Crater Lakes Trail via Moffat Tunnel East Portal Trailhead

HARD 441 reviews
#2 of 114 trails in

Crater Lakes Trail via Moffat Tunnel East Portal Trailhead is a 6.5 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Nederland, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
6.5 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1,804 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

camping

fishing

hiking

horseback riding

snowshoeing

trail running

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

rocky

snow

Forest trail with mountain views leading to alpine lakes This trail takes you into the James Peak wilderness. The first part is an old jeep trail that will take you up to WP22, from there a new trail heads up to crater lakes. This trail fades in a couple places since it is not well defined yet, but push on and you will find it again. Look for cairns in the rocky areas to continue trail. Middle Lakes are easily accessable. Continue between the middle lakes staying on path that runs along the left side of the lake on the right. Upper Lakes take more effort and there is light scrambling. Continue past the lower lake and climb to the final lake at the base of Continental divide. Bring your fishing gear in the summer.

Beautiful hike through dense, lush forest. The lakes are a lovely ending. The hike was enough to get the blood flowing, but certainly not strenuous.

hiking
5 days ago

I'm guessing the hard rating is based on the minor scrambling required to get to the upper lakes. Overall a great hike with 4 gorgeous lakes. Saw some people braving the cold water and had wished I packed some extra clothes to jump in as well. Even though there's a decent amount of traffic on the trail, it didn't feel overly crowded and everyone I encountered was friendly and courteous.

7 days ago

Great trail. Not hard until you start up to the upper lake. I would note that there are two trails up to the upper lake. If you go between the lakes and up, it’s pretty steep and you will end up climbing a lot of boulders. You will not follow the trail on all trails. You’ll end up to the left of the trail but will still reach the lake. You have to go around the lower big lake a bit to reach the actual trail (the one you find on all trails). It’s steep (maybe not as bad as the other way). Both trails have been travels a bunch so marked.

Trail was pretty but not sure I would do it again. Long dirt rocky road to get to the trail. Don’t not necessarily need a high clearance vehicle or 4wd. HUGE parking lot so you don’t have to worry about getting a spot. Probably holds 50 cars.

8 days ago

Beautiful hike worth the climb to the upper
Lake. Great hike to break for lunch at the halfway point.

9 days ago

Breath taking

backpacking
11 days ago

Travel about 7 miles on the East Portal Inlet/Tolland dirt road out of Rollinsville, CO to the Moffat Tunnel. The road is a bit rough in spots, but easily traveled with a 2WD vehicle. This is a cool tunnel that cuts through the Continental Divide for about 6 miles and ends up on the other side in Winter Park. Once you make it up to the two lakes, by climbing up the steep talus and dirt trail to the upper Crater Lake, you get a beautiful view of this section of the Divide and the lake which has a deep green tint reflecting the peaks above. We saw quite a few marmots in the talus field on the way back down to the lower Crater Lakes and a beautiful panoramic view of that area below and the surrounding mountains. Take your time with this easy scramble because of the scree and loose rock. Our retrievers made the up and down just fine. We camped at the east lake and filtered water from there. It’s crowded for the hike up from the trailhead, but most are day hikers. The Saturday night we camped, there were probably about 3-4 other groups camping overnight along with us in other camp areas. You can pick your own campsite, but it’s encouraged to use a place already camped before obviously. The trail is rated as Hard, but I would say that would be for the upper lake trek where it’s much steeper, but a fun scramble, than the hike up to the two lower Crater Lakes. I really enjoyed this trail especially since you don’t need a permit for an overnight. At this time of year several of the streams were dry under the bridge crossings, but there still is a waterfall, and another good running stream on the way up besides the lake for water. The aspens were changing colors making for a beautiful hike. I’ll do this one again!

hiking
12 days ago

One of my favorite hikes! It’s been said before, but the last mile or so is difficult if you take the steep route. We had to take quite a few breaks along that stretch.

15 days ago

Great hike. Heavily used. Plenty of camp spots around lower crater lake. Highly recommend walking up the short but steep trail to upper crater lake.

17 days ago

Love this hike! Got kinda steep but very doable in 2 hours. The lakes are gorgeous. When the Creek is high there are stunning waterfalls

22 days ago

Beautiful hike. Pretty steep going up and tons of elder people on this trail. Some of them seemed upset about the dogs

backpacking
24 days ago

The trail is well-maintained without having to dodge any fallen limbs. It's impeccably clean and with plenty of landscape variety to keep it interesting.

Gentle tourist warning here. Don't be fooled -- it's tough, especially the last 1 mile to Crater Lakes after the turn off from the main trail. Sites like All Trails are good to level-set expectations. Too many people see "hike" and think it's like walking in Kansas. On my way down I saw people in flip flops without any water heading up --- on a warm day. I could almost hear the rescue chopper warming up!

I camped just one night on the lower lakes. Caught two fish. The place is quiet, beautiful and perfectly Colorado.

29 days ago

Really beautiful hike! As others have said, the first couple of miles to the first two lakes are pretty easy, but then it gets really steep getting to the last two. But it’s worth it to get a view of the first two lakes at the same time! When we got to the trailhead it was very windy, but once we started the hike most of the wind was perhaps blocked by the trees. Also the weather was around 60 degrees and I went in shorts which wasn’t a great decision when we were in parts of the hike where we could feel the wind, but it wasn’t totally unbearable.

