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We hiked to Willow Lake and then up to Upper Willow Lake today. Spectacular vistas and wildflowers and Bighorn Sheep were in abundance. It’s more than just a jumping point to 14ers.

hiking
11 days ago

As a 61 year old in not-the-greatest shape, it was truly a tough climb and descent. About 4 hours up and 2 1/2 down. But well worth the effort! Very nice occasional views as you climb, and when you get to the lake it is just stunning.
Recommend walking on trail to the left of the lake and around to the other end if you have time. The views just keep getting better. Did not attempt Challenger Point or the summit. Can only image what it all looks like from there.
Mosquitos were not a problem for us, though there were a few at the campground by the lake.
It hailed for about 45 minutes and got cold in a hurry, then let up for a while, then light rain on the way down. Rain shell and extra layers a huge plus.
No luck on the key and rings which I read about below. But if there's a way to PM me through this site, I could relay more specific directions to someone who is on the trail and at the Willow Lake campground very often.
Very happy we did this hike!!

camping
15 days ago

Wonderful, beautiful hike and well maintained trail. Concur with everone else that its about 5 miles up to the lake. We did this with a 10 and 12 year old with full packs and took us a little over 5 hours to get up. Lots of stops. Bear is still there and very persistent. At the campsite by the lake it's there every evening and followed us down to a campsite about 0.5 miles below the lake. It is very stubborn and persistent. Not aggressive toward people, just wants your food. You must hang everything, between trees and 10 feet up is the best.

Well maintained and challenging trail with great rewards. Lots of wildflowers and wildlife. If camping, definitely bring a bear canister or plan to bear bag it, as there is at least one bear who is playing the part of lingering camp host. Willow Lake is a gem and my sore muscles and feet loved the icy water. Unfortunately, my wife left her wedding rings on a tree branch at camp (first campsite on left, in site below the lake) when applying sunscreen before the long haul down. We discovered this once back at the car. Any help or info would be greatly appreciated.
UPDATE - My wife’s wedding rings were located and are in the process of being returned by the friendly rangers. Thanks for everyone’s help!

This lake is gorgeous and the vista from above is incredible. The hike isn't too hard--I'd say easy-moderate for most of it with the last half mile or so being more difficult and more rocky, but for this part you're above treeline and the views open up so I thought it was the best part of the trail. You start in a forest of mostly pines and aspens (would be phenomenal in the fall), eventually cross a meadow, break treeline, and switchback up the slope to the final stretch of rocky trail along the mountainside until you reach the overlook of the lake. You can then climb down to the shore if you want. The trail follows a brook until you reach the meadow. Bring bugspray and wear long pants--definitely some bushwhacking involved in places.

We were the first people at the lake at 10:30 AM and only saw a handful of people on our descent. Definitely recommend if you're in the Crestone area! Note that the campground fills up very early on Fridays, probably by about 9:00 AM.

The sign at the trailhead says 12 miles RT (accurate) and 11 hours of time (very inaccurate). It took us only 3 hours to reach the lake, 2 hours to descend.

hiking
16 days ago

My partner and I are two reasonably in shape folks from Ohio. We did the climb to the lake in about 3 hours, spent about an hour hanging out and a 2 hour descent. It was challenging, but very worth it.

backpacking
21 days ago

Bear frequenting the camp area below Willow Lake. Approaches while you're cooking/eating. Doesn't seem to be overly aggressive yet, but bold and habituated to people. Bear has clearly gotten a hold of human food recently.
Please hang all of your food and scented items 10 feet up and 4 feet out. Or bring a bear canister. There are not a ton of trees with ideal branches, but they can be found -- worth the time and effort. Don't leave food unattended.
Day hikers and backpackers should pack out all trash and food leftovers to prevent this bear from being further enticed.
Trail is in great shape and features really good views of the valley and Sangres.

hiking
26 days ago

Great hike but we lost the keys to our Land Rover on the way down. Infinite karma to anyone who finds them and connects back with me.

hiking
1 month ago

Great little hike through the trees to the lake. Occasional log and mud puddle obstacle. My 2yo sons hiked it on their own!

