Looking for an easy hike to ease into the high altitude (8,000 + feet) near our camping spot in South Fork, CO we chose to make the loop around Big Meadow Reservoir. We parked near the trailhead for Archuleta Lake (trail # 839) and were pleased to see snowy peaks in the background reflecting onto the reservoir. The trail around the reservoir, a smooth dirt path, was very easy to follow with little elevation gain. We stopped numerous times to watch families of ducks, admire the wide variety of wildflowers, and stand on the bridges spanning streams flowing into the lake. A couple of hikers we met on the trail (the only ones we encountered) said they'd seen a moose at the water's edge. Alas, we weren't that fortunate. We stopped for lunch in a shady spot and enjoyed watching a chipmunk do his version of boulder-hopping. All in all, I'd say this would be an excellent hike for families and dogs and one you could do even at high noon given the abundance of dappled shade.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.