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South Zapata Lake Trail is a 9.7 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Mosca, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 9.7 miles Elevation Gain: 3,208 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

backpacking

camping

hiking

snowshoeing

bird watching

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

A hidden waterfall, several old miners cabins, and a high alpine lake are the rewards of this hike. The Zapata Falls are only 0.5 mile from the trailhead. The cabins are less than a mile beyond Zapata Falls. Continue 4 miles or so and you will come to a beautiful alpine lake above the tree line.

hiking
rocky
6 days ago

This is a beautiful trail that offers a lot of variety as your altitude changes. The lush alpine meadow that contains the lake is surrounded by three walls of near vertical rock. It's a complete contrast to the San Luis valley below. The marmots were happy to see us and weren't afraid to come up to us. My son and I are from Iowa and did this trail as a bonus to some mountain biking on our trip. Needless to say, we aren't avid hikers and hadn't spent a lot of time at altitude prior to this hike. We made it up in 3.5 hours and down in 3. It's long, steep in many places, and rocky. Staying focused on the way down was the biggest challenge, as the combination of fatigue and poor footing can be dangerous. Watching mountain goats was one of the many breaks we took going both directions. Adequate food and water were a must; hiking poles were a really nice addition. .

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful trail, but probably over 5 miles at least to the lake. The first third is pinion with little shade but gets very wooded from there. Several stream/river crossings. We had no problems with bugs June 1 so I guess go early in the season.

hiking
1 month ago

Hiked on a pretty good weather day. It's a beautiful hike. It feels like it will never end :/ I'm not a rocket or a snail, but it took us six hours to reach the lake. It's a hike. I usually can sail downhill on a trail, but this trail's surface has enough loose stones and steep sections that you have to be very careful with your footing. Three hours to go back down. Nine hours with maybe a twenty minute rest at the lake itself. This one is a little tougher than it seems. Start early.

hiking
scramble
snow
2 months ago

Great hike for a long day out. All the way until the fork between the South Zapata lake and North Zapata lake was good, rocky hiking. After the fork on the way to South Lake, it was pretty snowy. Was able to make it most of the way in just hiking shoes and falling into snow every now and then, but too snowy to make it all the way to the lake without snow shoes or spikes. Great views though

hiking
icy
off trail
scramble
snow
2 months ago

Great hike today. Didn’t quite make it to the top because of some clouds but nice none the less. Can be done without snowshoes while it’s freezing at night but beware it thaws some in the after noon. As you get into the scree field the path is currently off the real trail and through the snow and scree.

hiking
rocky
snow
3 months ago

hiking
snow
7 months ago

A bit snowy. I didn’t have water resistant shoes and my toes got quite cold.

hiking
rocky
9 months ago

Beautiful forested trail that pays off with the view of the lake. It’s tough but not overly so (I did this the day after doing the 18 mile Blanca Peak). People aren’t kidding about the road here...

hiking
9 months ago

This was definitely a hard hike but super gorgeous. Made it up to 11,000 ft and had to turn around, though, so didn’t make it up to the lake. At this point the map seemed like we were 3/4 of the way to the lake, but at a little over 4 miles already we realized AllTrails definitely has a shorter length listed than reality. The trail is better suited for backpacking than a day hike unless you’re up for it! Plenty of water stops along the way, with a lot of varied trail scenery. There’s one point about 2 miles in where the trail gets a little hard to follow and you’re along a bit of a cliff... and suddenly the only thing you can see is a terrifyingly steep ascent up the side of the mountain. That is *not* the trail but things get particularly steep nearby regardless so take it easy. After this section and after passing California Gulch, the hornets are EVERYWHERE. Other than that, the bit of the trail I traversed was fantastic and I’ll be back to try again!

hiking
10 months ago

Beautiful hike up to the lake. Falls are worth a visit too. If you want to avoid the mosquitos in the summer without messing with DEET, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants treated with Permethrin. They didn't bother us at all after that.

