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Beautiful trail that runs along a babbling creek about 50% of the time. Lots of shade along the way. This is a challenging trail on the way, mostly uphill the whole time. The lake is gorgeous and well worth the effort. For me, it was 4 hours up, camped and woke up to a pristine setting, and 2.45 hours back down.

This is one of the prettiest bikes that I have done in Colorado. It is a long drive back in and it a 1 lane road when you get back closer to trailhead. I would recommend a 4wd once you past the first trailhead parking for Mt. Massive. Our GPS reading showed that it was 6 miles not 5.4. Well worth the drive.

Beautiful, flowers in bloom! Walking to the second lake is worth it!

This was a beautiful hike! Steady incline at the beginning leading to a beautiful lake at the top where the huts are. My hiking partner and I plan to return in the Fall to hike up and stay in one of the huts. We took the trail leading around the lake on the way down. We went in July on a 90+ degree day but started early. Despite high humidity bugs were not a nuisance.i highly recommended for anyone that hikes moderate trails. Scenic views and wildlife (we saw a doe under the main hut! 歷.

Very nice but a bit busy, the hike itself it’s not a piece of cake but it’s not crazy hard either, you have to consider that it’s a steep hike up, just take your time.
We saw solo hikers, families, definitively dog friendly.
Took us about 1 hour and 40 min to go up, gorgeous views, we stop by the waterfall to have some lunch and then continue our way down the loop. About one hour down for us.
Totally worth it !

Amazing hike!! Took the 3 and 4 year olds so it took a while but the views were amazing!!! Had to park about .3miles away from the trailhead. Long hike for the kids but they loved the lake!!

Beautiful the entire stretch and not crowded.

One of the most stunning hikes I've done in Colorado. They're were so many wild flowers! The lakes are gorgeous! I can't say enough good things!

Gorgeous hike! Great with kids

25 days ago

My friend & I happened by this trailhead and decided to hike it.

This was an enjoyable hike. I think late June and July would be better times as the snow was still melting (and in some cases, blocking the trail).

There is a fast moving stream a mile or two in where the log people have used to cross has moved (probably by the fast-moving water). The stream isn't too deep but beware of the slippery rocks.
The initial climb isn't too bad or long. The hike is very nice and peaceful.
When you're about a mile or so from the lake, you start noticing your elevation gain.
When you finally reach the end, you're met with small ponds or collection pools. The lake is behind these and is amazing.

GREAT hike. Trail marked well. What makes hiking worth it: getting to top, all to feel so small in this HUGE world.

Did this trail on 6/13/18 tool my wife and I around 1 hr and 50 minutes to get to the top and another hour to get back down. I would say the difficulty is accurate. This has been one of our favorite hikes, the scenery is beautiful with a good payoff. We met a few groups of people along the way and a little bit of snow towards the top but nothing extreme. I recommend having some lunch and coffee overlooking the lakes.

Great hike..beautiful stroll through the aspens. This trail is actually just the lower part of the South Elbert trail. At the S Elbert parking lot take the lower trail. Follow the trail to the split of the S Elbert and Colorado trail sign, there will be a 4x4 road, take it to the right to loop back around. Be sure to visit the beaver ponds!

This was a beautiful trail. It was a little bit challenging coming from Florida. I mapped 6.2 miles in 2 hours 40 minutes. The view of the lakes was incredible. I would definitely do this again and bring lunch and eat it overlooking the lake.

Definitely marshy and snowy in parts, I found myself losing the trail a couple of times on the way down. But beautiful hike as a whole - I’ll be returning with my camera soon!

Great hike for a moderate trail. Quite a few large sections of snow on parts of the trail in the upper half. Lost trail a couple of times. Trail also muddy in spots from melting snow. These issues created more of a workout. But it's all about the adventure - great hike with fantastic photo opportunities.

Fantastic hike with gorgeous views. Worth it to climb the last stretch to Ptarmigan above the lower lakes. The road from Buena is open. Cottonwood Pass is closed. Still snow on the trail- a little postholing is required.

I loved the hike but had issues with The AllTrails route a few times. And walking up the 4x4 road at first was concerning but the hike got Way better! It is worth it to go just a touch past the turnaround and visit the Lily Ponds.

1 month ago

This hike would definitely be more enjoyable later in the summer. We were able to get past the roaring creek runoff from snowmelt, but trudged through lots of knee-deep snow even in late May. Access to the lake (we got about a half mile outside the vicinity) was blocked by too deep of snow to pass. We ended up turning around and camping at the first meadow break (which is still a lovely area!). The trail itself is quite a bit inconsistent, especially with the snow cover, so we ended up having to improvise some of the navigation and constantly re-seek the trail. Lots of moose tracks but did not see one. However we did spot a mountain lion that came into our camp in the middle of the night that wasn’t afraid to curiously hit at our tent! Eek! Overall it’s a beautiful hike with many water features and open areas with great views. Looking forward to coming back at a different time in the season.

Great hike, we spent two nights up at the lower lake. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring snow shoes so we didn’t get up to ptarmigan. There was a few day hikers, fishermen and on our second night three other small groups of backpackers. We’ll be back in late summer/early fall.

1 month ago

A quarter mile in, we could hear the creek, which was quickly deemed ominous at best. Turns out that the spring run off, as it’s prone to do, turned Elk creek into a raging, wicked cold, death machine. Short of felling a tree or learning how to levitate, were stymied. So, in the grand tradition of good adventures... we backed up off of the creek about 200 meters (so the critters could hear us) and made the best out of it. It was a gorgeous night. Probably best hiked a bit later in the year (we were the first footprints in the May snow drifts)...with wet weather gear and a good attitude about wet socks.

So I attempted this as if I were not a native of CO. Surely others were shaking their heads. You need waterproof hiking footwear!

Can't wait to go back with hiking boots and poles!


This was the best hike I did in 2017. We went in the middle of July. There is great dispersed camping before you reach the gate. Once you are at Lilly Lake you will need to walk the rest of the trail-you cannot drive to the point that the description shows as the trail head. So you will walk along the old road until it turns to the trail at the old parking lot. There were lots of insects when we went, so bug spray is a must in summer. The wildflowers were amazing! I felt like I was walking in a rainbow. The trail is easy and gradually goes up. Because the trail actually starts farther back, the hike was probably about 10-12 miles (we didn’t keep exact track). If you have high enough clearance you can park near Lilly lake. We parked farther down the road so it made the hike longer.

4 months ago

One of the most beautiful places in the world. I spent a season building the Mt. Massive trail that fork from this one and consider this valley a second home. It can get kinda crazy with peak baggers on summer weekends but once you get past the summit fork you might as well be alone in the world. A wonderful place to clear your mind and enjoy the wilderness.

trail running
4 months ago

Didn’t actually make it up! The east access road is currently closed off to traffic. Didn’t know how to update that without a review! I’m sure it’s a splendid running trail though!

Cottonwood pass is currently open to the trailhead as of 11/18. There’s a LOT of snow on the pass and the trail. You would need 4WD and high clearance. No one else was on the trail though! Really nice hike with great views of surrounding 14ers. Lost the trail about 3/4 of the way up due to snow and down trees.

Went with a big group with ranging hiking skill levels. Everyone had such a blast - it was a very gradual incline that I'd consider easy. There's some snow on the ground, so be careful. Great views of some lakes surrounded by 14ers.

This is a really beautiful loop! Perfect fall foliage hike, even though we were about a week past peek. Highly reccommend.

Loved this hike!!!

Great trail. Good for a quick easy backpacking trip.

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