Those of you who’ve hiked the Tabor Creek Trail and brought a map along may have noticed that there is supposedly a lake in the Tabor Creek valley. You also may have noticed that the trail goes nowhere near any lakes as it meanders up to the pass at the head of the valley. If this has left you scratching your head in bewilderment, you’re not alone. Tabor Lake is one of the best-hidden secrets in the area. Have no fear, though: The lake does exist, and if you can find it, it’s well worth the effort it takes to get there.
To reach Tabor Creek, take Highway 82 east out of Aspen and travel up toward Independence Pass until you reach Lincoln Creek Road. Follow Lincoln Creek for about four miles to the well-marked trailhead. Chances are yours will be the only car in the parking area. One of the great things about the Tabor Creek trail is that it gets very few visitors.
The trail starts off by crossing Lincoln Creek on top of a large fallen tree. This is the first of a handful of creek crossings, and not all of them are in such good shape, so you may want to wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet. After the creek, the trail climbs steeply through a pine forest before crossing a road that serves the Grizzly Reservoir diversion project. On the far side of the road, the trail enters the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, and Tabor Creek will finally be in evidence.
Continue up the hill for a short distance longer until the trail breaks from the trees and enters a series of rolling meadows. You will have to cross Tabor Creek twice in this area, so be sure to choose your crossings carefully. When you reach the fourth large meadow, look up and ahead to your right. Though you may not be able to tell, there is a shelf up there that holds the lake.
Once you enter the trees beyond the fourth meadow, keep your eyes on the right side of the trail. You need to find what looks like a steep trail made of smallish rocks. You may also see a tiny creek coming down from the right. When you find these things, take a right and head straight up the hill. The going gets a little difficult, but with some effort you’ll arrive at the top to find a beautiful waterfall spilling over a tall cliff. This is the outflow from Tabor Lake. (The waterfall may be dried up later in the summer, but the cliff should still be obvious.)
Skirt the cliff by going around it to the right and then back up to the left until you reach the treeline. There you will find Tabor Lake, a beautiful jewel that is surprisingly large for how well it’s hidden. Take some time to soak in the scenery and congratulate yourself on reaching a destination that most others miss. If you have the time, head back to the main trail and follow it up to the pass. The vistas of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness are stunning, and you will feel as if you’re a million miles from civilization.