Explore alpine lake hikes - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

alpine lake hikes Map
10 hours ago

This trail has it all, in my opinion. Very challenging at the beginning, levels off for awhile then hard again (for someone not acclimated to altitude or used to hill climbing - came from Indiana). Open meadow, forest, rushing stream and waterfall off in the distance. Didn’t have enough time to get to the lake but the Fall colors were incredibly beautiful! Loved this hike! Only did about 6 miles round trip but had done 3 earlier in the day so my knees were ready to be done hiking (poles came in very handy).

We only hiked about 4.5 miles of this trail since we got on the road a little later than expected. Still a beautiful hike, is mostly a steep incline for the first couple miles so I would recommend being prepared for that. There’s a really pretty waterfall around mile 2(ish) off to the side. Would definitely like to go back and go backpacking!

What an amazing hike! Pitkin lake is so beautiful during the fall. It is not as hard as you think. First mile is pretty tough but after that you can see very beautiful valley. Steady incline when you approach lake. Just bring enough water and a good snack. Must do if you in Vail area!

2 days ago

Beautiful trail with a stream the whole way up. Fall colors are about at their peak. Loved the variety of terrain and scenery plus a nice challenge with some steep areas and decent elevation gain. Only saw 2 groups of people coming down when I was heading up on a Saturday afternoon. Spent 30mins up at the lake with absolutely no one else around. Saw a huge bull moose just about 30ft away on the way down. Will be adding this to my repeat list.

7 days ago

Beautiful trail and only saw two other people!

Great trail with scenic views! We hiked counterclockwise and camped one night at Devils Thumb Lake. You have to have a permit durning the summer months up until Sept 15th. We camped on 9/7 and the temperature at night got down to around 30 - 31 degrees so make sure you have the correct gear even in early September. The first part of the trail going counter clockwise with a 35lb - 40lb pack can be difficult on some of the climbs in elevation, take breaks and drink plenty of water and you’ll be fine. There are plenty of water opportunities on the trail, so accessing water isn’t an issue for the most part. The ascend up from Devils Thumb Lake to the High Lonesome Trail has some great views you climb about 1,000 feet over approx a 1/2 - 3/4 mile. The rest of the trail after you come down off the High Lonesome Trail by King Lake you’ll be going down in elevation the remainder of the time. The overall trail is marked “ok” but recommend having a map or gps as back up, I would not rely on the trail markers only when hiking this trail. Great 15 + mile trail with beautiful views......go get some!!

Hard is hard, beautiful is beautiful. The lake is rewarding.

13 days ago

I hike a fair amount and this hike is the hardest (lake destination) hike of the East Vail trails in my opinion. It's steep like a 14er and tops out at the lake around 12k feet. if you can do Mt of the Holy Cross trail then you can do this one but it is still a good workout. Be aware that there is little relief descending because the trail is so steep and loose and you won't be able to relax unless you are super fit. That said, the trail has very few hikers. Its a beautiful trail but not for the faint of heart!

It was absolutely breathtaking. I tried to get to the Devil's causeway in May, but could barely make it up the slope due to massive amounts of snow. Trying again in early August was much easier, with almost no snow to be seen. The first 2 or 3 miles to the Devil's causeway were dramatic, and amazing to say the least. Once you get above the treeline, and you reach the top of the ridge, you get an spectacular view of the Chinese wall. After the Devil's causeway, just be ready for a lot of flat, rolling alpine tundra that seems to go on forever. I didn't see a single person after the devil's causeway for 4 hours at least. If you like feeling isolated and really small, you'll love the alpine tundra. Just bring plenty of water and a jacket. (Also a rain jacket).

14 days ago

Amazing trail. Super beautiful. Took us a little under 5 hours.

15 days ago

Great hike. Low traffic. Some campsites near the trailhead and along the Deer Creek stream. It's challenging, but not stair stepping the whole way. Trail running was difficult, though certain sections were great for it. If you're looking for an even bigger challenge, you can hike Rosalie Peak (13575 ft) from the saddle by heading west along the ridge. Adds another 1500+ vertical. It's steep, but not technically hard and it's a fantastic view from the top.

15 days ago

Incredible hike!!!! A must do. Took my sister and I 5.5 hrs round trip (we're in our late twenties and fairly athletic/experienced hikers) and we clocked it at more like 13.75 miles to the lake and back! We hit the trail around 6:30am and had the lake to ourselves, although we saw quite a bit of traffic on our way down. Definitely have to come back and camp up there, it was absolutely stunning.

Hit directions on All Trails and follow the map. You will have no problem finding the trail (even on the long dirt / rock road to the trail head). Trail is easy to follow but know the number as well as the name. In general stay to your right for Devil’s Causeway.

Hike itself isn’t too bad until you hit mile 2 or 2.5. At this point you start ascending and quickly. I found the ascent before the switchbacks and up to the top the hardest. The switchbacks themselves are long and gradual so not that bad.

Causeway is scary but doable. I don’t do well with heights and I turned back from Angel’s Landing. Just don’t look down and get down on all fours. I scrambled across and focused on finding steady and secure footholds. Go early to avoid the crowd.

Do the full loop! The scenery is amazing and unlike anything you will see in Colorado. There are a ton of lakes. The hike after the Causeway is basically all downhill. It’s long but not hard at all. There are a couple of uphills but nothing like the first part of the trail. Watch out for the sheep dogs!

