Features: Birding — Fall Colors — Lake — River/Creek — Spring — Views — Wildflowers — Wildlife
Just south of the Lottis Creek campground, the creek itself presents the first roadblock, whose high waters will pose a problem any time of year without an established bridge to use to get across.
Once across, the South Lottis Trail takes its lead from its namesake creek, winding south towards Gunsight Pass. Swaddled by heavy woods in the thick of Gunnison National Forest, the foliage only thins every so often to views of Broncho Mountain a couple miles to the south. Eons ago, this wide drainage was chiseled out by glaciers during the last ice age, which allows for grades to never grow too steep.
Five miles from the campground, Brush Creek breaks off from South Lottis Creek, and the South Lottis Trail comes to a fork with the Henry Lake
Trail #429. Turning left, the South Lottis Trail wraps back around to meet up with Brush Creek.
Following Brush Creek to its headwaters between Broncho and Henry Mountains, the trail pulls away above treeline into a scramble towards Gunsight Pass. After a hard quarter mile of talus and scree, and 1,300 feet of gain, the summit is reached.
Gunsight Pass offers the best approach to both Square Top Mountain (15 feet shy of a 13er) and Henry Mountain (13,254 feet). Smack dab in the center of the Sawatch Mountain Range, the Sangres, the San Juans, and the Elk Mountains; both peaks offer great vantage points to nearly half of Colorado’s 54 14ers.
From an elevation of 12,167 feet, the trail then descends into the Lamphier Creek Drainage with the help of cairns. As this side of the pass sees more foliage than the northern face, treeline comes quickly, and at 11,700 feet, the route suddenly drops into Lamphier Lake, set against a grand backdrop of Gunsight Pass and Square Top Mountain.
From here, wrap the eastern shores of Lamphier Lake on a faint trail, and the remaining route loses about another 200 feet of dense, rocky terrain before finding easier grades further down. I noticed here that the map at the trailhead doesn’t quite match up to the actual route. It may be something worth noting.
Meeting with Lamphier Creek, and crossing it more than once, the trail takes its lead for much of the remaining route, ending up at the Gold Creek Campground. While steeper than the northern half of the South Lottis Trail, the switchbacks never become too trying. But if you can arrange for a shuttle, I would recommend running this north to south.
About 3/4ths of a mile from Lamphier Lake, an unmarked trail will take you to Lower Lamphier Lake.
Fossil Ridge Wilderness is heavily wooded with pines, aspen and firs. Elk, deer, bighorn, mountain goats, fox, bobcats and mountain lions are known to thrive within the wilderness.
Fishing is a big draw to the area, and much like other lakes in the wilderness, Lamphier Lake is jam packed with native cutthroat trout.