Explore the most popular backpacking trails in San Isabel National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

1 day ago

My 2 sons and I just got back yesterday 6/16 from an overnight at the lake. We got a really late start but still made it to the lake before 6 pm. The 3 miles from the falls were really hard work with packs but well worth it. The area is absolutely beautiful and so serene. We picked a spot right by the water and thought we were completely alone until the next morning when we took a hike beyond the lake. The water was so clean it looked crystal clear even before being filtered. Breathtaking.

Beautiful hike. Need hiking boots to pass somewhat comfortably. There are lots of little streams that must be passed to get to the lake. The view is amazing and definitely worth it!

We hiked this with our kids and small dog. The waterfall was gorgeous! We loved hitting the creek in a couple of areas on the way. The views are great. We hiked in and out within 4 hours. Bring plenty of water as it gets a bit hot in some spots.

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.

Def recommend shoes you dont mind getting wet and some kind of trekking sticks. Took just about 1hr 40min to make the hike to the lake. Beautiful lake with some snow mounds still present around the south/SE ends, a lot of the ground around the lake very swampy/mushy/muddy due to melting snow runoff into lake. Trees provided reasonable shade and wind cover most of the trail but the wifey got her shoulders/neck sunburned pretty well. scouted lake for about 45 min then returned to trailhead. whole trip took just under 4 hrs.

8 days ago

Nice hike. 2700 vertical is a good indicator of the difficulty. I would rate it more on the strenuous side. Lot of bears too.

Hiked this over the weekend with kids aged 8/9/10 and they all loved the waterfall. I love the varying terrain of this hike and the nice climb to start. The drive to the trailhead is easy and the views from the trail are phenomenal.

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 moderate-easy hike. recommend it. Only made it tl the falls and it's amazing.

14 days ago

let's start off with.... I didn't die :)

this trail is not for the faint of heart. backpacked up with my 6yr old. started off late and only made 4 miles in first night which worked out great for second night as we were first to the lake to pick our spot. as others have mentioned, good spots up front, but if you want privacy you can walk an extra 5 minutes to the back. lake was windy but plenty of fish and relatively quite. there it's a 4x4 tail at the back side of the lake. think for next visit with rest of family we will drive up.

trail starts at with a good incline and ends with a good incline. pack light if your staying the night.

Great trail! Very well marked and we'll maintained. Easy out and back to the water fall, which was incredible! Loved how it was partially covered, then bits if exposure here and there. Nice variety.

15 days ago

First off, I’d just like to state that there is a sticker in the St. Elmo General Store that says “I survived the Grizzly Lake Trail!”, so if that doesn’t tell you something about this hike, I’m not sure what will.

I am young and mildly out of shape, but the first mile of this trail was absolutely hellish. I took about 2 hours (with 2 older women) to reach the lake, including plenty of rest breaks in the shade. Keep in mind, about a year ago I had an ACL replacement, and my knee was swollen up a half mile into this hike. The view at the end was definitely beautiful, but I wouldn’t attempt this trail again till I was much more physically fit.

The majority of the trail is a loose boulder field in the open, so wear plenty of sunscreen and bring lots of water, because it was very hot around midday. However, it was very interesting because there are lots of open mining pits (careful!) and old cabins to explore.

My main take away was this: this trail requires a physically fit person who is prepared to walk the majority uphill and who can carry lots of food/water. Do not attempt this if you think you might be unprepared, there is no cell reception and it is very lightly traveled.

15 days ago

This was a great hike to start out backpacking season! There were a couple of stream crossings that were difficult and caused us to get pretty wet. Once we got to the lake we found a great camping spot- beautiful place to camp!

Incredibly beautiful waterfall. Easy trail 3 miles out with a few marked T-intersections (pay attention at the intersections or use your GPS). Our dog loved the creek crossings. A few people on Friday afternoon.

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.

