Beautiful yellow aspen covering the whole mountain side. We took this from 69 to the dunes in a suburban. One part was sketchy but we made it just fine. A few creek crossings towards the west side by the dunes. The road was very rocky, rough and steep. Took about 3 hours. A memorable trail I highly recommend.
OK... I do not have much experience with backpacking and was uncertain whether I could do this with my 13 year old son when we were invited for an overnight. I am so greatful that they (other experienced backpacker) asked and we accepted. The trial was hard, but very rewarding when we reached the top. We were able to get there in about 3 hours and made it back down in about 2 hours the next day after hiking to the upper lakes. The campsite at the top were great. Word of caution: weather is unpredictable... Weather called for sun and clear skies and we got about 3 hours of heavy rain and 50 mph winds. Plan, dress, pack appropriately. Highly recommended.
beautiful trail and easy to get to the trail head, crestone is an interesting hippy commune. we went mid april and we were not able to get to the lake becasue of the snow. the trail on the way up was beautiful though. great views of the san luis valley as you ascend and you pass pretty meadows and see beauitful waterfalls. sad we werent able to make it to the lake
Sara K. on Willow Lake Trail
Excellent trail running. I encountered lots of snow at the top this early in the season. Plan on getting your feet wet if you are running as there are lots of creeks to cross and snow to scramble up. I got a late start so was alert for signs of the weather changing. About a quarter of a mile from Willow Lake spotted some grey clouds moving in from the east and high-tailed it back to the trailhead. I made it back just in time for hail to drop. Respect the high country!
We hiked to the lake in 4 hours. The trail disappears in a couple of spots about half way up due to the numerous trees that blew down over the winter. We had to bush whack our way around the biggest blow down to the north and west then re-intersect the trail. Once we accomplished this the trail was reasonably unobstructed the remainder of the way with the occasional blockage from a downed tree. On the descent we stayed on the trail rather than retrace our ascent path around the blow down which turned out to be a mistake. This way led us into the heart of the blow down and made the rediscovery of the trail much harder and longer. We made the descent back to the Kerr Gulch Trail head in 3.5 hours. It turned out to be a very arduous but rewarding hike with great views, grouse and turkey sightings, and an afternoon escape from the 100 deg. heat.
I was able to manage over two miles on the trail (one way) until I completely lost its path due to fallen trees and overgrowth. I did find a few places where people had started to make secondary and tertiary paths around troubled spots, but after nearly a quarter mile of hunting and scrambling around, I gave up and went back down. I do know that extreme winds in the area have caused many more fallen trees in the last few months.
As far as the "Strenuous" rating for this trail, I agree. It is severe uphill grade with little mitigation. I have heard good things about the lakes at the end of this trail so I wanted to check them out. My 3-star rating is only because I couldn't continue on the trail. There were a couple of decent views on the way up (the part I was able to complete), and at 1.5 miles you cross the creek which is nice. It took me exactly two hours to go 4.2 miles up and down this trail. I will give this trail another try at another time. If you're feeling adventurous, by all means, do it!