Crater Lakes is in the heart of the James Peaks Wilderness and the perfect day hike or backpacking weekend. Nestled just below the Continental Divide, the setting is unbeatable.

 

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SOUTH BOULDER CREEK TRAILHEAD

To access Crater Lakes you start on the South Boulder Creek Trailhead until the split for Crater Lakes Trail. Located at Moffat Tunnel East Portal. Several trails lead off this one so don’t be worried when you see how crowded the parking lot is like we did! Hikers are heading in many directions once higher up.

 

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Into the Aspens, across a few footbridges, passing a few old structures, across a meadow, and then deep into the pine trees on a fairly flat path for 2 miles, until we reach the split to Crater Lakes Trail.

 


 

 

HEADING UP CRATER LAKE TRAIL

Completely different on Crater Lakes Trail. Ascending consistently now through dense pines all the way up for a mile or so. Rocks and boulders line the trail and in some spots, it took a moment to figure out where the trail is.

A trail you want to be prepared for with appropriate hiking gear. Please check out “Day Hiking Essentials” for a list of items to consider anytime hiking.

 

 

Beautiful hiking up Crater Lakes Trail, with views appearing of the Continental Divide ahead and soon finding we are here, a lake on each side of us. Social trails everywhere wrapping around each lake.

In the middle of the 2 lakes, there is a trail heading straight up the slope. Very steep and loose gravel until it levels off a bit, stay to the right and you’ll find another lake and a waterfall on the eastern edge. I saw the trail from the 2 lakes but we did not go up there. Found this description later. I wish I’d known this before! Note: it’s not well maintained. Be prepared.

 

 

 

 

CRATER LAKE ON OUR RIGHT

Bigger than I imagined and loads of people fishing. Still seemed very private, with lots of space for everyone and we found ourselves dreaming of camping here sometime after exploring around the lake.

 

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CRATER LAKE TO OUR LEFT

Smaller and more narrow, wrapped in steep walls on one side leaving the water looking turquoise and beautiful.

 

 

 

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Once here we ended up at the lake on the left to eat, sit, relax, and simply take it all in. Smoke from forest fires in northern CO has left a haze in the air leaving us feeling grateful just to be here.

 

 

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Highly recommend this hike for an exceptional day hike or backpacking trip. Beginner hiker, wanting to step it up. This trail might just be for you. The steep last mile will test you and you’ll see you can do it and want to do more!

TIDBITS

6.5 miles out and back

Rated: moderate

Restrooms at Trailhead

The trail starts on South Boulder Creek Trail

No bikes

Open to dogs on leash & horses

James Peak Wilderness

Boulder Ranger District

Roosevelt NationalForest

LOCATED: From Blackhawk/Central City head north on Colorado State Hwy 119 to Rollinsville. Turn left on East Portal Road. Follow for approx 11 miles to the end of the road at Moffat Tunnel and the Trailhead. The road is dirt but well maintained. From Netherland go south on 119 and turn right.

MORE TRAILS YOU MIGHT ENJOY

Silver Lake Trail to Murray Lake – Guanella Pass

Herman Gulch Trail – Bakersville, CO

Native Lake Trail – Leadville, CO

Booth Lake Trail – Vail, CO

Mohawk Lakes Trail – Breckenridge, CO


Note: Many of the links are affiliate links which means I receive a very small commission (at no added cost to you).