What a wonderful hike! As many have mentioned, you will have plenty of company on this hike. I now know why it is so popular, because it is wonderful! All the scenery changes, not to mention the waterfall, made this hike very enjoyable, I love a good goal at the end of a hike! As others have mentioned, most significant grade is at the beginning. Once you enter the forest, it is what my wife would call a nature walk, not tough at all. Will certainly return...with friends!

Love this hike

21 days ago

Beautiful backpacking trip!! We camped at the lake.. there are two spots right when you get to the lake, or if you want more privacy, walk past the lake there is a grassy meadow with great spots to camp right by the creek. Bring your fishing rod.. people were catching a lot of fish. There are also several camp spots after the waterfall and on the way to the lake, if you are tired and want to ditch your gear. It's not an easy hike all the way to the top with a full pack, but if you are in good shape you will be fine..you will be ready to get your pack off and lay in a hammock! There are lots of hikes you can do from the lake.. just follow the trail to the four-wheeling road. The views are incredible, and the hike in is so beautiful. We spent 1 night at the trailhead in the car (there are lots of car camping spots) and 2 nights up at the lake. Can't recommend it enough!

21 days ago

This trail head is hard to find because the GPS directions in this app don’t take you all the way there and because there isn’t a sign. We asked in the St Elmo general store for directions and found out we had been at both trailheads without actually knowing where the TH was. You can start at the bathrooms just before the town of St Elmo (before the fork in the road) and follow the creek up which we didn’t do because the guy at the general store said it’s hard to find and follow the trail. So we took the local TH which you can find by following the directions in this app (left at the fork in the road towards Hancock) and then just keep driving a little further until you see a very small pull out on your left (room for about 5 cars) that is marked with a small P brown sign. From the lot the trail is very rocky to the left and follows parallel to the road you just drove. Then there is a sign after about 50 yards to go left to Grizzly. Then not much further you see a spray painted old metal container that says Grizzly. Shortly thereafter you pass an old house. The trail eventually spits you out on an ATV rough rocky road that you stay on to the lake. The whole hike took us an hour and 15 minutes up and about the same down. We did this today and there was almost no snow to be seen but there were lots of
Mud and water pools you could mostly avoid by either finding bigger rocks to walk on or walking around the trail. Was very windy at the lake. Beautiful hike and lake. Loved it. Pretty steep overall and a couple areas near the end that are rock fields to cross. Just be sure to pay attention where to get back on the trail from the road if you hike from the trail off the Hancock road.

Great hike! First mile is pretty sandy, rocky, and steep, but the rest of the hike goes through beautiful groves of aspen. The waterfall was amazing.

21 days ago

Great trail overall! With the snow melt, the streams were flowing very strong which made crossing them a little difficult. Come prepared to get your feet wet because there were 3+ stream crossings and some large snow mounds present. The hike starts pretty easy and increases in difficulty as you approach the lake but it is so worth it for the amazing view. Tried to fish but parts of the lake were still frozen and didn't have any luck. 100% would recommend anyway!

The waterfall at the end was beautiful! first half of the hike was very rocky and sandy but it was worth it.

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.

Beautiful waterfall! Trail is sandy and rocky and steep in parts. I arrived at the trailhead at 8:30 and I’m glad that I did because it got crowded as I was heading back to the trailhead. Lots of dogs, bikes, horses and two llamas also.

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.

Nice trail, well maintained. Good for older kids, although I saw plenty of young ones too. A bit crowded today, but the weather was gorgeous and it’s Memorial Day weekend, so who doesn’t want to be out on the trails?

Great day hike. Most elevation gain in the first 1.5 miles. Great views of the valley on the assent opening up to meadows. Lots of water at the falls. Trail is well maintained. At mile 3 look for the ground level sign pointing you left to the falls.

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!


I really enjoyed this hike. The trail was well maintained and easy to follow. My favorite view was when we came out of the trees and into a meadow area. Beautiful!

Great trail, beautiful scenery. Friendly people. You can primitive camp near the trailhead in BLM land for free!!!

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