Off of Highway 24 near Leadville, Meadows Drive winds its way to County Road 131. With 4WD or AWD and a little clearance, you can make it a ways up this road to a pullout just before Lily Lake. Otherwise, the run in begins where Meadows Drive becomes County Road 131, near the gravel pits, adding an extra mile to the overall run.
The West Tennessee Lakes trail takes off from Lily at a steep grade headed northwest from here. The route finds its way around a rocky hill towards the wide meadow which envelops West Tennessee Creek. Continuing through the trees north of the meadow, periodic views cast out across the clearing towards Buckeye Peak and the higher summits of the Mosquito Range behind it. Nearing 11,000 feet, you'll come across the wilderness boundary, and just beyond here, you reach a wooden fence and a trail that'll take you up to the 10th Mountain Division Hut, just one of a system of 34 backcountry huts managed by the not-for-profit organization of the same name.
Pulling closer to the meadow, swampy stretches and seasonal drainages wash across the trail. Game trails thread across the willows, and with any luck, you might spot a moose or an elk grazing near the water's edge. At 2.4 miles, the trail takes a sharp right turn into the trees then crosses another drainage. Drawn back into the open, closer now to the creek, mud overruns the trail. Where the meadow comes to a close, thick stands of pine reclaim the trail once again. At 3.25 miles, now above 11,000 feet, a smaller meadow tucked into the glaciated hills clears the way to a glance at the basin wall. Gaining the final push, the trail tapers off in the woods south of the lowest lake.
From here, there is a trail to the upper lakes, but you really have to look for it. At the south side of the lake, follow the trail downhill to a campsite and across the river to a second, more hidden, campsite. At this second campsite, a very faint strip of flattened grass leads towards a band of large boulders. Follow the wall higher on a more defined trail to where it eventually climbs out onto a scree slope near treeline. Random cairns mark out a route, but you can just aim towards where the basin plateaus near the creek's outlet. Reaching the high point, the trail ends at the lower of the two upper lakes.
Shared By: Caroline Cordsen