Great hike. I never saw anyone the entire time. Lots of downed trees to deal with but otherwise not nearly as hard as this flatlander was expecting! Unbelievable views at the top!
I can say I was grateful for trekking polls. The loose rock and steep downhill would have been killer without them.

backpacking
1 month ago

this trail is great access to mountains like Adams and other 13er/14ers it doesn't have many poeple on it ever really (much less then willow) and is way easier but a little longer.

backpacking
1 month ago

it's a easy trail you can runn up with great veiws of the valley and not to many poeple however don't be mislead by the Cairns all around the trail...

good trail if you want to see two smaller lake hard too get too on the road but beautiful scenery and lots of edible plants (chock cherry and such).

Magnificent! The water felt warm enough to swim in of it had been sunny.

Wonderful hike! The lake is beautiful. This trail is actually 12 miles round trip and goes to Cherry Lk, not Peanut Lk.

The first half, walking along the creek, is easy and fun. The second half, walking back on the dunes, is challenging, but so worth it. Scaling up and across steep dunes made for excellent views and was definitely something to be proud of. It was a beautiful way to get the full experience!

hiking
2 months ago

This was the best alpine lake payoff of any trail I've done. We did it early in the season so the mosquitos weren't bad yet. As others have said, the first set of switchbacks are the hardest and the ones on the rock scree were the windiest. I'm out of shape and my wife is 4 months pregnant - our total time was 7.5 hours, 5.5 of moving time. 10.1 miles total. We saw some bighorn sheep on our way down and also swear we heard a moose, though not to be seen.

hiking
2 months ago

Willow Lake was a beaut. No need for any type of traction. Lake is completely thawed and there was a huge trout in the stream below the lake. Bringing the rod next time! RT took 7 hours with a long break at the lake and lots of stops for photos. Garmin watch clocked 12 miles RT but we dink around a lot.

hiking
3 months ago

Day hiked to this gem last week with the pooch. 200 yard wide, 100' tall ice waterfalls were a site to behold. Microspikes a must in upper third of trail. Worth every step with rewards starting at meadows within first couple miles on up. Would be a nice place to basecamp with nice views if Kit Carson if one were looking to do an overnighter right now.

Great Easter hike. Great earlier season hike. Recommend microspikes from half way point on. Scenic rewards abound in last 20% of trail. Had lake all to ourselves and basked in its glory!

backpacking
3 months ago

This is a tough hike at the beginning but once you’ve gotten past the switchbacks it’s pretty easy going to the lake. Leave early the weather can turn without warning and the wind really picks up around 2pm.

This is a gorgeous hike, one of the best in the area. I hiked it on a one-day ascent and descent of Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak, and so didn't have time to explore the area around Willow Lake much. I want to return to do some more photography in the area. Well worth the hike!

Cool place to visit. The water is fairly shallow even at it deepest parts, but it's definitely a great place for kids.

Did this hike in 2013. Mostly you pave your own way up the creek and circling back over the dunes. Great experience on one of the few true dunes in U.S. We also took sleds down the dunes. It was a fun trip with my boys.

This trail was awesome. The views were incredible a little cold but we hiked it in December no big deal. The top of the trail was definitely the hardest! If you are trying to come in the winter make sure you prepare for some cold weather and high winds up top! Loved it overall.

Great Campground! The Sand Dunes with the surrounding Mountains is Incredible!

hiking
7 months ago

This is a well maintained trail and is somewhat challenging. The steep grade and altitude make this a fantastic workout of the body and mind. This hike has it all sweeping views, streams, waterfalls, and alpine lake, and moss covered forests. We loved it!! Give your self plenty of time as it is a very long 8.6 miles. In fact, I would say it is more like 12 miles out and back. If you go in July, BE PREPARED FOR EPIC MOSQUITOES !! You will need long pants and long sleeves and bug repellent. If you take these precautions you will be fine. We went in shorts and short sleeves and it added a layer of challenge to this hike.

Beautiful! Only moderately hard as well, though we didn't go all the way up...

backpacking
9 months ago

Great trail. Well maintained.While the hike is somewhat challenging with a full pack, the abundance of amazing views makes it worth the effort. Views of Willow Lake are a breathtaking reward.

hiking
9 months ago

Excellent hike. A little bit of everything. Challenging but not overwhelming. Beautiful views worth every step!

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