Guidebook

Stunning Hikes to Alpine Lakes in Central Colorado

14 hikes leading to a beautiful lake, high up in the Colorado Rockies—perfect for fishing, paddling, or just sitting on the shore!

Description

While climbing Colorado’s highest mountains may well be the primary pastime of avid hikers in the state, sometimes an alternative objective, such as an alpine lake, can be even more gratifying. What’s more relaxing than sitting on the shores of a crystal-clear body of water, alternatively watching the sun reflect off the surface, and staring up at the towering mountain peaks above?

Each of these hikes in Central Colorado culminates at a beautiful alpine lake—and no two lakes are the same! With incredible scenery throughout the entire hike that varies wildly depending on what drainage you’re hiking up, you might just have to check each and every one of these routes off your bucket list.

Once you reach the lake, you can enjoy a number of activities ranging from a picnic lunch on the shore, to fly fishing for trout, or even paddleboarding if you choose to haul your board up the mountains. However, be sure that you check for any regulations for each specific lake: some lakes don’t allow certain activities like fishing or paddling, and for others you’ll need to have the appropriate license to fish.

Hartenstein Lake
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Hartenstein Lake

Buena Vista
2 - 3 hrs
10.2 km
500 m
500 m
Hike to an alpine lake deep in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.
Difficult
Private
Kroenke Lake
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Kroenke Lake

Buena Vista
3 - 4 hrs
14.2 km
514 m
514 m
This alpine lake provides options from day hike to shuttle hike to backpacking destination.
Difficult
Private
Bear Lake in Horn Fork Basin
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Bear Lake in Horn Fork Basin

Buena Vista
4 - 5 hrs
17.9 km
779 m
779 m
This high alpine lake sits below 14,420' Mt. Harvard.
Difficult
Private
Willis Lake
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Willis Lake

Leadville
4 - 5 hrs
17.1 km
900 m
900 m
A rugged backcountry hike to a beautiful alpine lake.
Difficult
Private
Ptarmigan Lake
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Ptarmigan Lake

Buena Vista
2 - 3 hrs
10.9 km
484 m
484 m
A popular 3-mile hike to a beautiful alpine lake.
Moderate
Private
Waterdog Lakes
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Waterdog Lakes

Salida
1 - 2 hrs
7.0 km
388 m
388 m
Climb to a set of beautiful alpine lakes nestled right below the Continental Divide.
Difficult
Private
Native Lake
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Native Lake

Leadville
2 - 3 hrs
12.4 km
538 m
538 m
This alpine lake is beautifully backed up by 14,421' Mt. Massive.
Moderate
Private
Lake Ann
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Lake Ann

Buena Vista
2 - 3 hrs
11.3 km
446 m
446 m
A gorgeous hike to a breathtaking alpine lake and pass.
Moderate
Private
Cathedral Lake

Cathedral Lake

Crested Butte
2 - 3 hrs
8.8 km
643 m
643 m
A moderate hike to a beautiful alpine lake.
Moderate
Private
Grizzly Lake

Grizzly Lake

Aspen Summer
2 - 3 hrs
11.4 km
596 m
596 m
A moderate classic.
Easy
Private
Holy Cross Wilderness Loop: Missouri Lakes and Fancy Lake
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Holy Cross Wilderness Loop: Missouri Lakes and Fancy Lake

Leadville
3 - 4 hrs
13.7 km
791 m
791 m
Experience 8 miles of high alpine grandeur in the Holy Cross Wilderness.
Difficult
Private
Mohawk Lakes
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Mohawk Lakes

Breckenridge
2 - 3 hrs
10.9 km
586 m
586 m
Moderate hike among waterfalls and mining ruins to surpass the treeline and reach alpine lakes in a high valley.
Moderate
Private
Spruce Creek Trail
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Spruce Creek Trail

Breckenridge
1 - 2 hrs
7.5 km
292 m
292 m
Trail that climbs a out of a forested valley to an alpine basin with lakes and waterfalls, dotted with historic mine sites along the way.
Moderate
Private
Crystal Lakes Trail
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Crystal Lakes Trail

Breckenridge
1 - 2 hrs
6.4 km
297 m
297 m
Rugged hike above treeline between two high-elevation lakes near Breckenridge.
Difficult
Private
Buckskin Pass, Willow Pass, and Willow Lake Trek
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Buckskin Pass, Willow Pass, and Willow Lake Trek

Aspen Summer
6 - 7 hrs
22.4 km
1,390 m
1,390 m
An epic day hike featuring multiple alpine passes and lakes.
Difficult
Private