Cascade Creek Trail to Mirror Lake and Crater Lake

HARD 137 reviews
#17 of 153 trails in

Cascade Creek Trail to Mirror Lake and Crater Lake is a 14.6 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Elkdale, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
14.6 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,375 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

walking

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

snow

Permits required for overnight camping June-Mid September, designated sites only. No campfires allowed. Dogs on leash only.

hiking
9 days ago

Such a beautiful and fun hike! So many water features on the way up and beautiful foliage. Love every mile!

backpacking
1 month ago

Beautiful area of Colorado and worth a trip! I recommend backpacking to truly experience it but you could definitely do a day hike (leave early in the AM!). We did 3 days/2 nights and it took about 4.5 hours up (total) and 3.5 hours back with our heavy packs. Our first night camping was in the Cascade zone and second night was in the Crater Lake zone. There's 12 designated backpacking sites in Crater Lake zone - 3 of them about half a mile below the lakes, 2 at Mirror Lake, and the remaining 7 at Crater Lake. Unfortunately we were hit with pouring rain for most of our visit, which isn't particularly fun when you're backpacking (we were damp and a little grumpy on the way back). We plan to come back to take more advantage of the area with better visibility and less rain-soaked gear :)

1 month ago

Absolutely phenomenal hike! Arguably my favorite hike ever, for sure in Colorado. I refuse to come here for less than 2 nights because there is just an overwhelming amount to do. Beautiful walk around the lake, tons of wildflowers (late June), creeks and waterfalls, meadows if you get off the beaten path, an absolutely limitless of beauty. You do need a permit to camp here which can be difficult to get. I always hike in from the Granby side which is gorgeous and less strenuous than hiking over Pawnee Pass.

1 month ago

Hiked only to the falls. Great hike.

backpacking
1 month ago

Did a one-nighter here. Absolutely gorgeous. Hiked in about 4 miles and set camp and then did the rest of the ascent without packs — definitely more enjoyable than camping at mirror lake itself (bugs were awful).

backpacking
1 month ago

My friends and I spent 3 days, 2 nights on the trail for our first time backpacking. This was definitely a hard hike with our packs, but we also packed a little too much. This is doable for a one day hike, our last day we covered 8.4 miles in about 5 hours with our backpacks. Great hike with numerous stops for great scenery

hiking
1 month ago

August 6th 2018: We are a fairly fit family (runners and cyclists) that hiked to Crater lake and back covering 15 miles in about 8 hrs. This included time for stopping to take in and photo the amazing sights along the way and stopping for lunch for about an hour at Crater lake. For a hike it really doesn’t get much better than this. This trail throws the most amazing smorgasbord of scenery at you with of course the reward of the spectacular views of Lone Eagle Peak at the top.

hiking
1 month ago

My husband and I along with our dog Breezy, hiked as far as Cascade Falls yesterday. We were in a time crunch otherwise it would’ve been great to keep going. The trail and views were beautiful! There was quite a few others on the trail but started to thin out once we went further. We had some thunder and light rain, but nothing too crazy. I hope to come back and complete the rest of the trail eventually!

camping
1 month ago

July 23-26: We stayed in the cascade zone all three nights. Then day packed to the lake. In the cascade creek zone you can disperse camp which is really cool. There are only 8 permits given but 11 designated camp sites for crater lake zone so you should reserve early. It was a long hike, but it was never boring. We enjoyed wildlife like Moose and deer every night at camp. The last night we did have a mountain lion sighting but he did not seem interested in us whatsoever. The waterfalls are amazing the entire way. It’s definitely a hike we will return to in the future. Next time we will have a permit for cascade creek the first night, crater lake permit for two nights, then another permit at cascade creek to hike out. The trail is so amazing you can break it up into days and still have so much to look forward to. Definitely go and definitely camp!

hiking
1 month ago

Stunning. Nice moderate hike; I ended up exploring around the lake, and it was worth the hike past initial views!

