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Although I visited Cliff Lake more than a decade ago, I never wrote about it.
The trailhead to Cliff Lake can be reached by turning left by the boat ramp and driving along the lake to the end of the road. There is a private residence at the very end and the parking area is to the left of that. There is a sign for the beginning of the trail.
This hike is essentially 11 miles round trip with an elevation gain overall of about 2,000 feet. The maximum elevation is near 9,500'. The trail is one of those that is initially downhill at the beginning and you know what that means for your tired legs on the return!
The trail initially parallels Courtright Reservoir and then heads N.W. to Cliff Lake. There is some signage so pay attention because this trail crosses other trails.
There is a section of the trail that passes through the Helms Fire burn area. It is still possible to follow the trail though it is somewhat washed through the burn scar. There is one water crossing fairly near the beginning if you have a means to purify or filter the water.
The initial junction at the end of the reservoir is with the Frazier trail which proceeds east. The next trail crossing is with the Nelson Lake Trail. There are three more trails that branch off near Cliff Lake. I used both a Garmin Map 65 and my Garmin Fenix watch. It took me 7 hours round trip and my Fenix had my inbound time only 15 minutes shorter than my outbound time. I used the track back feature on my Map 65 to “re-find” The correct trail climbing back out of the lake. Bring bug repellent.
I ran into an old friend from my SAR days who was with a group of CARDA folks on a training mission with their dogs. I think Cliff Lake is a beautiful lake and popular with backpackers as well as day hikers. Inbound you will be more likely to see many of the mountains including one of my favorites, Mount Goddard. It is worth your time to stop at the vista point before you drive down to the reservoir. On the way in or out.
I used my Sony A1 with the 16-35mm f4 lens and my 85mm 1.8