Why would I not visit this magnificent valley in 24 years living in Colorado? I had never ventured on the Road to Jefferson through the Tarryalls from Lake George. The mountains are at 11,000 to 12,000 feet above sea level and there are paths crossing many of them, but they are not famous. They pale in comparison to their gigantic cousins to the west on the Rocky Mountain range. They are magnificent, but not famous.
It was a day trip from Colorado Springs and full of nervous surprises. Can we find the Reservoir when we have no map or satellite coverage? Will the road be too rough for our all wheel high clearance vehicle? Will we be able to float in the Reservoir?
The answer was yes (see directions below), the road is rough but doable, no, there is no “body contact” sports allowed. Fishing body boats, kayaks, and small boats with trolling motors are allowed. Your butt is not allowed to touch the water as it is a Reservoir. You might do something?
The reservoir was delightful and offered many isolated spots and fishing from the banks and boats. There was a small but active waterfall that greeted us on the South side of the Reservoir. There is NO shade so be prepared for the blazing sun in the summer. Picnic tables and restrooms are nicely spaced around the lake. Except for the over 60 sports cars that decided Hwy 77 was good for a road rally, it was a day of marvelous isolation.
In the 1800’s, Isabella Bird decided to ride her horse from Lake George up this valley. She decided to stay and the subsequent ranches diverted the Tarryall River in order to create lush hay fields in the valley. There are a few ranches to stay at in the valley and a small town with a tiny white church.
The Tarryall State Wildlife Area is adjacent to the Lost Creek Wilderness and is interspersed with private land and the Pike National Forest west to South Park.There are ATV and rougher roads leading to remote camp sites that branch off of Hwy 77 throughout the 20 mile area.
The Twin Eagle Trailhead and hiking paths called, but my heart rate at the 9,000 foot elevation was already at 110 beats per minute so we skipped the valley hike.
We visited the South Platte River for a short but fast float on the hot August afternoon.
Animals in the Tarryall area include puma (i.e., mountain lion, cougar, catamount, etc), black bear, elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorn, coyote, ermine and a few varieties of squirrels. Birds in the area include Northern Flicker, Blue Grouse, Great Horned Owl, Western Bluebird, Mountain Bluebird, and Broadtailed Hummingbirds. There were Educational Signs all along Highway 77.
“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills;” Deuteronomy 8:7 NIV
Denver: Take Hwy 285 to the town of Jefferson and turn left on Park County 77. (Keep an eye out for free range cattle.)
From Colorado Springs: Hwy 24 West to Lake George. Just past lake George, turn right (northwest) on Park County 77 (Tarryall Road). Between dusk and dawn, deer and elk are incredibly numerous. Source: Summitpost.org