hiking
1 month ago

Did this in a day! It’s definitely not hard with the elevation gain so spread out. At the end of the hike our GPS told us 17miles instead of 14. Unfortunately it rained the whole time and the low clouds hid Lone Eagle Peak from us so we’ll be back next summer! Amazing hike even without the reward up top!

hiking
1 month ago

This was absolutely beautiful! We were supposed to go to Gourd Lake, however, my friends and I were enjoying ourselves, didn’t pay attention to the sign that said Buchanan Trail (whoops) and ended up at Crater Lake which was absolutely gorgeous! Such a fun hike either way though

hiking
1 month ago

Amazing spot if you’re willing to put the work in! I just went day hiking with a buddy, but next time we’ll probably backpack in. Starts out relatively flat and easy and then gets quite a bit tougher as you go deeper. The hardest part by far is the distance. It took us about 5 hours to get up (with breaks as needed) and 3 to get back down. Make sure to buy a parking pass at the as soon as you turn onto road 6, the trail head is about 10 miles from there and the ranger isn’t always on sight.

1 month ago

This trail is wonderful! It follows the creek most of the way, so water is almost always available. You pass through beautiful meadows with followers, multiple water falls and the trail ends at Mirror Lake. We spent the night (don’t forget your back country permit!) and would do the same if we were to hike this again. We saw two moose, multiple deer and a mountain goat. I would definitely recommend this as a begging backpack excursion.

hiking
1 month ago

This is an excellent trail as long as you are capable of 15-16 miles in a day or an overnight. The lakes, waterfalls, and mountains are spectacular. We did not have a designated camping spot in the Crater Lake zone so we got one for the cascade area around it. We thankfully found a small meadow about 150 feet to the right of the trail right before the Crater Lake zone. You can’t see it from the trail, and it wouldn’t be good if a lot of rain is expected, but it was an excellent spot that was just a mile from the lakes. There were also lots of raspberries the first couple of miles which was a nice treat.

hiking
1 month ago

So this trail is difficult. I ended with four blisters and an achy body. With that said, it was probably the most hidden paradise that I have ever been to. The views were great, the wildlife was present (We even had to stop because a moose was on the trail), and the hike was challenging. I like to be challenged. We ended up hiking about 16 miles in all, and it is just sooooo long. Make sure to go on a day that is clear with a ton of sun, because it get chilly at the top. Also it almost stormed while we were there which would have been terrible if it did, so watch the forecast. The water is refreshing and freezing, but its worth the experience. Just remember, this is an all day hike and not an easy one. Still 10/10 would recommend.

hiking
1 month ago

Pro tip: When you enter the Monarch Lake area on County Road 6 off Highway 34, stop and get a $5 pass at the entrance. Unless there’s a ranger present you won’t be able to buy a pass at the trailhead in another ten miles, and if you don’t have a pass it’s a $75 ticket!!

This is an outstanding hike. It’s difficulty rating really comes largely from its long length - its elevation gain is spread out over miles. It’s got everything - it goes past lakes, meadows with flowers, thick forests, waterfalls and mountain vistas, and ends in one of the most spectacular mountain peaks in the state - Lone Eagle Peak - towering over a smooth and peaceful lake. Start early and you can do this as a day hike. It’s gorgeous.

1 month ago

Great 1 night backpacking. Not too many good camp spots further down but there are some good flat areas before and after the falls.

hiking
2 months ago

Incredible hike! The lakes at the top are worth the work to get there.

backpacking
2 months ago

I have hiked many trails in Colorado and this has to be my favorite all time. With beautiful waterfalls along the trail all the way back to the epic views at Crater Lake you just can't go wrong. I was fortunate enough to see a variety of animals including multiple moose, marmots, mountain goats, a weasel (I think) and my buddy saw a black bear about 50 yards away from us that scurried up the mountain when it heard us coming. If you are overnight camping, make sure you have a permit. With the weight of a full backpacking pack, the trail is challenging and it works you with many rocky inclines all the way back to Crater Lake but it is well worth it! Its like camping in a painting. It is simply stunning!.

