Dry Lakes via Dry Creek Trail

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San Isabel National Forest

Dry Lakes via Dry Creek Trail is a 7.6 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Westcliffe, 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 October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 7.6 miles Elevation Gain: 2,877 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

camping

fishing

hiking

nature trips

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

Dry Lakes is one of the steeper hikes on the East side and leads from the trail head at Rainbow Trail to the lower lake. Fishing is primarily at the lower lake. To get to the upper lake go right and look for the faint trail. That adds another mile but it's easy. If you like to climb stairs, this one is for you. The beginning is one rocky long stair climb with no switchbacks. It levels off in the middle and then you climb a short bit again. The creek is on the left most of the way with a couple of crossings using rocks and logs. Great hike. Flowers and mushrooms. Fly fishing was good.

hiking
rocky
8 months ago

The first thing to note is the hike distance in the description is not accurate. From the Horn Creek Ranch trailhead, it is 1 mile to the Dry Creek trailhead which is off of the rainbow trail. From there it is 3.5 miles to the lower lake. So the total round-trip distance from the Horn Creek trailhead to the lower lake is 9 miles, not 7.6, and total vertical from the Horn Creek TH to the lower lake is about 2900ft. Add another 2 miles (round trip) to get to the upper lakes. Plan accordingly. Secondly, this is a pretty strenuous hike, especially at the start with the trail going straight up the hillside on a very rocky and uneven path - and it can also be tricky on the descent, especially in wet weather. You'll be in the forest for almost the entire hike, so there are few views until near the end. In early September there were hordes of ripe wild strawberries and raspberries ready for picking and eating. And there were also no people, we were the only ones parked at the trailhead on a Sunday. There is a nice stop for a break/snack at 1.6 miles from Horn Creek TH at the main stream crossing. This could be tricky to cross in higher water. At 2.2 miles there is a nice but well-used campsite on the left side of the trail. There are many other options for backpack camping in the upper third of the trail, especially near the lakes. Overall this is a strenuous hike with lots of ankle-busting rocks that is probably only worth it if you have the time and energy to actually get to the lakes.

hiking
Wed Aug 29 2018

This trail is definitely one of the most difficult trails I've done in this area. However, I started at about 1pm and I was back down by 5:30pm. Not one of my fastest hikes. I'll echo others in that it isn't incredibly scenic until you reach the lakes, but once you do reach the lakes it is absolutely worth every pebbly steep hill you climbed to get there. Not sure about the previous commenters' distance discrepancies. The NFS map and sign places the lakes 3.5 miles into the trail. Fitbit had me at 3.45 miles when I reached the lakes and AllTrails had me at 3.8 miles. The ascent is not the most fun; just take as many breaks as you need and don't let your legs go cold. The descent could easily wipe you out so take your time there as well. Absolutely stunning ending to a brutal hike.

backpacking
Fri Aug 03 2018

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.

Sun Oct 30 2016

very demanding,coming down very had on knees,always stepping on or over rocks very few level spots beautiful at top will not do again too many better trails

hiking
Tue Sep 06 2016

This is NOT a moderate 4 mile hike! The hike from the Rainbow Trail parking lot to the Dry Lakes Trailhead is 2 miles. The trailhead for Dry Lakes Trail branches off from the Rainbow trail and although the Forest Service sign says 3.5 miles to the lakes, it is closer to 6 miles. The entire hike will be close to 8 miles, which doesn't seem like a big deal for experienced hikers, at least we don't think so, but we didn't pack enough water or food for a 16 mile round-trip hike. The trail is uphill the entire way and full of rather large lose rocks that make it difficult to move at a decent speed. So, to sum it up, start early and pack enough food and water!!

hiking
Mon Jun 27 2016

A pleasant trail. The beginning definitely is a climb, but it does even out to a slightly more gentle uphill after a while. We were a little paranoid about finding the right trail. You start from the Horn Creek Trail Head and make the climb up to access the Rainbow Trail. When you T at the Rainbow Trail, turn right towards Horn Creek. After a short walk, you reach the a split for the Horn Creek Spur or "Trail 1343"-- which is the Dry Lakes Trail.

hiking
Tue Jul 21 2015

Very demanding trail, it was strenuous and rocky, climbing, climbing and more climbing. The foliage and views were really awesome, the stream along side was beautiful for most of the hike. The lake at the trail end is around 12000 feet, so enjoy my pictures from the hike. The posted sign indicates 3.5 miles in, it's actually 5.0 miles in, total in and out 10 miles. I started at Horn Creek trailhead, so it was a total of 12 miles in an out to Dry Creek/Lake. So get there, and enjoy Colorado and the Sangre De Cristo mountains!!! I've completed several hikes in this area, everyone of them "amazing"!

hiking
Mon Jun 01 2015

beautiful hike with great views of the valley. we tried late may but there were still large patches of snow at 10,000 feet obscuring the trail. we had to turn around before we could make it up to the lakes but there were aspen trees lining the path. it would be a pretty early fall hike too.

hiking
Mon Mar 31 2014

This trail takes you up a valley to a couple lakes above timberline. It is long and demanding, but colorful in the fall. There are patches of aspens along the stream that are good photo opps.

hiking
Fri Sep 20 2013

Nice hike. Love the Sangres!

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