Shelf Lake Trail

moderate 243 reviews
#8 of 221 trails in

Shelf Lake Trail is a 6.8 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Dillon, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 6.8 miles Elevation Gain: 2,076 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

bird watching

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

snow

A beautiful hike to a lake on a high bench above timberline. The lake is often ice-bound until the end of June. The trailhead recently moved about a half mile south, which is indicated on the map shown here. The road leading to the trailhead can be difficult for 2WD vehicles and sometimes closes seasonally. 4WD with decent ground clearance is recommended.

hiking
4 months ago

Beautiful hike! Completed this trail on 10/13. The incline is challenging (I’ve been in Colorado 3 months and this trail took me longer than all others I’ve completed since I’ve been here) The whole thing took me roughly 4 hours round trip (probably spent 30 minutes wandering around the lake before heading back). Getting there: The road is pretty roughy going for 2 miles to the start of the trail head. I got through it with a 06’ Saturn Vue but it wasn’t super easy, so be aware. No snow as of yet! I arrived to the trail head around 9:45am and only 2 other cars in the lot- I had the trail mostly to myself until I got to the last .5 mile and passed some people coming down. There’s not a ton of snow and/or ice on the trail, but there are patches- keep in mind if you’re going in the early morning! It also made it a bit challenging coming back down and caught myself from sliding down a few times. Windy at the top but if you’re bundled up it’s not too bad. Other than that beautiful hike and highly recommend!

hiking
4 months ago

9/28/19: Loved this hike. Easy access via Guanella Pass (we were in our Subaru Forester and didn’t have any issues with the road), excellent fall colors, but not crowded at all. Great split between hiking in the trees and then getting great views above treeline. Would definitely do this again.

hiking
4 months ago

10-03-19, Great hike with beautiful view. I used this app and iwatch and marked it at 7.9 miles (although forgot to lock truck so had to make an extra 0.38 miles that is included in total) Only saw 3 people on the trail. Path is very clean and easy to follow. Lots of variety in this trail from shade covered pine/aspen timber to sunny meadows. Was able from the west side of the lake to see 5-6 goats on the eastern mountain around a snow patch above us.

hiking
5 months ago

I clocked 7.3 miles from the new trailhead. Excellent and varied trail with great views and a great destination. Beautiful in mid to late September. Someone else saw mountain goats but we did not. Timed it perfectly with a 10am start and had the lake to ourselves. The last few miles to the trailhead are indeed rough but we made in our Subaru Forester. We did bottom out on the big dip just before the marker for campsite marker 23. I advise getting out of the car and scouting that one a bit before you go for it. Stay to the right side on this one as you’re heading to the trailhead (not what we did...), the left side on your return. Otherwise, no problem. Loved this hike, will do it again!

hiking
bugs
rocky
5 months ago

I loved this trail and would definitely come back next spring to do it again! We clocked 7.7 miles in & out. I am a complete hiking beginner, so it was challenging at times but very doable. There were some steep areas with loose rocks and dirt so ensure you’re wearing shoes with traction so you don’t slip. The wildflowers were dead for the most part (mid-Sept), but we had the opportunity to cross some beautiful streams on the trail, see a handful of surviving wildflowers, and there were endless beautiful views and areas to stop and take in the amazing scenery. Overall this hike is perfect for ambitious beginners! Have fun! Last note: absolutely do not attempt to get to this trail without a high-clearance vehicle. We saw someone in a mid-clearance Subaru rip a piece of the bottom of their car off!

hiking
5 months ago

Great hike! Made it with some careful driving in my awd Transit. Really enjoyable trail, didn’t see a single person the whole day but we got a late start around 2pm and finished just under 4 hours. We had a bear encounter on the down hike my first time ever seeing a bear on trail! Luckily I think he was more spooked than us and ran the other direction. Pretty wild. Very serene views!

recorded Shelf Lake Trail

hiking
bugs
5 months ago

hiking
bugs
rocky
5 months ago

hiking
5 months ago

Really enjoyed it today. The new trailhead shortens the distance on the dirt road to about 2 miles. I did it in a small Toyota, slow and easy. Labor day and only saw 6 other hikers.. This hike is not really near Dillon

hiking
6 months ago

Beautiful 7.2 mile hike to Shelf Lake! Wild flowers were amazing and the trail was moderately busy. The weather was lovely. Be cautious getting to the parking lot as the road is quite rough. You definitely need a high clearance vehicle.

It's 8 miles. Gorgeous wild flowers. The lake itself was a bit of a let down because I thought the people who were coming down said there were flowers there. But the flowers are on the way up and it's gorgeous. There are a couple of water crossings and one was pretty wide but not deep. It's a trail with a lot of variety because it has Aspens and Pine and flowers and shade and sun and relatively flat bits and some steep bits...

hiking
rocky
6 months ago

Beautiful trail. Wild flowers are in full bloom right now!

hiking
6 months ago

Trail was 7.3 miles start to finish. Good condition with water throughout for dogs. Wild flowers are amazing right now! Super windy up at the lake today.

hiking
6 months ago

Aug 11. Beautiful wildflowers! Wonderful hike. Might note that on the road to the trailhead there are some 30 campsites along the way. The road is in TERRIBLE shape after the rains. One or two of the dips were like small ponds and I do not see how some of the smaller vehicles we saw without high clearance could get back there. Still, loved the hike....go early - we got rained on coming back down.

hiking
6 months ago

My wife and I, in our sixties, hiked this last Wednesday and oh Em Gee the wildflowers were spectacular one of my favorite hikes. Could not get any fish to rise but otherwise a perfect day..

hiking
6 months ago

Hiked on 10 Aug. Very few people. The road up...I would agree with the other reviewers, you need some clearance and will most likely want 4x4. It was a bumpy, but fun ride to the trailhead. The trail was easy to follow, although I saw some evidence of downed trees that were recently cut. Thank you trail maintainers! You rock! Wildflowers, waterfalls, streams, alpine lake...perfect Colorado combination in a day hike. It was truly remarkable.

hiking
6 months ago

Beautiful hike! Tons of wildflowers, views and the lake was a tinted blue! Lots of cutthroats in that lake. You can start at the new trailhead. It says trail #600 but it meets up with #634(shelf lake). There is an area with lots of downed trees but you can easily find the trail.

hiking
6 months ago

gorgeous! I agree - we clocked 8.1 miles. A lot of felled trees at one point so we lost the trail for a short stretch. The wildflowers and views were stunning.

hiking
6 months ago

My wife and I hiked this trail today 7/31/19. One of my all-time favorite places to hike to. But at 68 I’m starting to feel it a little more. Wonderful wildflowers and views as always and very rough road to get to trailhead as always

hiking
6 months ago

Ranger description at trailhead claims that this hike is 3.5 miles to top. I measured the distance and it was exactly 3.5 miles making this a 7.0 mile hike round trip from the new trailhead (ignore comments from other reviewers claiming this hike is longer than 7 miles). I measured 1800' elevation gain, not the 2076' in the trail description. Biggest climbs occur in the first 1.5 miles and last 0.5 miles.You are mostly in the woods for the first 2.5 miles with some views appearing after 1.5 miles. Last 1.0 mile, which occurs at last creek crossing) makes this trail worthwhile as the wildflowers are great and the views pretty sweet! Late July is a good time to hike this trail as the trail is pretty wet earlier in the year. Headed up the trail around 9am and only encountered 3 people on way to top. Encountered more people heading up the trail after 1pm. 3-mile road from Guanella Pass Road to trailhead is rocky but doable (I made it in a Lexus RX-350 going slowly).

hiking
6 months ago

Probably my new favorite hike. It has everything: shade, sun exposure, creeks, waterfalls, wildflowers, 360 views and the lake! Worth the hike! I will say, I clocked in more like 9.6 miles, not 6...

hiking
6 months ago

(7/27/19) Five stars. Closer to 8.5 Rd trip with new trail head. Wild flowers are blooming and not too crowded.

hiking
7 months ago

Hiked on 7/25/19 trail was still quite wet, but not too muddy. We had it to ourselves for the entire hike! Wildflowers were stunning. Did lose the trail for a bit about half way but found it again without too much trouble. Worth the drive, will do it again!

hiking
rocky
snow
7 months ago

hiking
7 months ago

Fantastic hike. The views are breathtaking!

closed
7 months ago

Wasn’t able to do this hike yesterday due to the fact that the road that leads to shelf lake trial head was closed (reasons unknown). If you were to hike the road to shelf lake trailhead it would add another 3-4 miles on top.

hiking
blowdown
muddy
snow
7 months ago

Trail is wet but manageable.

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