Skinny Fish and
McGinnis Lakes

excerpts from the book
Incredible Backcountry Trails 
by David Day

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Incredible Backcountry Trails
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    Distance: 6.2 miles (round trip)

    Walking time: 4 hours
    : 1,100 ft. gain/loss
       Skinny Fish Trailhead (start): 9235 ft.
       Skinny Fish Lake: 10,192 ft.
       McGinnis Lake: 10,158 ft.

    Trail: Generally well marked and well maintained

    Season: Midsummer through mid-fall. The higher parts of the trail are generally covered with snow from late November through mid- June.

    Vicinity: Near Meeker and Yampa

    Skinny Fish LakeSkinny Fish Lake


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    This relatively easy hike will take you to two gorgeous lakes in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. The lakes are beautifully situated below the Flat Tops on the west side of the picturesque Chinese Wall, and their shores are shaded by a prolific forest of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir. The fishing is relatively good in both lakes, and if you wish to spend more than one day in the area there are plenty of good camp sites nearby. It is unfortunate that the area around Trappers Lake suffered a devastating fire during the summer of 2002, and some brief sections of this trail do pass through the burned area. However most of the burn occurred south and west of the lakes, and the damage in the Skinny Fish drainage was not extensive. Both lakes are still delightful places to spend an afternoon, and the trails are almost as scenic as ever.

    Immediately after leaving the parking area the trail crosses a small stream, and then begins to climb upward through a lush meadow of yellow wildflowers and scattered groves of quaking aspen. The parking area below continues to be visible for the next 10 minutes before the trail finally enters the primary forest of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir. Looking across the valley, two miles away on the south side of Trappers Lake, the devastation of the 2002 fire is painfully obvious. But, again, the damage near this trail was minimal.

    After 0.5 mile the trail arrives at a rustic 30-foot wooden footbridge across Skinny Fish Creek. The path crosses the bridge and then veers away, climbing 200 feet up the side of the canyon over the next 0.3 mile. Finally the trail turns east and becomes almost level as it begins to parallel the creek below. You will pass a signed trail junction here where the less well used Lost Lakes Trail departs on the left as it continues to climb up the south side of the Flat Tops.

    For the next 1.2 miles the trail continues to meander eastward with almost no net elevation change until it arrives at the last trail junction where the trail to McGinnis Lake branches off to the right. A third faint trail seems to go to the left at this point, but it soon disappears. To reach Skinny Fish Lake you must proceed straight ahead from the junction. The lake will come into view after another ten minutes of walking and 150 feet of elevation gain. The east side of the lake is quite swampy, but if you are looking for a nice camp site you will find one on the west side.

    In order to reach McGinnis Lake you must backtrack to the trail junction and turn east. The trail crosses Skinny Fish Creek just 150 feet from the junction, and then climbs eastward for another ten minutes before reaching the northwest shore of McGinnis Lake. McGinnis Lake sees fewer campers than Skinny Fish, but it is every bit as pretty and the shore is far less swampy. The rusty red alluvium cliffs of the Chinese Wall rise less than a mile east of the lake, and if you can arrange to be there in the late afternoon when the sun is low you will be treated to a superb view of the Flat Tops.

    The book includes more text, more photographs, and trail maps.

    If you are interested in a supplemental map of the Skinny Fish and McGinnis Lakes area
    we recommend:
    Flat Tops NE, Trappers Lake (Trails Illustrated, map #122)

    Click here for DISCOUNTED MAP ORDERS

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