Lake Hope is a beautiful alpine lake that can be reached after a relatively comfortable hike. The trail winds through a sub-alpine forest, goes over streams, and climbs above the tree line, offering wonderful views of Trout Lake, Lizard Head, and Vermillion Mountain along the way.
The easiest way to get there is to drive 4.5 miles from Lake Trout to the trailhead, and a high-clearance vehicle is highly recommended. The alternative is to walk or mountain bike that road to the trailhead. From that point the hike is 5 miles round trip with 1,200 feet of elevation gain. The first mile is very pleasant, going through a subalpine forest with little net elevation gain. After that the trail is steeper and rockier, but it is still pleasant.
As you go up, look to your left toward Vermillion Mountain and inspiring views. If you turn back toward the trailhead, especially right above the tree line, you will see Trout Lake in the distance. At last the beautiful blue lake appears at the base of the 13,752-foot San Miguel Peak.
Fall colors are best in mid to late September. Depending on the year, the first week of October may also be good, though at that time you need to be ready for rapidly changing weather, including winter conditions. Even when the weather is pleasant, ice in the various streams is evidence of the cold nights at those elevations. Further, precipitation often causes the trail to be muddy in spots. Summer months are best for alpine wildflowers.
Fauna in the lower elevations may include birds such as red-tailed hawks as well as deer, elk and foxes. In the higher elevations it is possible to observe Steller’s jays as well as pikas and marmots.
After the hike, Lake Trout can be a great location to see the sunset, especially in fall with the hills northeast of the lake carpeted with golden aspen.