backpacking
2 months ago

Absolutely incredible backpacking spot! The hike in was relatively flat the first 4 miles before any steeper sections and switchbacks. The trail ended up being 17 miles total for us. Completely worth it to get to Crater Lake! Beautiful along the way with multiple waterfalls and great wildflowers.
Recent reviews mentioned snow-absolutely no snow/ice on the trail. Very hot and lots of bugs, sun protection and insect repellent are musts!
Also a good trail to see moose, saw one about 30 feet off the trail.
Definitely going to plan to come back and spend more than 1 night!
Make sure you get you camping pass early and you can get your car pass at the trail head.

hiking
2 months ago

Did this hike yesterday and it was easily one of my favorites. Ended up being closer to 16 miles and took us around 9 and a half hours with a bit of stopping and admiring the scenery on the way up. The first 5 miles up to cascade falls is very easy-moderate and after that if got a bit more challenging but definitely worth it. The scenery the whole way is breathtaking. Definitely plan on coming back to camp. Also you need to make sure you get a parking permit.

2 months ago

Great hike and views but definitely deserves the hard rating for the length.

backpacking
2 months ago

IF BACKPACKING GET YOUR PERMIT BEFORE YOU GET TO THE MONARCH LAKE TRAILHEAD. The Ranger station is run by volunteers and not always open. Lots of Rangers on the trail so you can’t sneak in without one. The trail is not super difficult it’s just long! The lake and views of Lone Eagle Peak are so stunning!

backpacking
2 months ago

Hiked in on 07/02 , and hiked out on 07/04. Absolutely beautiful trail with an even more stunning destination at Crater and Mirror Lakes. There are some nice day hikes that can be had from Crater Lake - I did Pawnee Pass which was about 8 miles round trip from camp.

A word to people not used to altitude (like me, I'm from Pennsylvania) - note this begins a little above 8,000 feet and ends around 10,300 feet. I was not properly acclimatized and got altitude sickness which made the last part of the hike and first day miserable. If I do this again I may stay one night at the Arapaho Bay campground (right near the trailhead) to acclimatize.

The review from early July that notes deep snow - there was no snow at all on this hike.

hiking
2 months ago

Hiked on 7/7. From start to finish, this is one of the most stunning hikes I’ve ever done. The scenery was amazing the whole way. Lush green forest (sometimes it felt more like the PNW), multiple waterfalls, rushing water, so many wildflowers, beautiful grassy clearings with views of towering granite, the breathtaking destination....the hike felt shorter than it really was because it was a constant feast for the eyes. And Lone Eagle Peak was simply incredible to finally see in person. As others have mentioned, the “Hard” rating is misleading. Besides the distance, this is a pretty moderate hike. With the exception of a few short-lived steeper sections, the incline is very gradual. Lots of fairly flat sections. I arrived at the trailhead at 7:30 and the lot was already pretty full (possibly from campers), but it’s easy to just park on the side of the road. It took about 3 hours to get to Mirror Lake.

Note: the review below me (appearing to be from early July) mentions 3-4 feet of snow. Rest assured, the trail is totally dry. Not a bit of snow the whole way. Not sure what’s going on with that review.

2 months ago

We attempted this trail yesterday. It was absolutely gorgeous. However we were unable to make it past Cascade Falls due to three to four foot deep snow obscuring the trail. It was a fairly easy Trail up to right before the Falls where we ran into snow that was pretty deep.We will be back!

2 months ago

Such an awesome hike - the incline was gradual and fairly easy. What I think makes this hike rated hard is the distance. We saw tons of wildflowers and the views of lone eagle peak were so rewarding. There were many beautiful water features at the beginning, middle and end of the hike.

hiking
2 months ago

Stunningly beautiful

backpacking
2 months ago

What a surprise! Beautiful hike up to the lakes. Stunning views, cascading falls, and plenty of wildlife. This one is going on the annual list!

We saw quite a few people on the trail, but it never felt crowded. Make sure you snag your permit if you want to camp up at the lakes. Also, there is a fire ban for everywhere past Cascade Falls, please be respectful of our environmental treasures.

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