Due to a recent Forest Service analysis of the Parks Creek watershed, there is once again a good trail to the Caldwell Lakes.
This trail is typical of so many trails on national forest. Original access in the early 1900’s was only provided by a trail for hikers, pack-stock, and livestock grazers. Then much of the trail was superseded by a system of roads, primarily built for for timber harvesting after World War II. With the decline in timber management the road was no longer maintained, falling into disrepair, but also becoming a de facto trail to the lakes. Roads don’t always make good trails, and without maintenance the road also become a source of sediment harming riparian areas and water quality.
Rerouting the trail and decommissioning the road was a component of the Parks Eddy Watershed Restoration Environmental Assessment. Throughout the entire project area it was determined that sediment inputs to aquatic systems were related to lack of maintenance, road failure, and ineffective road drainage.
The road was decommissioned for the reasons above, along with discouraging vehicular access into the upper meadow system. Because of the natural attractions with the lakes and knowing they get frequent recreation use the decision was made to reroute the trail. In some places, the “new” trail is in the same alignment as the original trail, as evidenced by old blazes and license plates nailed high in the trees. The trail work was completed last summer by the local Forest Service trail crew. You should see all of the boulders they moved!
The trailhead is off the Parks Creek Road on forest road 41N74 . There is still some work left to do, including a trailhead sign and improvement of a stream crossing, but the trail is otherwise ready to be enjoyed!