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

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hiking
7 days 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.

9 days ago

Hard.

This is misleading. There are miles and miles of trails at VVHS, not to mention off-trail possibilities.

The hike to the bat-cave is a must do if you are there July/August time frame to see the bat out flight at dusk.

backpacking
18 days 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 place is a true gem. It’s worth staying for a weekend!

off road driving
1 month ago

Hell of a road! Super fun

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!

hiking
1 month ago

I've lived in the SLV most of my life, and Blanca's summit had been calling for a while. I finally decided to get in shape to do it, starting by regularly hiking Limekiln Hill, west of Monte Vista, sometimes doing time trials, sometimes adding 50lbs of weight, and then proceeding to hiking ever larger hills and mountains: Pup, Dog, Horseshoe, Windy, Bennett, Handies, West Spanish Peak, Twin Peaks, etc. Then, on a nice day, I finally went for it, thinking I'd just see how far I could get before weather or fatigue made continuing seem unwise. I was hurrying, trying to beat the usual afternoon thunderstorms. I started at 8700 feet at 7am. To my surprise, I made it to the summit at 11:20am without any real difficulty! It was easier than I expected!

The area around Como and the upper basin below Blanca and Ellingwood are gorgeous! And the views from the summit are hard to beat.

I had been concerned about how I'd do with the exposure on the ridge, looking down Blanca's north face, but I found that I was fine with it. But most of it, aside from a spot or two near the summit, is entirely avoidable if it makes you uncomfortable.

The scrambling near the top is easy if you have even a little scrambling/climbing experience.

I found trekking poles very helpful, as always, especially for the descent. Bring some tape to treat hot spots before they turn into blisters. The long descent can be grueling. Make sure your shoes or boots fit properly and leave a little space in front of your toes.

I don't recommend this hike, especially in one day, unless you are very fit and understand the weather risks. Afternoon thunderstorms are the norm in summer and can be very dangerous up above treeline.

Beautiful hike! If you feel up to it, continue on up to the summits of Twin Peaks. The views of Blanca, Ellingwood, and Little Bear are amazing!

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.

hiking
4 months ago

Started at 7 and I expected it to be an easy hike. But the road you hike on is fist sized round rocks that make walking terrible. The wind on top was 15 mph and it was manageable but the 7 degrees plus wind chill made it extremely cold. I would totally do it again though. Ended up taking 11 hours and ended up two miles from my car in the dark. PS: if you want at about 13000 ft on the left their is an old mine shaft 300 yards from the trail and it’s only 20 feet deep but it’s a nice relief from the wind and snow drifts.

hiking
4 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.

hiking
4 months ago

We went in November - gorgeous secluded trail with an amazing aspen grove and lovely creek.

hiking
5 months ago

Definitely not easy, but doable! Straight uphill, but you follow along the creek, so very pretty and peaceful. Getting to ridge is just half the battle. Also agree with early review... highly recommend 4wd or car with high clearance. Road can be rough.

backpacking
6 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
6 months ago

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

hiking
6 months ago

Not EASY. Hike is straight up with no switchbacks. I only made it halfway which still had a glorious view above the tree line. Also, add 2 miles if you don't own a 4WD vehicle because you're gonna have to park further away from the trailhead.

Backpacked our way to the campsite right before treeline. Made it to Zapata lake the next day. Did this early june. Snow still present

hiking
7 months ago

Beautiful hike with well maintained trail. Made it to the lake in 3 hours.

backpacking
7 months ago

Excellent hike. Wish I would have pushed my jeep a little further, at least until the switchbacks started. Nonetheless we got to tack on an additional few miles of hiking. Getting to coma lake, summiting Blanca the next morning, breathtaking views of neighboring peaks, all made it worth it. Tough hike, good challenge.

Steeper than I expected but worth it.

This hike is lightly trafficked and I would say slightly more challenging than moderate. It is steep most of the way, however it is very rewarding. The view of the lake and the 14ers that surround it are unbeatable. We brought our dog, he was off leash the entire time, and he did wonderful. I do recommend bringing plenty of water, maybe even a small filter and snacks. Start early, the clouds seem to always move in around noon. Enjoy this beautiful hike!

