Denny Creek Trail is one of the leading trails into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area and offers the ultimate mountain experience!

So many options, you will find the Trailhead to Mt. Yale (14er) or you can hike over Browns Pass or do what we did, a day hike to Hartenstein Lake.


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Hiking this trail in May we found ourselves deep in the snow close to the lake and totally unprepared.  A few other hikers along the trail did the same.

Starting out on a steady incline in dense pines, there were only pockets of snow on the sides of the trail in the beginning. I was so excited just to be here, outside, in the sun, and the feelings of summer coming.

Snowmelt rushing down Denny Creek alongside us added to the breathtaking fresh air day.



Wasn’t long before we were traversing over snow-packed areas on the trail. It was easy enough to hike across with an occasional step sinking up to my thigh. (waterproof hiking boots recommended!)





Crossing over several creeks became a bit of a challenge with rushing water and slippery snowy logs but was manageable. (trekking poles recommended!).




About 1.25 miles is the junction to Mt. Yale, Go right here and go 4 miles on a rigorous hike to the summit. Stay left and continue on to Hartenstein Lake and Browns Pass.



As we continued up towards Hartenstein Lake the hike got exciting when the highest peaks came into view all around us.



Sunshine and the lack of the dense forest left the trails free of snow and staggering views all around as we headed to treeline.

Getting excited to see what lies ahead.





We came over the ridge and hiked up through knee-deep snow and came to a complete stop. Here we stood contemplating what to do! A couple more hikers were coming up and stood with us.

A trail you want to be prepared for with appropriate hiking gear. Please check out “What’s in Your Day Pack” for a list of recommended items anytime hiking.



There were mounds of snow ahead and we needed snowshoes to continue to the Lake or Browns Pass. Even with snowshoes, it would have been hard to know where the trail was. There were no previous tracks to show the way.




I know better than to go in May instead of later in June but the itch to get up in the mountains must have been strong since several others did the same as we did, and came unprepared, wanting summer. We sat upon the rocks, had lunch, took in the views down the valley, and absorbed the sun. Then headed back down.

Wanted to share Denny Creek Trail even though we didn’t get to the lake because it was an amazing day and certainly one for the “hikes to do” list.

Even in May Denny Creek Trail was exhilarating.

Best advice: bring snowshoes if coming before June!

LOCATED: 12 miles up Cottonwood Pass (CR 306) heading west from the stoplight at Main Street in the town of Buena Vista. You can’t miss the parking lot on the right.

For information and maps of the area contact or visit the Salida Ranger District.

TIDBITS to Hartenstein Lake

Rated: moderate/challenging in spots

6 miles out and back

Start elevation: 9,880 ft.

End elevation:11,480 ft

Parking at trailhead

Restroom at trailhead

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area

San Isabel National Forest

Nearest town: Buena Vista



Ptarmigan Lake Trail – Cottonwood Pass, CO

Hiking to Harvard Lakes – Buena Vista, CO

Brown Lake Trail  – Nathrop, CO

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