1 month ago

Awesome hike. Hit the trail around 2:15 on Sunday, unusually late but what the hell. Pretty easy to moderate until you get past the first two lakes. Forested most of the way. Really great hike but compared to others in the area, specifically some from the trailheads a bit to the north, you can find some a bit more epic. With that said, parking is easy and it’s gorgeous.

Colorado is the best.

1 month ago

Great hike! Very windy...

hiking
1 month ago

To help out some fellow inexperienced hikers such as myself: this trail is SO beautiful and it's one of my favorites so far! But you need to be prepared. It can be REALLY cold and rainy in here, so bring raincoats and potentially gloves and hats if you are one to get cold easily! The temperature in here can be a lot different than Denver. Experienced people probably already knew that but I sure didn't! Enjoy

1 month ago

I liked that this trail had variety of sceneries. Many shaded area as well as some meadows and rocky terrains. Great for dogs since there is a creek running by, and the lakes to get to. Wild flowers are beautiful in August. I saw a coyote (I think) and moose!

hiking
1 month ago

Scenic and forested. The last 3/4 of the hike got hard and had me wondering if I was ever going to make it, but it was worth the effort to get to beautiful mountain lakes.

hiking
1 month ago

Cool hike and views from the upper lake. Many, many people due to the parking lot being so big. I would rate the TH to the two lakes has a moderate hike and if you choose to go up that last .5 mile is hard. There are two trails up, the one in view from standing between the lakes is a scramble up and then down 150 ft to the lake. The trail to the east is steep too but drops you at the lake shore.

overall, nice hike with tons of people.

1 month ago

Lakes r theraputic. If I hike this again Ill either camp at the base and do rogers pass the following day or camp at the middle of the trail at the lower lakes n trout fish. Def wish I knew it was such a great camping area w so many alike enthusiast to share the adventure with. The hiker companionship is strong w this trail.

1 month ago

Agree with everyone that the upper lake is a must do. It is a long, gradual climb to the lower lakes, some rocky and rooty segments from the parking lot. We saw quite a bit of traffic on a Saturday morning but so it goes these days in Colorado.

Upper lake is steep, but the trail is obvious from the lower lakes and it's beautiful. Since you're almost there, keep going! There is a bit of rock scrambling at the top but look for the cairns and you'll be fine.

Wildflowers are about done for this year but still plenty of stragglers along the way.

1 month ago

Started hiking around 6:45AM, with the parking lot nearly empty except for people who parked their car and were camping. The trail is well defined up to the first 2 lakes but when you start up to the top lake, the path is hard to follow. I followed a path that was not what AllTrails had marked up to the top which included a lot of scrambling. I looked for the trail AllTrails has marked on their route to go down and couldn’t find it, so I made my way down the way I came up. Other than that, the hike is beautiful, with a lot of wildflowers on the way to the top lake. Highly recommend going in the morning because when I got back to the parking lot it was nearly full.

hiking
1 month ago

I have yet to find a hike better than this. The views are gorgeous. I definitely recommend hiking to the top lakes, it’s worth it. There is currently no mud or issues with the trail, but there is some lose gravel and scrambling involved in this hike. Expect heavy breathing, as the incline gets steeper in the last mile. Overall it takes about two hours to get up from the parking lot to the top crater lake.

hiking
1 month ago

Great hike with breathtaking views. We are from New Orleans and not used to high altitude or big mountains, and we did just fine. the trail was full of wildflowers. The first lakes are beautiful. I recommend making the journey of the extra mile to the top lake as well because it’s gorgeous and you can see the Continental advice. it’s steep on the way up to the second lake (we took the direct route straight up from the Crater Lakes) and not well-marked on the way back (or maybe we just missed it). We ended up having to make our own trail back from the lake and scrambling around like idiots, but I think more experienced hikers with more sense than us won’t have that problem. Overall, highly recommend! .

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful hike first to the lower lakes and then up to the top lake. The hike up to the top lake is very steep, but only 1 mile, and the destination is definitely worth it. Generally well-marked paths. Moderate traffic when we were there from around 9:30am. Ample parking spaces.

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful, fun, moderately difficult trail. Very heavily trafficked below the lower lakes. Lots of places to camp. The upper lakes are worth the extra mile!

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful trail, wildflowers everywhere! About 7 miles total. Got there mid afternoon and there was plenty of parking.

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful hike! Ended up being closer to 7 round trip if you get up to the top lake (which is a MUST). It’s. A steady uphill climb through beautiful woods. The only hard part is the last hike up the last lake which is steep, but you’re surrounded by sweeping views and wild flowers (and a few marmots

hiking
2 months ago

This hike is well worth the climb all the way to the top but be aware of the trail! Apparently the last half mile of trail is not the well trafficked dirt path winding straight up along the creek but is instead a poorly marked, if at all, less steep path along the lower right lake. Regardless, the hike was beautiful (wildflowers are our in full force right now) and a butt kicker but perfect. Highly recommend going early because the trail was packed by 10am. 7am was more my speed.

2 months ago

Lost trail a few times. Solid trail. Lots of campers. Not hard, very easy first two miles

hiking
2 months ago

I’d say this is one of my favorite hikes I’ve ever done. I did this on a Wednesday afternoon (began hike at 12:30pm) and it took me about 4 hours after spending 45 minutes at the peak. I only saw a few people total which was great. I’d consider this more of a moderate hike not hard, because it’s only about 6 or so miles. But, there are tons of boulders and a nice scramble towards the peak. The water was amazing at the Final lake and I spent 10 minutes soaking in the ice bath with my dog.

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