Bill Moore Lake
Clear Creek County, Colorado
Arapaho National Forest
Clear Creek Ranger District
View this on the Colorado Trailheads Map
Forest Service Road: 183.1
County Road: 251
Trail Type: Out and Back
Nearby Towns: Empire
Nearby Trails: Red Elephant Hill, Mill Creek, Democrat Mountain, Bard Creek
Season: Year Round
Trail Length: 5.2 miles
Elevation: 9,288 to 11,479 feet
Recommended by Austin
Recommended by Ryan S.
This is a beautiful trail perfect for stock vehicles wanting to try something a little more difficult. It's also good for the seasoned wheeler. It connects with Red Elephant Hill, which connects with Mill Creek. Running these three trails makes for a nice day of offroading. The three trails together make the Empire Loop.
The trail starts out from Empire as a big climb up a hill. This hill often has eroded sections as well as larger rocks you can climb over.
At the first fork in the road past the Conqueror Mine you can either go left up the biggest and most challenging hill or go right/straight up the switchbacks. If you go left you are in the Chutes. You may encounter other vehicles coming down, so prepare for that. The Chutes contain a few rocks scattered on it that you can either work your way around or climb over, making the climb as challenging as you'd like it to be. It can be narrow in spots.
If you stay on the main trail it is a bit longer but much easier.
At the top of the Chutes it mellows out a little. Go right at two intersections, then you'll see two signs pointing the way to Bill Moore Lake -- take the road to the left at both of these intersections. The Bill Moore Lake trail continues to climb.
Soon you'll see the turn for 171.3C to the right. This is the end of the Red Elephant Hill trail. Do not take this road as Red Elephant Hill is a one-way trail on the way up. Instead, go left and up the hill on 183.1. This is a hill of "whoopdeedoos" to challenge the flexibility of your suspension. Stay on the trail.
There is a good chance you will find snow on the trail from this point forward, even as late as July. It is very important that you know where the trail is, even if it is buried in snow, so you may need to get out and hike over or around the snow to find the other side of the trail. You are free to work your way through the snow as long as you stay on the trail. It is never acceptable to leave the trail to get around snow, even briefly and even if others before you have done it. If you cannot travel through or over the snow you must turn back.
There is a long climb after this that is on loose dirt and small rocks. It may be too challenging for some stock SUVs and it may be impossible if it is wet.
You'll start to go downhill and then you'll come to the mud pit. The large mud pit was closed in 2004. If this area is muddy you should make sure you can get your vehicle out if you get stuck. The mud here can be very slick. Do not drive off of the trail to get around the mud. If you cannot make it through the mud then you must turn around.
Bill Moore Lake itself is just past the pit. Do not cross the berm before the Lake. Park in the turnaround area and walk the short distance to the lake.
There is also the large Poser Rock in this turnaround area that is fun to drive up on to pose in the scenery. Be sure to have someone spot you from the front of your vehicle so you do not slip off the side or accidentally drive too far over it.
Information last updated on August 16th, 2011.
- August 13th, 2011: ran by Chris, Hoa, Monica and Walt
- November 6th, 2010: ran by Gary, Mark F., Matt K. and Walt
- November 17th, 2007: ran by Bill S., Chad S., Don, Michael and Mike S.
- July 15th, 2006: ran by Daniel, Dave B., Ed C., Gary, Jed, Micheal, Mike C. and Walt
- July 9th, 2005: ran by Aaron N., Bob S., Brian E., Cheryl, Dane, Dave B., Eric B., Jed, Mike S., Monica and Wayne
- July 31st, 2004: ran by Alanna, Austin IV, Austin, Bob S., Bob R., Daniel, Ed C., Jed, Landon, Monica and Rod
- August 16th, 2003: ran by Aaron N., Amir, Bob S., Brian E., Ed A., Fred, Jenn, Ladd and Monica
- August 31st, 2002: ran by Austin, Beth, Dave R., Jordan, Kendall, Kyle, Mike S. and Monica
Take I-70 to Highway 40. Go north to the town of Empire. Turn right at North Empire Road (this intersection does not have a street light). Bear right at the fork where the trail starts -- do not follow FSR261.1.
Meet at the Starbucks next to the gas station at Downieville, exit 234 off of I-70.