One of the best views on this trail is at the trail head parking lot before you start. You can hear the river but seldom see it. The trail is very rocky with little to look at other than at an occasional clearing.

hiking
8 months ago

Because I didn't find much online about this trail, I wanted to write a thorough review. We completed this hike on August 6, which took us about 5 hours to do the whole hike (including two 20-min breaks). The trailhead is a half mile off of the Medano Pass 4-wheel drive road, and about a 2-hour drive from the Sand Dunes. When researching this hike, I found conflicting mileage and elevation gain stats. The sign at the trailhead says this hike is 4 miles one way, and my Fitbit said it was 1,963 elevation gain, which jived with the trailhead sign. The Rio Grande National Forest site lists this trail as medium usage, but it is very lightly used. The small parking lot only fits about 3-5 cars, and we only saw 7 people on the whole hike.
The first third of the hike is easy, and the last 1-1 1/2 miles are steep. The trail goes through a dense pine and aspen forest with a few clearings along the way. Many fallen trees are littered on the trail towards the beginning, so they make for lots of obstacles to step over. There are 5 official stream crossings that aren't bad with log bridges or fallen trees or rocks to cross over.
We got caught in two short hail storms on the way up, only lasting for a few minutes at a time. Lots of wildflowers, including a few beautiful fields of them. Very green, muddy, and wet, which was indicative of the recent very wet weather.
A good campsite in the trees is about a half mile or less before the lake with a good creek nearby for water filtering. A few backpackers that we saw had stayed at the campsite and said it was nice.
The lake was beautiful although the clouds and weather were pretty socked in, so we didn't get to see all the scenery. There aren't very many trees at the lake, and the ones that are there are very short and wind-blown. It started spitting rain on us at the lake, and we were caught in a big rain and thunder storm for about two thirds of our hike down. That was a bit scary, so we ran a good portion of the trail down and were completely soaked in our raincoats and ponchos. We can't imagine what happened to the couple we saw heading up to the lake after us; they had no gear or water! Our 6-year old did awesome, and this was the hardest hike he's done now.

backpacking
9 months ago

Beautiful hike, but be prepared to put in some work. Did the hike on the 1st and it was pretty hot, so bring enough water for the return trip. Tons of mosquitos the entire way. Fitbit said it was more like 6 miles each way.

backpacking
9 months ago

Such a spectacular place! I suppose difficulty ratings are all dependent on your experience, fitness level and whether or not you're carrying a fully outfitted backpack for overnighting. We hiked up with gear in about 4.5 hours but stopped for photos frequently. This is a really long uphill grind. Mosquitos all along the way, we were saved by Repel Lemon Eucalyptus bug spray (non-Deet). Incredibly beautiful with waterfalls, streams, lake. Saw marmots and pika on the trail above the lake. Highly recommended but be prepared, we were pretty sore by the time we hiked out the next day!

hiking
9 months ago

Incredible views throughout keep you motivated up this great trail! Last bit up gets a bit difficult but worth every breath!

One of the most stunning trails I have hiked ever. Photos are shared. BE WARNED: this trail is longer and steeper than noted. And everyone on the trail today noted this. I would say it's about 6-7 miles to the lower lake (one way). It's about 10 miles (one way) to the upper lake. We set out for a 8.9 mile RT hike, and it ended in a exhausted death march back to the trailhead getting swarmed by mosquitos despite the triple bathing in DEET. I logged 47,890 steps on my Fitbit, ran out of water with 2 miles left (even packed extra), and am the sorest I have EVER been including 14ers. This is best done as an overnight: both for the length and for the wide variety of beautiful scenery to explore. Hike in, set up camp (above the falls would be great to avoid mosquitos), and then enjoy the alpine valley and the second upper Willow Creek Lake or Kit Carson, and Challenger Peak....it's worth it. Doing this as a day hike is doable, just come prepared and know that this is not a moderate day hike, it will be one of the more challenging hikes of your year.

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