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

San Luis Valley Map
nature trips
3 days ago

Easy trail but slightly steep. The falls were a little dry due to the season. Nice little stop on our way into Pagosa Springs.
Noticed Many kids were able to make it up.

5 days ago

This is a great, challenging trail. There’s a variety of landscapes and much of the trail is picturesque. The lake is beautiful and camping area is clearly marked. The road to the trailhead has many pull-offs for car camping, I recommend a high clearance vehicle to get to the trailhead but it’s not a long walk from any of the camp sites if you have a smaller car.

Great, short trail with steep sections. Reward is a dip in the pool under the falls to cool off. 6 year old made it no problems, just got to hold their hand on the steep parts

11 days ago

We backpacked to Willow Lake Thursday 8/2 and stayed until Saturday 8/4, summiting Kit Carson and Challenger in between. The hike up to the lake was absolutely gorgeous! Once you get up closer to the lake, you have a great view of the San Luis valley. It was definitely strenuous to gain that much elevation with heavy packs, but well worth the effort!

We had a few unnerving encounters with the problem bear that has been mentioned in previous comments. It came fairly close to our camp two separate times before dark, and came right up to our tent twice in the middle of the night even though we did not have any food/toiletries in our tent or packs. It was not easily scared off even after we yelled at it and clapped our hands. I did speak with the local ranger station today, and they informed me that the bear is no longer in the Willow Lakes area so it should not be an issue for future campers.

13 days ago

Large, noisy group in main campground before lake. Bear is easily scared away. Scenery is incredible. First 1/3 of trail easy switchbacks on dirt, second 1/3 undulating rock and dirt, final 1/3 trail steep and rocky in places. Moderate for day packs and strenuous with heavy packs. Hike just beyond the lake for incredible views!

Since the hiking trail doesn't come up easily when looking for hikes near Creede, but the road does, I wanted to include my review here too. This hike is 16 miles. The trail portion is 5 miles. It then connects to the road for another 2. After 7 miles you reach the information area about the eroded rocks. It's another mile to walk anywhere near the rocks. The forest is dead from beetle kill. The trail is not hard, just long. But having to hike 16 miles just to see the rocks made me think I would have rather backpacked in so I would have the opportunity to take a leisurely stroll around the rocks whose views is obscured by dead trees. Or in a day, I think it would be better to rent a RZR or horseback. If the forest weren't dead, perhaps I would have enjoyed the hike a bit more. I've hiked the whole CT so its not about not enjoying the scenery, it's just with a particular idea in mind, the rocks aren't visible for some time. More info and pics at https://etbtravelphotography.com/2018/07/30/things-to-do-in-creede/

So beautiful!! Could be considered hard for casual hikers, and for avid hikers moderate.

19 days ago

Stopped here on our way into Pagosa Springs with my wife and kids (ages 18,16,13). Despite my wife being in flip-flops, and there being a light sun-shower, the trails weren't muddy and we/she didn't have any issues on the "main trail". A very simple introduction to hiking for us culminating in a beautiful waterfall. Planning to wear better hiking shoes as we hit other longer area trails over the next few days.

21 days ago

Did this trip on 6/11/18. The number of dead trees was concerning, both for having to find a place to pitch a tent that wasn't surround by dead trees ready to topple over, and also the fact the downed trees conceal the trail, particularly on the loop around the formations. GPS said the trail was 8 miles to tbe loop. Lots of campsites at the boundary, but also lots of ATV traffic in and out all afternoon at the end of the trail. Mostly had the whole night and morning in Wheeler to myself, which made it worth it. A nice moderate hike to a cool place.

22 days ago

Before heading up to the lake, please take a look at this link.
There is a problem bear in the base camp area and everyone needs to hang their smelly items (food, garbage, hygiene stuff, etc).

22 days ago

Get there early

The 4WD was rough but certainly worth the drive. The road was free of trees aside from a few moved to the side but still wide enough for vehicles and ATVs. Some downed trees on hiking trail near Wheeler but not enough to be a major problem. Amazing views and terrain at the end of the upper trail to the bench.

28 days ago

Fantastic trail. The mosquitoes weren't bad at all.
Although, in terms of wildlife -the bear is very curious; campers beware

Easy trail to hike. Easily accessible from the road and great parking. Beautiful scenery!

Hiked Memorial Day Weekend. Absolutely beautiful hike! But please note that the lake is 6 miles ONE WAY, thus making this hike 13 miles if you include the Falls. We started around 9 am, and it took roughly 6 hours to do both and take a lunch break at the lake. Very steep trail, but once you hit the boulder fields it flattens out. Make sure to bring enough water, it gets hot in the afternoons. Lots of people were trying to start the hike (with no layers, visible water or snack supply) when we were finishing without realizing how far it really is.

Pretty and fun for kids. We did the loop starting on the steep “primitive trail” to the right and my 4-year-old niece had no problem. The waterfall is weak right now, but the views from the top are still stunning.

Amazing hike. I bit more challenging than anticipated, especially coming from sea level. Started 7:00am at the campground trailhead. Made it to the lake by 11:20am. Back to campground by 3:00pm. Bring lots of water and sunscreen. The Sun is very strong. Also, thunderstorms started moving in around 1:00pm.

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.

1 month 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!!

1 month ago

A moderately challenging hike with some steep sections. Beautiful views at the lake though!

Perfect hike for our first in Colorado.

Loved the primitive trail but take it down, not up! Ha!

Amazing views on the way! We started very late about 5 pm and went to the falls first started to trail from the falls around 6 pm and went uphill for about another 2 hrs and turn around at 8 pm. We didn’t finish the trail but my gps told me we went about 3.4 miles so we were about 1.2 mile short of finishing the trial. It’s totally doable and worth it. Amazing views of sunset and the valley

1 month 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!

1 month 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.

This hike is moderately difficult but STEEP once you're about a third of the way up. These mountains are powerful and the San Luis Valley can create some wild weather, so don't forget to keep your eye to the west once in awhile (the view is worth it!). When we attempted this hike during early June of 2016, there was still plenty of snow remaining on the last third of the trail, causing us to miss part of the trail that went south at a creek crossing; we instead entertained ourselves with a fairly large boulder field and eventually met back up with the trail. You're getting right up underneath some amazing, high peaks once at South Zapata Lake. Love this section of mountain ranges for the magic it still has in it!

1 month ago

Great little hike to a waterfall. Well maintained trail. Lots of families.

1 month 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.

Load More