Two seldom-seen alpine lakes, high in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness.


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The Sand Creek Lakes sit high in the Sangre de Cristos, in alpine basins beneath 13,000-foot peaks.

Though they’re within Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, they feel a world away from the desert dunes, which lie in the valley thousands of feet below.

To hike to these lakes, you won’t go through the main park entrance.

Instead, you must drive up from the east side of the range on Music Pass Road, which requires 4WD near the top.

The Music Pass Trail begins from the end of this road, at a signed trailhead in San Isabel National Forest.

From there, a rocky and dusty path goes upward through conifer forest.

At the pass, meadows reveal views of the landscape.

You’ll gaze off the other side of the pass, at two impressive peaks and a vertical ridge of rock between them.

Beneath the cliffs you’ll see the cirque basins which hold the lakes. Continuing over the pass, the trail enters an idyllic valley of meadows, scattered trees, and abundant wildflowers.

Eventually, the trail to Lower Sand Creek Lake branches off.

This is the nearer of the two lakes.

You may choose to visit it first or save it for the way back.

The rest of the way to Upper Sand Creek Lake is steadily uphill through dense forest.

This is a wilderness trail which is seldom maintained, so expect unbridged stream crossings, downed logs, and other obstacles.

Few people venture all the way to the upper lake, so you may find it all to yourself.

Enjoy the views of Music Mountain and Milwaukee Peak rising in snow-streaked granite above. Both lakes have excellent backcountry camping, and no permits are needed.

Just be sure to properly store food (black bears live in the area), and follow all principles of Leave No Trace. Sources: