Lakes of the Clouds

MODERATE 52 reviews

Lakes of the Clouds is a 10.6 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Westcliffe, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from April until December. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

10.6 miles
2,578 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash



nature trips






wild flowers




Directions from : Take Hermit Road west out of Westcliffe to where the jeep road intersects the Rainbow Trail. The sign is hard to find. It is off to the right on the north side of the road, after you get into the trees. Park along the road.

19 hours ago

Great hike. The aspen are GORGEOUS now. However when you get to the sign that says Rainbow trail and points both right and left, go right. You have to be a Mt. Goat to do the left trail. We lost quite a bit of time going that way then turning around to find the right trail. Didn't make it to the lake so are heading back next Sat.

1 day ago

We took the swift creek trail which led to a sign and we took the Lake of the Clouds trail marked 3.75 .. it was probably 6-8 miles total from the trailhead to the gorgeous lake. We walked through the aspens and the leaves were changing to gorgeous yellow and orange. The lake was crystal clear perfect for trout fishing.

Does anyone know if there is dispersed camping on the way up?

26 days ago

This was my very first trip to Colorado and the lakes are still my favorites in all the state. It is a rocky uphill climb, and for a "flatlander" Hoosier like myself, the elevation was challenging to adjust to. As it also was my first real backpacking trip, I pretty unprepared as far as gear and choice of clothes. The campsites up top were a great place to unwind and recharge for a couple days. A very friendly doe lived up there while I visited and followed me around most the time I was there. Beautiful mountains, lakes, and insanely undisturbed, dark-night, galaxy-filled skies await at these lakes.

29 days ago

Had noooooo idea what I was getting myself into. Just decided that I was going to take the Lakes Of The Clouds trail and it was definitely challenging. But the view was beyond amazing.

horseback riding
1 month ago

I love the Rainbow Trail; it doesn't get any better for me! Swift Trail up to the Lakes is steep and rocky but the beauty at the end is worth every step!

There are two trails that go to the lakes, both are well shaded and have wildflowers along the way (most are starting to fade though). The lakes at the top were beautiful and offered some great photo ops. There were few people on the trail, which made the trip even better.

2 months ago

A lot of work for little reward. Not much of a view on the way up or at the end. Lots of nice trees though!

3 months ago

We hiked this trail 5/12/2018 via the Gibson Creek Trailhead and made it to the lower lake. Towards the beginning of the trail, we saw Henry Tjhie, and he told us we wouldn't need our snowshoes. The mud and snow depth then was manageable in boots and there were only a handful of places where we had to walk across snow, many of which are probably melted by now. The frozen waterfall was very neat. Just before the lake, there was a large snow field, and we only sunk into the snow in a few spots. Saw less than 10 people the entire time, so it was very peaceful. The large, wide creek crossing was doable with a couple large logs to walk across, even with all the snow run-off. It was slow going for most of the trail since there are LOTS of downed trees, creating all kinds of obstacles, some of which you have to wander off the trail to go around. Lots of birds in the area. It was neat seeing a ptarmigan once on the way up and once on the way back in about the same spot. It was very windy at the lake, so much that it was creating waves, something we had never seen in the backcountry. We spent a while trying to figure out how to get to the upper lakes. We tried going around on the right side of the lake, but no luck. We did, however, spot a bunch of fish in some of the ponds behind the lake on the right side. We realized later that the trail to the upper lakes goes around on the left side via some logs over part of the lake; the trail was difficult to see because of heavily overgrown bushes. Even though the lake was beautiful and serene, only giving this trail 3 stars because of all the downed trees, difficulty route finding to the upper lakes, and lack of views on the way up.

4 months ago

I went up to the lake a couple days ago 5-4-18. I took the regular route (not swift creek, the signage is not so confusing once you understand there are 2 routes up to lake of the clouds) There was a fair amount of waist deep snow drifts 1/2 way up, it took me 4 hours, but I believe it will be "ready" or normal within a few weeks. BTW saw 2 bears right below the snow line (they were not aggressive at all) bring protection if hiking alone or in a small group. I didn't see another person the whole hike, true solitude. The last half is all snow but totally doable if you have the patience, seems to be rapidly melting.

4 months ago

lost our dog Lindsey. trained pitbull grey with white belly with stand up ears and was wearing a brown jacket. if found please post a comment saying she's found

5 months ago

Totally worth the hike!!! will definantly be back to this one but this time with plans to camp at the top.

9 months ago

normally a moderate hike. 3/4 of the hike was over snow. Definitely a trying hike but absolutely beautiful. took 5 hours in and right at 3 hours back. well definitely try to make it again before too much accumulation. our 6 year old hiked it like a champ.

10 months ago

epic. saw elk. Aspens were yellow and great did it in about 4 weeks ago. lakes were clear and amazing. snow on the peaks.

11 months ago

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The trailhead shown on the map is actually the Gibson Creek trailhead. at the termination of County Road 172 (Not hermit Road which hits Rainbow trail much further south. Hermit road is a continuation of County Road 160. The best description of the trail directions is at the San Isabel National Forest website.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Wrote a detailed blog post. You can read it here :)

Monday, July 17, 2017

The route shown on this app, is not the best route in my opinion. There is a route if you turn left (walking from the parking lot, to the trail on the app) following the Forest service signs, that is shorter and more scenic. I went up on the shorter route, and back on the longer route. The longer route has nothing to recommend it, again this is the route shown in the app, as it bypasses both of the impressive waterfalls I enjoyed on the way up, and the added mileage is almost entirely on an ATV track that is not particularly scenic.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Great day, beautiful hike. Saw only 2 other hikers.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

How bad were the mosquitos?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

We want to go back. We did not plan enough time. It was gorgeous. We are going back in a few weeks.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Has anyone been up to here in the last few days. Looking for a snow report.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Had a blast on this trail. The top third required snow shoes and only made it to the first lake. As other reviews mentioned, it is frozen over and covered in snow. We saw bear tracks in the snow, but didn't see much wildlife other than birds. Snow shoeing was an amazing experience, but even without them the trail is gorgeous and rewarding.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

We love this trail. tried it today, too much snow for us. Difficulty varries depending on weather. Fallen trees and changing terrain.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Beautiful hike..!!! Made it to the lower of the three "lakes" and it was frozen solid. We hiked back to lower elevation where there was less snow and better melt to stay one more night. We will be coming back to this trail in a month once most of the snow is gone. Again, upper 1/2 of trail is COMPLETELY buried in feet of snow. Still, the whole trip was stunning.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

best fishing and hiking

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Spectacular views; great fishing...just got back, this was my 1st real backpacking trip...6 days living in the woods...a childhood dream come true! The hike kicked my butt a lil bit but totally worth it...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Great trail. Beautiful views the whole way. I didn't struggle to make it at all, and I am an out of shape flat lander (live at 285'). The hardest part is the final ascent to the lakes, but don't give up they are worth the effort. I calculated (according to the park service signs) as being 13 miles round trip from the parking area not 11.8

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Amazing! The hike is arduous and challenging and will force you to mentally buckle down and push harder. The views at each of the lakes are absolutely phenomenal! The hike is incredibly worth it with the views and wonderful sights to see once you hit the lakes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

First- this is not an easy hike for anyone from lower elevations. As a 33yr old NJ resident with no altitude training, every step was a challenge on the way in. After 3 days of camping, the effects of 11,000 ft were still noticeable, but manageable. The hike out was a breeze in comparison. It took my friend and I almost 7 hours to hike in and around 3 to hike out for a comparison.
The parking lot sits around 9,000 ft and a fairly steady climb takes you to around 11,100 at the lower lake. Take your time on the way in and enjoy the scenery- it's worth it. The fishing is great, the air pure and fresh, and the areas surrounding the lakes is excellent for exploring or day hiking. Bring a jet stove, don't forget your rain gear and fly, and your fishing gear and lose a few days at lake of the clouds, you will not regret it.

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