Shelf Lake Trailhead


Topographic map for Shelf Lake trail.

Topographic map for Shelf Lake trail.


The Shelf Lake Trail (#634) beings at a junction with the South Park Trail (#600) and the Geneva Creek Road (NFSR 119). For the first two and a half miles, the trail traverses and then climbs steadily in a north-northwest direction in the Smelter Gulch drainage.  The trail then rises at a less rapid rate until treeline at about mile 2.7. The final 0.75 mile rises more rapidly in a series of switchbacks up to the shelf on which the lake is located. There are five major stream crossings on the trail. The first two are about 200 feet apart, and are located about 1 mile from the trailhead. Above the second major stream crossing, Smelter Gulch stream will be to the left (south) of the trail. At slightly over 1.3 miles from the trailhead, the trail makes two more stream crossings and the drainage will again be to the left (south) of the trail. At 2.5 miles, you will reach the fifth (and final) major stream crossing. From this point onward to the lake, the drainage is to the right (north) of the trail. As you reach treeline, the trail begins to pass through willows in which there frequently appear to be several trails that come and go. Continue in a north-northwest direction and maintain your elevation if you get confused. As you reach treeline, you will see on your right several series of cascading falls as the terrain steepens. The final stretch of the trail bends left (west) up a steep series of switchbacks on the tundra. In mid-summer, this final stretch of the trail has a spectacular display of wildflowers.

Note that the actual trail described above varies somewhat from how it is represented on the topographic quad map.

At a Glance

Best Season: Summer
Busiest Season: Summer
Closest Towns: Grant
Information Center:

Appears on the following maps:

  • Pike National Forest
  • USGS Quad Mount Evans
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated #104 (Idaho Springs / Georgetown/ Loveland Pass)
  • Montezuma
Contact the South Platte Ranger District at 303.275.5610 for more information.

General Information


From Bailey drive 10.8 miles west on Highway 285 to Grant. Turn right (north) on Park County Road 62 (sometimes called Guanella Pass Road). Drive 6.6 miles to the turnoff for Geneva Park campground and Duck Creek Picnic Ground. From the turnoff, go 3.25 miles to the trailhead.


High clearance 4WD recommended.


High clearance 4WD recommended.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information



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Related Information

Areas & Activities


  Area/Length : 
3.5 miles

  Latitude : 

  Longitude : 

  Elevation : 
10,080' - 12,010'