10 Best Lake Hikes in Colorado

On the hunt for the absolute BEST lake hikes Colorado has to offer? You’re in the right place. Ever since I moved to Colorado at age 23, I’ve been on a mission to discover the most beautiful hikes state-wide. I’ve been a devoted weekend warrior to packing up my car, and road-tripping all over the state of Colorado during any free second I have. That’s why it is absolutely mind-blowing how, even six years later, there’s still so much I haven’t seen. But I will say, I have seen a lot. And I am extremely passionate about sharing my favorite places with other adventurers, like yourself!





Now keep in mind, I haven’t completed *every* lake hike in Colorado. So these will purely be based on what I’ve done in my time here and which ones I have enjoyed the most! You will also want to plan to hike these in summer months. While some may be doable in shoulder seasons, the trail conditions won’t be ideal, and many roads to these trailheads may even be closed. Let’s get into it.


Best Lake Hikes in Colorado


Hanging Lake


Location: Glenwood Canyon, near Glenwood Springs

Mileage: 3.1 miles out + back

Difficulty: Moderate - it is short but it is steep with a gain of 1,200 feet over just 1.5 miles

Hike details: This iconic Colorado hike features a lake nestled in Glenwood Canyon with pouring waterfalls and vibrant colors. It’s become so popular, in fact, that reservations are now required in advance. You can inquire about booking a reservation here. This hike is not dog-friendly, so plan accordingly. Since it’s not exactly close to Denver or other Colorado cities, you may plan to do this hike as you travel to or from a mountain destination on I70.




Ice Lake Basin


Location: Silverton, in the San Juan National Forest

Mileage: Roughly 9 miles out + back

Difficulty: Hard - it is a long, very continuously steep hike with almost 3,000 feet of elevation gain

Hike details: This trail makes the list because of its icy blue glacial water that when the sun shines just right, looks like gatorade. Apart from the lake itself, this hike is absolutely stunning from start to finish. There is also camping near the trailhead if you want to get on early start on this tough ascent!





McCullough Gulch


Location: Near Breckenridge

Mileage: Roughly 6.5 miles out + back

Difficulty: Hard - Between the 1,600 elevation gain and the tricky terrain, this hike was surprisingly challenging

Hike details: Expect a small amount of scrambling towards the top and very slippery areas with water runoff. The lake is the main event, but you will also be rewarded with gorgeous waterfalls as you are about 1 mile from the lake! This trail does require a parking permit in advance. You can then take a shuttle to the actual trailhead, otherwise you will have an additional 3.5-4 mile walk in addition to the stated mileage.





Cascade Creek to Crater Lake + Mirror Lake


Location: Near Granby

Mileage: Roughly 16 miles out + back

Difficulty: Hard - this is a long hike with 2,300 feet of elevation gain

Hike details: Due to the length and difficulty, you must start early in the day in order to complete before sundown. Depending on your experience and fitness level, this could be an all-day event. Prepare for long crossings over water. There are also waterfalls to enjoy and one of the absolute BEST lake views in Colorado. You just have to work for it!





Sky Pond


Location: In Rocky Mountain National Park

Mileage: Roughly 9 miles out + back

Difficulty: Hard - this is a long hike with 1,800 feet of elevation gain. The elements within the park can contribute to the difficulty!

Hike details: You will begin at Glacier Gorge Trail which often requires a shuttle (on busy days). You will want to complete this hike between June and August for the most ideal conditions. Even as early as September, you will have to climb up a frozen waterfall to reach the lake! The park does require park pass to enter and no dogs are allowed on the trail.





Crater Lake


Location: Maroon Bells Wilderness, Aspen

Mileage: Roughly 3.5 miles out + back

Difficulty: Easy - this hike only has about 700 feet of elevation gain and nothing too technical

Hike details: You need a shuttle or parking reservation to access the Maroon Bells area, which you can get here. You will want to enjoy Maroon Lake (your starting point) as well! While this is quite a drive from Denver, this area is a Colorado must-see!





Lake Isabelle


Location: Indian Peaks Wilderness, near Boulder

Mileage: Roughly 5.5 miles out + back

Difficulty: Moderate - only 500 feet of elevation gain and a medium length hike

Hike details: Beginning at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, you will be required to pay an entry fee. If parking is full, or if you visit during the winter, you will be required to park in a different lot, which adds 4 miles to the hike! So do your best to arrive early. Overall, this is one of the most gorgeous lake hikes that is actually close to Denver!





Tyndall Glacier and Nymph, Dream, Emerald, and Haiyaha Lakes


Location: In Rocky Mountain National Park

Mileage: A 5 mile out + back

Difficulty: Moderate - a medium length hike with roughly 1000 feet of gain throughout

Hike details: A park pass is required for this one as well and no dogs are permitted. If you want to get a lot of bang for your buck seeing several gorgeous lakes within Rocky Mountain National Park without much difficulty, this one is for you! You will begin at Bear Lake Trailhead, and may deal with crowds on busier days.





Mesa Lakes Trail


Location: Grand Mesa

Mileage: A 3 loop

Difficulty: Easy - enjoy a peaceful hike around the hike with gorgeous views and only 400 feet of elevation gain

Hike details: One of the lesser-known areas of Colorado, Grand Mesa is located in Grand Junction. This area has more lakes than anywhere else in Colorado. There are many fishing and picnic areas here as well. Pack your bug spray! The one downside of this stunning area is the bugs.




Chicago Lakes Trail


Location: Mount Evans Wilderness in Idaho Springs

Mileage: Roughly 11 miles out + back

Difficulty: Hard - With 3,300 feet of gain and a lengthy hike, prepare for quite a workout!

Hike details: You will begin at Echo Lake Park, pass Idaho Springs Reservoir and continue on to Chicago Lakes. Begin early and bring plenty of food and water. The weather is unpredictable as it is on the base of famous Colorado 14er, Mount Evans.




 

Have you done any of these epic trails yet? Which is your favorite Colorado lake hike?


Happy Trails,


Bradee


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