The hike to Nolan Lake is a moderate hike which should be a top destination when camping at Sylvan Lake State Park or one of the national forest campgrounds at Yoeman Park or Fulford Cave. The highlights of the trail are fabulous views of the western peaks of the Holy Cross Wilderness and the pristine high mountain lake at the end of the trail.
The trailhead is on NF-418 near the old mining camp of Fulford. After an initial short steep climb, the trail settles into a pretty gentle grade for the first few miles. There are a few old log structures just a quarter mile from the trailhead, part of the old “Upper Town” of Fulford. The trail follows Nolan Creek for most of the route, and there are several nice cascades and waterfalls visible from short spurs off of the trail. The trail enters Holy Cross Wilderness at about 1.5 miles. The last mile is steep in segments, and the trail actually goes past and above the lake (to avoid the steep rocky gully below the lake outlet) and crosses a long wet meadow before dropping down 100 feet to the lake shore.
Nolan Lake is crystal clear and set at the base of steep cliffs, but it is easy to circumnavigate the lake on social paths. It is unlikely to be crowded here, and the scenic beauty and solitude make the long climb very worthwhile.