Explore the most popular wildlife trails in Sangre de Cristo Wilderness with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

off road driving
1 day ago

Great easy 4x4 trail with camping. We ran this many years ago with a group of friends. 4x4 Low and air down your tires. Watch water crossings during snow melt they can get high. Take a compressor so you can air down for sand and back up some for the trail. If you go with your friends who have a Discovery 2 make sure they know how to engage 4x4 low. LOL

backpacking
3 days ago

Did the full loop. The Natgeo topo (#138 i think) seems to differ from reality in the area where the Venable trail starts. Going up the from the venable trailhead (Not Comanche) there is an unmarked left turn which the map shows leading to the bottom of Venable trail. However, venable trail is actually straight/right about 50 yards up the rocky atv trail, and is well signed. Because of this, we went up Comanche trail and down venable. Comanche trail is completely free of snow until the Phantom Terrace, where there are 2 short sections of incredibly exposed snow at the very top. Looking over the edge of the Phantom terrace from the comanche side, both sections of snow are visible. The First one is avoidable by going up and left (northwest-ish), then down and right to the trail. This is exposed class 3 scrambling and with a pack, very wet and loose, and was sort of scary. The second section is avoidable on the right side, but you have to basically walk on the edge of the ledge. After this, the trail is in pretty rough shape until the intersection where you turn to go to Venable lakes. Lots of little wash outs, unavoidable scree piles, and loose rock. You could fall a few hundred feet if you lost it on one of these little obstacles. Everything below venable lakes is free of snow, but there are tens of downed trees in the trail.

hiking
11 days ago

This was the best alpine lake payoff of any trail I've done. We did it early in the season so the mosquitos weren't bad yet. As others have said, the first set of switchbacks are the hardest and the ones on the rock scree were the windiest. I'm out of shape and my wife is 4 months pregnant - our total time was 7.5 hours, 5.5 of moving time. 10.1 miles total. We saw some bighorn sheep on our way down and also swear we heard a moose, though not to be seen.

off road driving
15 days ago

Took our off-road Tacoma on this trail yesterday - such a blast! There are quite a few stream crossings but shouldn't be an issue if clearance is high enough. Definitely a good amount of rough/rocky terrain, nothing we couldn't handle but not the most comfortable.
Park ranger mentioned not to drop the pressure in your tires TOO much, you do have to go over some very sandy portions of the trail but still need to maneuver rocks as well! Apparently a few people didn't listen and ended up with a dented rim.

hiking
15 days ago

Willow Lake was a beaut. No need for any type of traction. Lake is completely thawed and there was a huge trout in the stream below the lake. Bringing the rod next time! RT took 7 hours with a long break at the lake and lots of stops for photos. Garmin watch clocked 12 miles RT but we dink around a lot.

backpacking
25 days ago

Climbed Crestone Needle in Sep 2015. Well maintained trail from trailhead to base camp at alpine lakes at base of needle. Lord of the rings style mountain in this area. Absolutely beautiful.

Lovely hike, saw some wildflowers and the view of the valley is great.

hiking
1 month 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.

backpacking
1 month 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.

off road driving
3 months 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
3 months ago

You can’t get to this trail without a 4 wheel drive truck. The road gets too bad.

hiking
4 months ago

When I was younger I used to run up this trail! Now I hike up and carefully run down. It is quite difficult in spots. The lower Venable portion can be very dusty and torn apart by horse travel, which can get muddy during (practically daily) Summer rains. The higher you go the more beautiful it gets! There is a broken down cabin towards the top. The views at the top are awesome! My lovely (ha!) profile picture was actually taken at the lower Venable Lake at the top! At the very top there is this portion of the trail called “Phantom Terrace” and the trail just disappears into the scree... let me tell you one thing... I would not want to ride a horse over it! The Comanche side of the loop is more forgiving and not as difficult.

I went in December 2017:
Okay- the good and bad:
1. This trail is 11 miles off highway 50 on a 1 lane dirt road. You need a high profile vehicle or you won’t make it. It took us about an hour to reach the trailhead via the road. It’s rocky, ruts, washboards, washed out, etc. I probably drove around 4-6mph the whole way
2. The trail is pretty much straight up. It was well maintained, but a lil tricky and it will get your heart racing for sure. There aren’t switch backs, just up up up (you are climbing a mountain, after all). The hike down was a bit slippery it’s so steep. It had just dusted snow when we were there.
3. The view is incredible. The trail is gorgeous. I can imagine you’ll likely be the only one there, it is remote! The silence is incredible. The lake at the top is worth it!!!! True gorgeous nature.

hiking
5 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.

great trail and not as steep as many of the other trails in the area

Would like to come back in the spring when the falls will be really running.

backpacking
7 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
7 months ago

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

I'm old, fat, and broken. Did the loop in two days. Camped near one of the lakes then did the hard part on day two and to the car around three pm. Seen some 80 year old white haired women doing this, so anyone under age eighty should have no problems. Good warm up for Humboldt peak.

hiking
8 months ago

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

backpacking
8 months ago

Highly recommend for experienced hikers/backpackers. Views are incredible.

The trail is not for the faint hearted and in my opinion it should be rated as hard. If you are scared of heights, easily fall/trip, or have a hard time keeping your balance, don’t recommend the hike from Comanche Lake to Venable Lake due to Phantom Terrace….the hike is along a narrow mountain ridge.

You will need suntan lotion and prepare for some really steep climbs.

On my record tracks pinned 2 really good campsites.

If you have any questions, I’m on Facebook Messenger.

fishing
9 months ago

I hiked to Comanche Lake and back. I didn't do the loop. It took me two hours to get to the lake. Fishing was great up to 12:00 PM.

Spectacular challenge with elevation gain , wildlife, views, clear water !!

backpacking
10 months ago

I'm not sure it gets more Colorado, than this trail. Aspen groves and pine forests, massive elevation gain potential, slightly sketchy traverse, and beautiful Alpine lakes with trout in them. One of my favorites for sure

Beautiful. Hiked this trail in the fall. The aspen trees were bright yellow, chill in the air. It was glorious.

10 months ago

Beautiful trail, good fishing, lots of wildlife.

backpacking
10 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
10 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
10 months ago

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

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