hiking
10 months ago

Diverse, decently challenging trail. Lots of people were at the TH but almost everyone was just there for the falls, and I had almost an hour at the peak by myself in the middle of the day. Lots of wildlife and a decent view of the sand dunes. Last 3 miles to the trailhead are on very rocky road, but most cars could handle it. I would recommend getting started early in the morning, but after the sun is out, so you can get a less crowded view of the falls.

hiking
bugs
rocky
10 months ago

Switchbacks - enough said

hiking
bugs
11 months ago

Beautiful trail near Great Sand Dunes National park. It took us about 6 hours to get to the Lake and 3 hours to get back. We slept by the Lake for one night, truly a magical place. Lots of mosquitoes at this time so be aware! Hiked on 7/14/2019

hiking
bugs
11 months ago

backpacking
bugs
11 months ago

Spectacular destination! Millions of wild flowers. Bug spray is quite necessary (like, douse yourself in extra strength deet, none of that natural nonsense, it won't work here). Someone mentioned the road to the trailhead - it's bumpy but I did it in a corolla no problem. Water is available frequently along the trail. If you're going on a hot day, get an early start, the first part of the trail is sun exposed.

hiking
bugs
11 months ago

We hiked this trail half way today; we’d lost the bug repellent on our way up, and we just couldn’t stand any more the constant assail of mosquitoes. They are really relentless and in the thousands each time you get close to a stream, which is quite often. You can’t stop to take a picture without getting one or two bites. I’m not even sure repellent would deter them. We were quite disappointed to turn back. It’s very steep in places but very doable. Mostly forest, with breakthroughs and wonderful views. Also we didn’t know that in order to reach the trailhead we had to drive up a rough dirt road for 3 miles. Bumpy ride not for sedans.

hiking
bugs
rocky
11 months ago

The trail is absolutely gorgeous. We were able to see a western tanager and plenty of flowers including columbines. Some rocky areas. Limited shade at the lake but plenty along the way. Be aware of marmots, they will mess with anything left unattended for any period of time.

hiking
bugs
11 months ago

One of the best trails I have ever done! It's very strenuous, but 100% worth it. It took us about 7.5 hours total, but if I do it again I will plan to leave an hour sooner to give myself more time at the top. BRING LOTS OF BUG SPRAY!! We went in early July and the mosquitos were like nothing I have ever experienced before. Bring a bunch for yourself and maybe some extra for poor idiots like me who you pass along the way. Waterproof shoes are also ideal, as there are several stream crossings (there are rocks/logs, but if your balance isn't great you'll likely get a little wet!).

hiking
Fri Jun 28 2019

Absolutely gorgeous hike! Views of sand dunes on the way up. Lake is breathtaking. Views of 13ers. Trail clearly marked. Definitely a difficult hike. Closer to 11 miles with steep elevation. Worth the effort. One of my favorite hikes to date. As experienced hikers / trail runners, it took us about 4 hours to reach the lake moving quickly. Made it down in about 1.5 hours jogging.

hiking
rocky
scramble
snow
Sat Jun 22 2019

Very strenuous hike, but the downhill takes about half the time! Layer up! It’s really closer to 12 miles round trip from Zapata campground, and took us about 7 hours. Some minor route finding at the top as there is still snow and lots of boulders and rocks. Careful of post holing at the top. The snowmelt is running underneath some of the snow pack. It’s very windy and cold at the lake. The 3 major Creek crossings did not cause us to get our boots wet (exception at the side trail leading to the falls - but we did this on a separate day). If you are up for the challenge this is a very rewarding hike!

backpacking
muddy
snow
Sun Jun 16 2019

Hiked this 6/16 for an overnight backpack. Trail is in good shape up until about a mile from the lake. At that point you need to cross the stream for the last time, this is when we started post holing. Made it to the lake but to much snow to camp, so we ended up going back to tree line to camp with some cover. Also the creek is raging right now, three pretty decent crossings, be prepared for some wet boots.

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