Hike to Willow Lake, CO

9 miles 2800 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Jon King

Hiking to Willow Lake is a challenging day hike with an alpine lake, scenic waterfall, and a potential backpacking site if you choose to make it an overnight.

Nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, Willow Lake offers a stunning destination to a rigorous hike. The hike is approximately 9 miles out and back with 2800 feet of elevation gain. The trail is well marked and maintained. However, the hike rarely levels off. Be prepared for a steady incline the entire way until you reach the lake.

Along the way you'll come across a beautiful valley, wildflowers, a boulder field and finally the majestic lake. The lake itself is beautiful and has a 100 foot waterfall feeding into it. Keep your eye out for mountain goats, big horn sheep and any other critters you may encounter on the trail.

We came across several backpackers camping at the lake as an access point to the surrounding 14ers in the Sangre de Cristo Range. We also met a fellow hiker who brought his fishing pole. If these activities interest you, make sure to follow the rules and regulations provided by the National Forest Service.

Make sure to bring plenty of water and a snack to eat at the lake. To be safe, allow approximately 6 hours to complete the hike.

After the hike we stopped in Crestone for ice cream at the Crestone Creamery. A much needed treat. Besides, I believe a wise man once said, "Ice cream is the only remedy for muscle soreness and fatigue."

Getting there: The trailhead for Willow Lake is located just east of the small town of Crestone, CO. In Crestone, head east on E Galena Ave. The road quickly turns into gravel and can be a bit rough. However, I made it just fine in my mid-size car. There is a large gravel parking lot at the end of the road with a well marked sign for the trailhead.

Read More

Tags

Camping
Fishing
Photography
Backpacking
Hiking
Easy Parking
Lake
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Gonna Do It Again!

It's quite a trip up taking around 3 hours but it's so worth it. Super clear water and a canoe on the water supplied for you!

Stay Nearby

Westcliffe, Colorado

Alvarado Campground

Overview Alvarado Campground, located at an elevation of 9,000 ft., is a prime location for accessing easy to challenging hikes in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. The variety of trails lead to hig...

Mosca, Colorado

Pinon Flats Campground

Overview Pinon Flats Campground is located in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve in southern Colorado. The huge dunes are the tallest in North America and comprise about 11 percent of an...

Villa Grove, Colorado

Brewery Creek Guard Station

Overview Brewery Creek Guard Station is situated at an elevation of 9,500 feet in a densely wooded aspen grove overlooking Brewery Creek. The cabin is a few miles south of the Continental Divide on...

County Road 374

Spruce Group Lake Isabel

Overview Spruce Group Campground, located in the Lake Isabel Recreation Area, is a great place to bring groups for picnicking and camping on the scenic Lake Isabel. The campground accommodates 50 g...

Nearby Adventures

  • Summit Kit Carson Peak

    There are a couple different trailheads that lead to Kit Carson Peak, but the one from Willow Creek Trailhead will give you the opportunity to peak another fourteener, Challenger Point, and let you pass through and/or camp at Willow Lake, which is...

    12.4 miles 6323 ft gain

  • Backpack to Sand Creek Lakes

    Start at the Music Pass trail head south of Westcliffe, Colorado off County Road 119. You will need a 4x4 with high clearance to get to the actual trailhead as the last 2.5 miles are rough. Otherwise, park at the Crape Creek TH and walk the 2.5 ...

    4 miles 1700 ft gain

  • Unwind at the Joyful Journey Hot Springs

    Joyful Journey hot springs offers the full hotel and spa treatment, but in a valley where most people live off the grid, we chose the more rugged experience.The yurts gather together like penguins huddling not far from the springs. The wooden slat...

  • Hike High Dune at Great Sand Dunes National Park

    The Great Sand Dunes are one the most unique landscapes in Colorado. These massive dunes are the tallest sand dunes in North America. Hiking these dunes can be very difficult, but well worth the amazing views of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range...

    2.5 miles 700 ft gain

  • Inspire Your Fall Aspen Trip!

    Autumn days in Aspen are filled with sunshine and nights with crisp cool air. Watch the mountains and valleys turn gold with the changing Aspen trees. Take in the scenery while enjoying scenic drives, hiking through forests, road biking, and exploring our IMBA Gold Level Ride Center recognized mountain bike trails. 




    Learn More