16 days ago

Great hike. Nice mix of hiking terrain: some soft padded Forest floor in the forest, some rock scrambling, some open terrain with nice views.
Did not make it to the lake - hopefully another time

Moderate, my ass. Hiked this today. And I hike the backcountry a lot. Went clockwise from Missouri lakes trailhead. Fine up to the lakes but then a butt buster on fancy pass over the ridge. Rocks and steep as hell. Snowed on me and you have to cross it twice. Coming down, signage is bad. Follow fancy pass lake trail. I goofed and went left and ended up on holy cross city 4x4 trail. Lots of fresh bear droppings. Still, stunning scenery.

Awesome. But 12.6 miles! Tough first mile, then steady incline. 3000 ft elevation gain. Gorgeous!!!!!!!

We did this hike late May 2016. It was tough because the first part of the trail was summer trail and the 2nd half was the winter trail. We postholed for about 5 miles and got fairly off the path and ended up making this 16miles instead. But we went all the way to the frozen lake when most folks did not (I don’t think any did besides us due to snow. Everyone was asking if we went to the top and were shocked that we did.) I would love to do this again when all the snow melts!!

17 days ago

INCREDIBLE! So so beautiful, especially if you start early to get the sunrise and early morning light on the mountains on the way up. Also, you may get lucky like us and get the lake all to yourself! Lots of folks were coming up on our way down.

This hike wasn’t as strenuous as anticipated, BUT it’s long. It’s definitely not 11.3miles. It’s 14. It was steeper right at the beginning and the end, but not bad at all. Mostly moderate. It was 3hrs up and 2.5 down for us at a moderate pace. For reference we live in Boulder and hike frequently.

17 days ago

Good hike, beautiful views, has something for everyone- forest, meadow, mountains and a stream. Get there early to park, log “stairs” at end of hike are tough on the knees. Several forks but wrong way was blocked by logs. There’s a Valley/meadow about 1.5 miles (?) below the lake with stunning views all around and the stream running through it. Only met 11 hikers until the last few miles, people going up with thunder rolling in the distance. It definitely wasn’t easy but then it’s not rated easy. Logged in at 10.2 miles on health app.

Okay, so you all wrote some weird stuff on this review. lol The mapquest from this trail brings you directly there thank God! First of all, you do not need four wheel drive. It’s dirt and lightly washboard(y) but a car could make it up. (It could’ve been worse in early spring though who knows) The signage through out the town really isn’t there. (Again) Thankfully, maps from this page will bring you there. Park at Stillwater res. And again there’s no signs for the Causeway until you walk up the trail a little ways. Don’t turn left hiking towards Stillwater. Keep going straight! Thankfully someone carved into both of the signs halfway up on which direction the Causeway is. It’s pretty moderate getting to the Causeway. There’s a few steep, uphill sections but nothing major. Someone wrote that you couldn’t reach the top. Did you take the wrong trail? lol you can definitely hike to the Causeway and cross over! I’m not sure if the ten miles is turning around and going back over the Causeway to get back down or if you keep on going. I didn’t have a gps and I just crossed back over then hiked the same way back down. Enjoy:)

19 days ago

Great trail. Easy to navigate (in summer). The climb was grueling but we took lots of breaks. Only took 3 breaks going down, mostly due to blister issues. Saw two very large deer along the stream. Saw 4 other groups of people, but otherwise it’s empty. We only found a couple pieces of trash :)

We did this entire loop yesterday. We started on Fancy pass trail which worked well because it was steeper and descending down Missouri Lakes trail was a breeze. Be careful staying on trail at Missouri Lakes. We got sidetracked as there are many paths around the lakes.

I love love love this trail! 15+ miles of breathtaking views, minimal traffic (at least early on a weekday and compared to 14ers) and many runnable trails (except rocky bottom and steep top). I will definitely be back!

Easy hike from a popular trailhead. Would be interested in backpacking here on a weekday in shoulder season (since it was pretty busy) to camp/fish.

Such a pretty trail, and the lake is lovely. If it weren't for the drive to the trailhead this would be one of my regular day hikes. 1 hour and 20 minutes each way at a good pace.

Was disappointed that AllTrails didn’t mention is was 10 miles off road, steep, hairpin turns to make it to this trail. Started to feel uncomfortable since we were not in an SUV and had to around.

Beautiful hike! Definitely recommend doing it clockwise as the last 3 miles of Fancy Lakes Trail were down, down, down. Great hike for day hikers or those wanting to camp. Stunning views, with plenty of places to fill up for water. Wasn't too crowded on the trail, great for dogs. Water was very cold, but not cold enough to stop one lady from skinny dipping which was an added bonus! If you have the time I recommend checking out Holy Cross Trail. It only adds a couple of miles and is a very easy hike.

22 days ago

A good trail. Definitely lightly trafficked and I would say on the harder side. I was thankful for the app as the trail was sometimes hard to discern closer to the tree line. Once above the tree line, the views are amazing.

22 days ago

nice place to hiking

This is a great short backpacking trip with stunning views and very few people (once you get over the pass). We spent two nights camping at Fancy Lake and had it completely to ourselves. Climbing the two passes with heavy packs was a chore (especially getting down the scree slope on the east side of Fancy Pass) but the scenery is spectacular, with numerous alpine lakes and viewpoints. After we set up camp, we did some day hikes and explored a couple of abandoned mine shafts. The Forest Service road up to the trailhead is pretty rutted...a high clearance vehicle is a must.

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