Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Toilets. Hiking trail.
The nearest undeveloped public land to Raton, Lake Dorothey Wildlife Area is a local gem. It is owned by the City of Raton and managed by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The property is just over 5,000 acres, small by Western US public land standards, but because the area is contiguous with another wildlife area and state park, the area is more wild and feels much larger than the acreage alone indicates.
There is no paved access to the wildlife area, it's a short walk in to Lake Dorothey, and there are no RV sites. This gives the Lake Dorothey Wildlife Area a true natural wilderness feel. It is common to see fishermen though, and during hunting season the parking lot can be full of campers and horse trailers. But it's rare to encounter other people beyond the lake; backcountry visitors will likely see more black bears, deer, elk, turkeys, and snakes than other humans.
The destructive Track Fire swept through the area in 2011. Many of the trees burned and died, creating an opportunity for lower plants to thrive. As a result, portions of the area are thick with briars, nettles, and scrub oak. Special care is necessary as some dead trees remain standing, waiting to crash to the ground during the next unusual wind gust.
As a State Wildlife Area, special rules regulate activities such as camping, boating, and overnight parking. Consult the guide book, Colorado State Recreation Lands or contact the Colorado Parks and Wildlife for more information.
Hiking Opportunities: The walk from the parking lot to Lake Dorothey is a service road, flat and easy. There is a hiking trail that leads north from the lake up the East Fork of the Schwachheim Creek and towards the James John Wildlife Area. The lower portion of this trail is easy to follow but the upper section becomes tangled in brush and fallen trees, eventually disappearing.
Fire lines were cut through the wildlife area during the Track Fire, now providing additional hiking routes.
Some older maps show a hiking trail leading from Lake Dorothey to the mesa top, coming out at a small pond. This trail was erased by the 2011 Track Fire and is no longer navigable.
Off-trail exploring and hiking is very rewarding in the Lake Dorothey Wildlife Area. And it can be challenging due to the topography and vegetation.
Camping Opportunities: Special rules apply for overnight parking and backcountry camping. See the State Recreational Lands brochure for more info.
Paddling Opportunities: Although the lake is small, there seems to be no specific rules against paddling in Lake Dorothey, and fishermen frequently seen using flotation tubes. The kayak/canoe will have to be carried from the parking lot though.
Official website with maps. Link.
Page with current Colorado Parks and Wildlife brochure downloads, including the Recreational Lands brochure. Link.