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

Westcliffe Area Map
VIEW FULL MAP
backpacking
2 days ago

My SO and I planned to do this loop over 2 nights but were cut short due to weather. We hiked up to venable lake, it was 6.5-7 miles. The aspen groves were beautiful and the view before making the final climb amazing. The lake area was open and rocky, but good for setting up a tent. Unfortunately we got all settled in and the predicted light rain turned into a pretty bad storm and we had to throw everything in our packs and make a run for the trailhead. I’ll definitely be back to finish the loop another time.

camping
2 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.

The falls are amazing, heed all advice regarding footwear.
The road up is 3 miles of extremely rough terrain.
I saw all sorts of cars, slow going.

hiking
3 days ago

So, the trail head on this one is misleading as there are 2. We parked at the LOWER TH and this will add 2 miles each way to your hike. The lower trail/road is not marked very well, we only saw 1 arrow pointing the way. The upper TH is apparently 2 miles or so up the road, we never got that far. The road is a 4X4 trail and looked a bit rough. We saw a newer Ford Explorer go up but I would not venture up this one in my truck. We came across a very nice guy in a jeep (at our turn around point) who said we were half way to the upper TH, even though we were 2.5 in?? We did decide to return to the car as we had some time constraints. This was a beautiful hike none the less. We are hoping to head back up on 4 wheelers and find the upper TH and the true trail. The elevation gain and distance listed are most likely from the upper TH and not the lower one. The climb up the first leg has steep areas and will make the heart pump but is not bad. There is a restroom at the lower TH and is clean for the most part.

hiking
5 days ago

Did this trail on Aug 5. Took us about 1 hr and 45 min total with young children. There's a bathroom at the TH, and about 18-20 parking spots in the main lot plus a lot more along the road and in another parking lot plus a picnic area with its own parking lot. There are a lot of benches along the way up the trail. It is a "hot" trail with not much real shade, mostly consisting of short trees, shrubs, and cactuses. Nice views of the sand dunes and the Sangre de Cristo Mtns including the Crestone Needles. Bring water shoes and a small towel--it was definitely nice to have warm, dry socks and shoes to slip back into after walking in the ICY, numbing water! The water level was about ankle deep in most places. Fun, but our young boys didn't enjoy getting their feet so cold. The falls with the cave were definitely neat!

backpacking
6 days ago

Went backpacking up the Venable part of the loop in a group of four of us over the weekend. We measured it as a 7 mile hike from the lot to the largest Venable Lake on a Fitbit and an Apple Watch, which is different that the map. I am new to utilizing the app so not sure what happened but it took us by surprise as the sign notes that the hike to Venable Lakes is 4.75 miles. The last section to the largest lake was very challenging with significant elevation gain. It is straight up the side of the hill/mountain to a small plateau. There is a great camp site near the first lakes. The hike itself is very beautiful, with wildflowers and groves of aspen. The views are incredible as you can see across the valley to the Wet Mountains in several spots. Most of the hike was in the forest until the last section. We camped just off the trail near the largest lake. The fishing was incredible. There are some big cutthroats in that lake and each of us caught at least one. The trail is very rocky and coming down was more of a challenge and it was hard on the feet. I didn't notice it as much on the hike up. Perhaps a recent washout with the storm that blew through. We were visited by a few deer bucks at our camp site each night. They were very tame and curious and were content to be 30 yards away and watch us cook dinner.

horseback riding
6 days ago

I love the Rainbow Trail; it doesn't get any better for me! Swift Trail up to the Lakes is steep and rocky but the beauty at the end is worth every step!

backpacking
7 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.

backpacking
10 days ago

Very few people encountered. Scenery isn't spectacular until you reach the upper basin...then WOW! It is a strenuous trail for heavy packs: very steep first 1/3, second 1/3 trail more moderate, last 1/3 very rocky and steep to the lakes. Nice campsites below the upper basin in the trees.

backpacking
10 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!

great little jont to the falls!! walking the falls was great wish i had my rain boots!

A+++

hiking
14 days ago

My daughter and I hiked the Comanche side from Alvarado Campground to Comanche Lake and back. The elevation gain was challenging for us flatlanders (from Houston area) but it was well worth it. The trail was a little rough at times with washout and rocks but just enough to keep you engaged. The forest was very peaceful, with plenty of wildlife and the views of the valley were spectacular. Comamche Lake is a jewel and worthy of the effort. An awesome experience. I am looking forward to completing the loop one day.

hiking
18 days ago

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

There are two trails that go to the lakes, both are well shaded and have wildflowers along the way (most are starting to fade though). The lakes at the top were beautiful and offered some great photo ops. There were few people on the trail, which made the trip even better.

hiking
21 days ago

Definitely worth the BUMPY ride up to the trailhead.

camping
24 days ago

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

backpacking
24 days ago

Last year in August we backpack to Camanche Lake, spent the night then hiked back out the same way. it was a nice hike and a good trail.

hiking
25 days ago

This is an awesome short hike with great payoff. A few tips:
-the road up to the trailhead gets a bad rap, but I didn't find it to be too bad. I managed fine in my 2WD Ford Fusion. Just go slowly (5-10 mph max) and choose your line carefully. The road is plenty wide, so you have a lot of options to avoid the larger rocks. There are a few ruts in the road, but we didn't bottom out. Low and slow!
-The hike up to the river isn't difficult, but note that you do have to wade in the river to reach the falls; you can't see them from the trail. Tevas, Chacos, or similar might be better than shoes/boots. My water proof boots were great until I had to wade in water up to my mid-calf!
-If you feel like extending the hike, you could take the turn off to South Zapata Lake. The hike to the lake is long, but there are some old mining cabin ruins about 1 mile above the falls. The sign for this portion of the trail turnoff is misplaced (it must have fallen over), but the well-defined trail is on the right just before you reach the river crossing.

Enjoy!

Suggest a SUV, AWD vehicle for ride up to trailhead. Once there, nice little rocky hike to falls. Wear the appropriate shoes (sandals) to make it into the inner walls of the cave/falls. Sweet little adventure. Highly recommend

hiking
28 days ago

Uphill, rocky hike. Pretty quick trip, took a while to drive up the rocky mountain in our scion tc but we made it. Waded through the ice cold creek to the falls. Definitely wear hiking boots or Teva’s if planning to go all the way to the falls (you can’t see it from dry land)

hiking
1 month ago

Very easy hike, but the road getting there is extremely rough.

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
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!!

camping
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!

hiking
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.

hiking
1 month ago

A lot of work for little reward. Not much of a view on the way up or at the end. Lots of nice trees though!

backpacking
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.

Beautiful view of the falls if you’re willing to get cold feet and have a good mosquito repellent.

Load More