If you are looking to either fish, hike, see the aspens change, wildlife watch or all of the above, you can do far worse than a trip to Urad Lake.
Urad Lake is in the Urad Lake State Wildlife Area, the newest SWA in Colorado. Located off of Jones Pass and Berthoud Pass in Clear Creek County, it is the result of a cooperative effort between the Climax Molybdenum Company (Henderson Mine), the City of Golden and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).
The property was historically open to the public for several decades, even though privately owned by the mine. In 2011, the property closed to the public as Henderson Mine did a massive, multimillion dollar mitigation project in the Woods Creek Valley.
During the closure, the mine, City of Golden (which owns the water and reservoir) and CPW were able to work out a long-term lease to turn over the management of the property to Colorado Parks and Wildlife which reopened the area in 2014. During that time, CPW stocked the lake with 6,000 10- to 12-inch cutbow trout. The lake is full of small brook trout, recently stocked rainbow trout and plenty of the cutbows.
On my mid-September visit with a good friend, the rainbows fell like, well, rain. I’ve honestly never had as much fun catching trout. We actually made two trips in one weekend. The first trip on Friday evening, we went straight from the airport and forgot to make the stop and get him a license. It killed my buddy to see how the fish were hitting. So on Sunday we drove up again — licenses in hand. In the future, if that situation occurs (and we have cell service) a fishing license can be bought online at cpw.state.co.us/buyapply/Pages/Fishing.aspx. Yay, technology.
Fast, Furious and Fun Fishing
Skinny trout were released immediately, chunkier ones went in the fish basket. After about an hour, I had reached my bag limit and it was solely catch and release. Want an idea of how good the fishing was? On my final five casts, I caught four fish and had one hit and run.
Nearing Peak Color
The aspens were about a week from peak color, so between now and October, leaf lovers will have plenty of camera fodder.
Wildlife watchers will be treated to a pika chorus as they MEEP at you from the rocks. I had a goal of getting a good pika photo or two, but the fishing was so much fun that I had the fishing rod in hand much more than my Nikon. Chipmunk photos would have to suffice. And if you were wondering if “Fisher” in the title was a typo, it isn’t. On the drive out, a fisher (or maybe a pine marten — which doesn’t make as good of a title) scurried across the dirt road in front of us. A rare and welcomed site.
Hikers looking for a moderate hike will enjoy the trek up to and around the lake. It’s not hard, but your lungs will definitely feel it.
Some people may get angry that I am writing about this hot spot, but here’s the nice thing about a blog — if I feel on upcoming visits the area is getting too crowded, I simply highlight this post and hit delete.
Wayne D. Lewis is the editor and art director of Colorado Outdoors magazine.