Lake Isabel is one of Colorado's hidden gems, sitting high in the Wet Mountains on the border of Pueblo and Custer counties. (Video by Nathan Van Dyne)

Fall is a fleeting season in Colorado.

For a few precious days, aspens shine in golden glory and temperatures hover somewhere near perfect. Then comes winter, with snow, ice and myriad mentions of wind chill.

If you’re not ready to trade trekking poles for skiing poles, don’t fret. But don’t dally, either.

Southwest of Pueblo, high in the Wet Mountains, we found autumn clinging on last week. Leaves painted red, yellow and orange glistened in a soft breeze. And under stunning blue skies, winter seemed far away.

Lake Isabel is one of Colorado’s hidden gems, unknown to many because of its proximity to, well, nothing. It’s tucked away in San Isabel National Forest on the border of Pueblo and Custer counties. But that remoteness contributes to its attractiveness. As does the surrounding scenery.

The hike itself won’t present a challenge beyond the thin air that comes at 8,500 feet. The grade is as mellow as the mood at this destination, especially come October.

The path is mostly dirt, with a couple of boardwalks along the water. The route can be out-and-back, but we opted for an easily navigated loop that included a few hundred feet along the secluded highway.

The lake is a year-round fishing hole that can get crowded during summer months. On this afternoon, a few anglers dotted the shoreline in hopes of landing a rainbow trout. But most of the visitors were there to take in the sights.

Some enjoyed a picnic. Others walked a dog. But no one seemed in a hurry. And for good reason: Winter is right around the corner, and there’s no sense rushing through fall.

Trip log: 1.4 miles, 150 feet elevation gain, 8,620 feet max

Difficulty: Easy

Getting there: Take Interstate 25 south to Colorado City (exit 74). Drive west on Colorado 165 for 18 miles to San Isabel. Park in day-use areas.

FYI: Trail can be icy during winter. Dogs on leash. Day-use fee for parking applies from mid-May through September. Limited free parking just north of lake. Plenty of camping options and hiking trails nearby.

Contact the writer: nathan.vandyne@gazette.com

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