Lake. Boats must be hand-launched from a trail.
- The Trappers Lake Lodge is open seasonally (late May through September) and rents out boats, as well a horses and cabins. There is a mini general store with a restaurant with bar. 7700 Trappers Lake Rd, Meeker, trapperslake.com
Camping – It’s easy to find both primitive car camping and campgrounds along the majority of the drive, especially on the Yampa side. Campgrounds are located on both the Meeker and Yampa side of the byway, with the biggest cluster near Trappers Lake.
- Chapman Reservoir CG – closest to Yampa, 12 sites, basic, non-reservable
- Vaughan Lake CG – another lake on the Yampa side, 6 sites, basic, non-reservable
- Himes Peak CG – Trappers Lake Rd on Meeker side, 11 sites, basic, non-reservable
- Trappers Lake Horse Thief CG – 7 sites, basic, livestock corrals, non-reservable
- Trappers Lake Shepherds Rim CG – 15 sites, non-reservable
- Trappers Lake Cutthroat CG – 14 sites, basic, non-reservable
- Trappers Lake Trapline CG – 12 sites, basic, non-reservable
- North Fork CG – closer to Meeker, 28 sites, basic, Reservations
- East Marvin CG – near Meeker, 7 sites, basic, non-reservable
- Marvine CG – near Meeker, 24 sites, 4 are horse camping sites, non-reservable
- Dispersed camping is easy to find, not too far out of Yampa or Meeker.
Fishing – Lake after lake can be accessed during the drive.
- Chapman Reservoir is one of the closest to Yampa.
- Trappers Lake is the biggest and has long been preserved from development, resulting in highest concentration of Colorado River cutthroats anywhere. Artificial flies and lures only.
Hiking – There are numerous places to park your car and walk around during the 4 hour drive. Trappers Lake is a great detour, with a 5.5 miles trek around the lake.
Horseback Riding – Permitted on several multi-use trails in the national forests.
Hunting – The Flat Tops Wilderness is accessible along much of the byway, with plenty of places to hunt during established seasons.
OHV – Permitted on certain multi-use trails and roads.
Scenic Drives – In addition to sights along the 82-mile-stretch, take the ten mile detour down to Trappers Lake for the second or so largest natural lake in Colorado (behind Grand Lake and Lake San Cristobal also claims second largest).
Winter – Cross county skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing are common when there’s snow.
From Yampa – Take Co Rd 17 from downtown which becomes Co Rd 8/byway. From Meeker – Take E Market St to Co Rd 8. The road is open June to October, depending on snow. Winter recreation is allowed, but the byway from Yampa isn’t plowed.
Phone: 970-638-4516 (Local US Forest Dept)
Season: June – October
Length: 82 miles
Roads: 2WD, Free
Map: Flat Tops Trail (.png)
Flickr Photos: 8/15/2012