Your legs may scream at you to turn around. Capitol Peak is widely considered Colorado’s most difficult 14er (peak over 14,000 ft. or 4267 m), but you don’t have to risk your life to enjoy the beautiful blue lake at its feet. Driving Directions: From Silverton, drive 2.3 km (2 mi.) Start hiking early to beat the crowds and avoid afternoon thunderstorms. The trailhead parking area is on the right side of the road across from the campground. Be sure to follow. Note that the park also has. The San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado are considered the state’s most rugged and beautiful. Elevation gain: 2,500 feet. Most hike it counter-clockwise, ascending the Venable Creek drainage. The upper section of the road is easy 4WD and requires good clearance. Rocky Mountain National Park is a truly breathtaking area and a great introduction to Colorado. And you’re still not even close to the top. Right after the toll booth, turn left onto Bear Lake Road and follow it for 13.5 km (8.4 mi) to the Glacier Gorge Parking Area. Snowmass Lake – Soaring peaks, tumbling brooks, wildflower meadows and crystal-clear lakes define the route over Buckskin Pass to Snowmass Lake, easily one of Colorado’s most epic and challenging day hikes. Distance and elevation gain: 19.8 km (12.3 mi. Roundtrip: 5 miles From here, many parties continue to Black Lake, which lies just below McHenry’s Peak and the aptly named Spearhead. Have you tried any of these hikes? Return the way you came. to the Colorado River Trail parking area. You may want to take the free shuttle from 10 Old Man’s Trail near downtown or in a free spot along Manitou Avenue. If you’d like to make this long day hike into an overnight backpacking trip, snag one of the dispersed camping spots in the area. Then turn right and begin the grueling ascent over Trail Rider Pass and down to Snowmass Lake. Most mere mortals do it in two, three or even four days, but trail runners in top shape can do it in one very long day. From the trailhead, follow the trail past Lower Ice Lake, which is a spectacular destination in itself. to the trailhead. I’ve hiked to lots of alpine lakes near Vancouver, but so far I haven’t made it to the famous Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The springs feeding Hanging Lake create fantastic blue ice sculptures in the winter. The trail continues past Dream Lake, then climbs a bit to reach the aptly named Emerald Lake in a deep glacial cirque. Parking is permitted at the trailhead from November through April. , National Park Service conditions update on. Good list. She is based in Denver, Colorado, and blogs about hiking travel and fitness at This short string of breathtaking lakes makes an excellent beginner hike or snowshoe. Driving Directions: Parking is permitted at the trailhead from November through April. If you are hiking in winter, be aware of avalanche danger. This hike also makes a great introduction to snowshoeing for fit beginners. Follow this gravel road for 7 km (4.4 mi.) Or, if you’re in good shape and just a little bit insane, you can try one of these routes as an extreme day hike. Distance and elevation gain: 22.5 km (14 mi. It’s from Colorado local Sarah Maurer of Here are Colorado’s most expensive hotel rooms. From Ridgway, head west on Highway 62 and continue for approximately 7.7 km (4.8 mi.) The approach hike is long and occasionally steep, but you’ll forget it all when you see one of Colorado’s tallest peaks reflected in Capitol Lake’s waters. Choose one, or hit both in a single extended day hike. You may see mountaineers climbing the couloirs (snow gullies) near Emerald Lake. This article was first published in Summer Getaways, an annual magazine from The Denver Post focused on outdoor recreation. Used under CC BY 2.0. Lost Creek Wilderness is a huge swath of verdant hills and bizarre rock formations less than a 90-minute drive from Denver or Colorado Springs. Start with a short jaunt to Nymph Lake, which will be covered with lilies in the summer. Just a few minutes later, you’ll be treated to a breathtaking vista of Hallett Peak over Dream Lake. Do you have any to add to the list? Continue on CR 7 for about 14.5 km (9 miles) to the parking area. The views of Pikes Peak and the Front Range mountains are sublime. Along the way, you’ll summit Buckskin Pass, where you’ll be treated to slightly sinister views of jaggy Pyramid Peak (also a 14er). Catch your breath, then pass through the tundra and head up to Frigid Air Pass, where the backside of the Bells form an imposing backdrop. Parts of this first half of the trail are a bit steep and rocky. Max elevation: 2232 m (7,323 ft.). Finding the lake can be a bit tricky, especially