Clinton Gulch Dam Reservoir is a man-made lake just south of Leadville and north of Copper Mountain on State Highway 91, near the popular Mayflower Gulch hike. There’s a trail that goes around its entire circumference, creating a 2.4 mile loop that is perfect for a beautiful hike in the Rocky Mountains. This trail is a great option for beginners, casual hikers, or even families.
Distance: 2.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 230 feet
Features: lake, mountain views, wildflowers
Phone Service: none
Hiking Clinton Gulch Dam Reservior
This hike around Clinton Gulch Dam Reservoir is straight forward and simple. It’s relatively flat, especially compared to most mountain hikes. With only 230 feet of elevation gain spread across 2.4 miles, this hike is easy. The trail is quite thin though, so don’t plan on walking next to someone. Single file is basically required. Just follow the trail all the way around the lake, returning to your car after your outdoor adventure. The northern side of the loop is more exposed and the brush is mainly willows, while the southern side of the loop is forested and offers many wildflowers, mushrooms, and mini streams flowing into the lake. On the far end of the lake (east), you’ll encounter a wide open meadow and an easy stream crossing – this is where some of the best views of the hike are.
Clinton Gulch Dam Reservoir is named after the nearby 13,864-foot Clinton Peak, which serves as the headwaters for Clinton Creek. In 1977, the dam was constructed by the Climax Molybdenum Company with the intention of assisting in mining operations. The reservoir was sold in 1992 to the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Company, whose stakeholders include a few Summit County towns and ski resorts. A portion of the water is now used to create artificial snow on some ski slopes each winter.
From highway I-70, take exit 195 towards Copper Mountain then continue south on State Highway 91 (a.k.a. Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway). Continue for about 7 miles and you’ll arrive at Clinton Gulch Dam Reservoir. There’s parking on either side of the dam, so don’t worry if you miss the first parking lot – there’s a second one soon after. Park in either area. Because this hike is a loop, it doesn’t matter where you start or which direction you begin.
Fishing at the Reservoir
During our hike, we saw several fishermen posted up along the shoreline with lines in the water. Fishing is permitted here with a Colorado state fishing license (required for ages 16+) and ice fishing is permitted in the wintertime. The lake is stocked with cutthroat trout, and there’s a wild population of Rainbow and Brown trout.
With all that being said, don’t let it’s simplicity fool you; the views are beautiful and the lake sparkles in the sunlight of a warm summer day. We would highly recommend this hike for anyone looking for an easier adventure or for families. Because of it’s elevation right around 11,000 feet, it’s also a great option for those looking to get outside while also acclimating to the altitude.
Where is Clinton Gulch Dam Reservoir?
Clinton Gulch Dam Reservoir is situated between Copper Mountain and Leadville, along the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway (a.k.a. State Highway 91). It’s easily accessible from two parking areas on either side of the dam, and is surrounded by a 2.4 mile easy hiking trail.
What is the altitude of Clinton Gulch Dam Reservoir?
The reservoir sits at just above 11,000 feet, right around 11,050. The trail around the lake ranges from 11,076 to 11,161 feet in elevation.
Can you fish at Clinton Gulch Dam Reservoir?
Yes! With a valid Colorado state fishing license (for ages 16+), you can fish in the reservoir year-round for Cutthroat Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Brown Trout.
About the Author
Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, hiking, wildflowers, and mushrooms. If she isn’t writing content for Know Nothing Nomads, she’s probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.