With a low-key walk that merges into a steep uphill climb, and an optional extension to visit a fire lookout, the trail to Thorp Lake offers a range of hiking experiences crammed into one 2.6-mile trail.
Set off from the tiny trailhead, going around a gate and down to a creek crossing, just a few feet from the trailhead. Try to rock hop if you can here – it runs deep and salmon use the stream for habitat, no need to disturb them.
The roadbed continues on once you’re across Thorp Creek, leading to a rather large junction, signed for Little Joe Lake to the right, and Thorp Creek to the left. Hang a left, the trail is called Thorp Creek, but you’ll get to Thorp Lake this way.
Climb up a now very-rough roadbed for less than a quarter-mile to where the roadbed is blocked by a large log. A trail takes off to the lefthand side of the road, occasionally marked by a bandanna. Even if the bandanna isn't there, it's not hard to see the junction. Duck down the left-hand trail, which retains its character (for the moment at least) as a rolling trail through open forest. Lined with huckleberries, you may want to allot some time here if you visit in fall.
After about a mile and a half more of gentle rolling, the trail gets down to it, by heading up. Sometimes switchbacking, sometimes simply climbing straight uphill, the route has changed from roadbed to old fisherman's trail, heading for Thorp Lake.
Occasionally, the switchbacks are interspersed with some longer traverses but on the whole, this part of the trail is a slog. Take your time. Along the way there are a few small trickles if you need to refill water or your four-legged hiking companion is thirsty.
2.4 miles from the trailhead, arrive at a junction. Whew! You’ve made it. The lake is a very gentle 0.2 miles ahead of you, through much of the same environs you’ve been in: pine trees dotted with aspens, huckleberries, and generally open forest.
There are campsites at Thorp Lake, and you can see up to Thorp Mountain, though the lookout perched on top isn’t visible from the lake. You’ll have to save that one for later. Maybe a side trip during a campout here.