in summer when you don’t have a boot pack to follow. Missouri lakes area in the Holy Cross wilderness is a good one too. Approximate hiking time: 8 hours (makes a great backpack). Rather than rising before the sun, consider taking the, from Estes Park. to the trailhead. Spend some time walking around this amazing lake, flanked by jagged spires, then return the way you came. to the parking lot. Maroon bells scenic loop 1.9 Miles 160 Feet Elevation Gain Easy Relatively flat and accessible to wheelchairs in some areas, the broad trail that runs along the northern shore of Maroon Lake is popular for good reason. Sarah Maurer is a fitness coach who helps hikers get in the best shape of their lives for mountaineering and backpacking. 13.5 km (8.4 mi. Heat west across Trail Ridge Road, or drive to the western park entrance near Granby. It covers 100 hikes to 145 lakes around the state. And you’ll probably have it all to yourself. No fees. Emerald Lake by Sarah Lowgren on Flickr. From Estes Park, take US-36 and enter Rocky Mountain National Park through the Beaver Meadows Entrance. A quick note on this list: I’ve been a Colorado resident since 1999 and I’m a former backpacking guide. If you’re super ambitious, check out Frozen and Blue Lakes, also located in the upper basin. At the top of the switchbacks there is a tremendous view of Maroon Lake below. This rare loop takes you past two pretty lakes and over a dizzying ledge known as the Phantom Terrace. This 16-mile hike is best enjoyed with a picnic lunch and plenty of water in your pack. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains of southern Colorado are full of gorgeous alpine lakes. This is an extremely long hike if it's done in a single day. ), 411 m (1,350 ft.). Used under CC BY 2.0. At Island Lake. Gem Type: Lake There are camping sites at Snowmass Lake, but fires are not permitted here. Weekends can be quite crowded. the photo is a free stock image credited to a user named skeeze on Pixabay. ), 198 m (650 ft.)  Max elevation: 3081 m (10,110 ft.). Right after the toll booth, turn left onto Bear Lake Road and follow it for 16 km (10 mi.). I love Colorado lakes. Sarah, the emerald lake seems bit too cold right?? -Taryn. ), 1463 m (4,800 ft.) Max elevation: 3798 m (12,462 ft.) at Buckskin Pass. and take Exit 125 for Hanging Lake. Permits cost $10–$12, depending on the date of your visit. The trail to the top of this 14,255-foot mountain is staggeringly difficult and accounts for more failed summit attempts than most other 14ers, according to the National Park Service. This is also a fine area for overnight camping, though permits are required in the summer months due to heavy use. to the Glacier Gorge Parking Area. north on Highway 550 to County Road 7 and turn left. The unpleasantness starts as it climbs to Bison Pass. From here, separate valleys lead to Upper Ice Lake and Island Lake. Start the hike by crossing to the north side of the stream that flows from the east side of Snowmass Lake (you may have already crossed yesterday). Most visitors enter through the east side of the park near the town of Estes Park. Elevation gain: 8,000 feet. Do you have the name of the author? Beginning in May 2019, you must have a permit to visit Hanging Lake. I tried to include both some classics and some hidden gems that don’t normally make these types of lists. The trail to the Loch also passes Alberta Falls, which is especially spectacular when frozen in winter. Pass through scenic meadows and reach Mirror Lake … Colorado’s hot sun can melt weak spots in the ice, even when it’s below freezing. These are trails that will take your breath away — figuratively and literally — as you climb, climb and climb some more into the Rocky Mountains. Then the real fun begins. Looking for the perfect escape? What a useful guide! Used under CC BY 2.0. Driving directions: From Estes Park, take US-36 and enter Rocky Mountain National Park through the Beaver Meadows Entrance. Definitely consider grabbing a copy of Colorado Lake Hikes by Dave Muller. Day users and overflow backpackers be asked to park at Aspen Highlands and take a bus to the trailhead. ©Taryn Eyton 2014-2020 All Rights Reserved. Rocky Mountain National Park is a truly breathtaking area and a great introduction to Colorado. Roundtrip: 12.2 miles Snowmass, CO – Lake Snowmass Lake (10,980 ft) is an alpine lake in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness accessed at the junction of the Maroon-Snowmass Trail and Geneva Lake Trail, below Trail Rider Pass.From the lake are views of Snowmass Peak (13,627 ft), Hagerman Peak (13,841 ft) and Snowmass Mountain (14,092 ft).

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