Willow Lake Trail

HARD 116 reviews

Willow Lake Trail is a 8.2 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Crestone, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 8.2 miles Elevation Gain: 2,752 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

camping

hiking

nature trips

bird watching

running

forest

lake

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

snow

Deep in the heart of the Sangre De Cristo mountains in southern Colorado, Willow Lake provides a respite for the waters draining the Obstruction Peak glacial trough, as they rush north and west toward the central Colorado basin. If you tee off from the top of Obstruction Peak, Willow Lake is in the center of the dog-leg left, with 500 yard long meadow of Willow Creek Park as the green. The trailhead east of Crestone launches you on a 9-11 mile journey that will take you through forests of fir, arbors of aspen, and skirts of skree. Depending on the time of year you make this trek the streams you encounter along the way will be trickles or torrents. In about 2.5 hours you can climb to the west end of Willow Lake. Add another half hour and tack on a mile to your shoe treads, you can reach the falls at the east end of the lake, which will allow you to see Challenger Pt, Kit Carson Mtn, and Obstruction Peak - just remember to account for the additional time and mileage for the return trip.

hiking
rocky
washed out
2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

great trail yet strenuous. awesome lake and mountains around. camped there 9/8. no mosquitoes no bugs. weather could not be better. saw big horn and deer in campground. going next time with a fish pole but not until late summer early fall do to those blood sucking insects i hear about in posts.

hiking
2 months ago

My boyfriend and I did this as a day hike. We are from Texas (low elevation) and Did this while visiting CO and it was hard but doable. The worst of it was at the very top And I felt like I couldn’t exert any more and took many breaks to catch my breath and slow my heart rate again . But it was so worth pushing through the lake at the top is amazing and that is an understatement. It seemed that many people camp at the top and it would have been so much fun if we had time to do that. We completed it in roughly 7hours total and headed to Valley View Hot Springs to soak after working hard. Solid 10/10 day even though this hike was rough there at the top.

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

hiking
bugs
3 months ago

Backpacked and camped here 8/10. Our original plan was to summit Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak. Unfortunately summiting wasn't in the cards due to crappy weather. The trail is steep in sections and I agree that the mosquitos were out of control. I bathed myself in DEET and it only worked for a short time. Camped just below Willow Lake. Camp site was nice except for some brazen chipmunks who were extremely interested in us. We also had a curious deer stop by our site to check us out. Overall a nice time would come back to summit those 14ers.

hiking
bugs
3 months ago

Backpacked and camped here from 7/26-7/28 and hiked challenger and Kit Carson in the middle. The mosquitos were ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE!! The lake was gorgeous and it pained us that it was so buggy we hardly spent any time there. All times of day - all over your body, constantly flying into your food - they were the worst mosquitos I’ve ever seen and I grew up on the east coast. If you bring full body coverage and some serious deet, or come at a different time of year, I’m sure this is a really pleasant place to hike and camp. Despite the bugs, the camping area right below the lake was surprisingly full. I wouldn’t worry about finding a spot, but it definitely didn’t feel secluded. There was also a search party for a man who had gone missing on Kit Carson/Challenger a few days prior and a helicopter scanning the area both days. If you’re planning on ascending higher, take the standard route and bring a buddy, please! Views and climb were fantastic though and the bugs dissipated around 12.5 elevation Perhaps a better fall hike :)

hiking
3 months ago

Beautiful. As per other reviews, lots of mosquitos. 10.2 miles according to all trails

hiking
4 months ago

Great hike, but the second you enter the town of Crestone, to the top of the lakes, the mosquito’s don’t stop and they are thick as I have ever seen- so come prepared with full clothing and plenty of Deet. Otherwise the trial is clear the entire way, plenty of water running over the falls and the lake is full. Still a beautiful hike.

hiking
4 months ago

Great day hike to a real nice alpine lake. Not super challenging but right before the head wall there a dual log bridge over a high and fast running Willow Creek that was wet and slippery. I was solo so just to be safe scooted across on my butt. It wasn’t the manly thing to do and my rear got a little wet but way better than slipping off into some very cold water. Yes the mosquitos are bad from the second you step out of your vehicle at the trail head all the way to the lake, so bring some kick butt insect repellent.

hiking
bugs
4 months ago

Hiked this trial with my 10 year old daughter this summer(2019). It was a great trail and kicked out butts. It had amazing views and vast terrain. The only bad thing is I twisted my ankle half way through the hike and we ended up turning around. I'd love to eventually go back and finish the trial.

hiking
4 months ago

The hike itself was pretty great, however the mosquitos were AWFUL. Think in the thousands. Really hard to enjoy the hike when your swatting at mosquitos the entire time.

hiking
rocky
4 months ago

Incredible hike. Leave very early, as it’s about 3-3.5 hours up, then 2.5-3 hours down. Perfect day hike for the more adventurous soul!

hiking
4 months ago

One of the most beautiful hikes we have ever taken! I agree with others that it surely must be longer the mileage posted. Garmin hiking gps gave 10.25 miles RT. My phone app recorded over 11 miles RT whereas my husband’s recoded closer to what is listed here. Wild flowers are coming into bloom, snow is mostly gone, with trekking poles all was manageable. Just long, but memorable. Would like to return in the fall when the aspens turn golden.

hiking
scramble
snow
5 months ago

Hike 6/2. Still need snow shoe ideally last 1.5 mile. Great hike to semi frozen lake.

hiking
rocky
snow
5 months ago

hiking
5 months ago

Amazing views. Make sure to start early. There is quite a bit of snow once you get up near the lake. Should be several footprints to follow now. Can be steep and a little dangerous with the snow as you make your way closer to the lake.

hiking
Wed Oct 31 2018

One of my favorite hikes ever. Total mileage with a detour to a high meadow was 10.7 from the car and back. Great exposure nearing the top with some impressively steep views. Don't be fooled once nearing the last switchbacks, there's still about another mile or so to the lake.

hiking
Mon Oct 08 2018

We did this hike Sunday October 7. The trail is definitely longer than advertised— the whole hike I recorded via this trailhead from the parking lot to the lake was 10.1 miles total. The trail spreads the elevation gain out well and is marked clearly throughout. We got some snow at the top but trail was clear

hiking
Wed Sep 05 2018

Hiked August 28. 5.1 miles up to the lake and 5.1 miles down according to my garmin. First 1.5 miles of switchbacks are steep and sandy but doable. Clear trail all the way. Great mountain lake and waterfall. Saw woodpeckers, picas, marmots and a bighorn sheep.

hiking
Mon Aug 27 2018

Amazing hike!

Sun Aug 19 2018

This is a beautiful, moderately challenging hike with a beautiful reward at the end. The hike is longer than the description and the trail map suggest. It’s not 8 miles round trip per the description. It’s at least 12 round trip. I got 30,000 steps on my Fitbit = over 13 Miles. We walked around the lake some but the trip from the trailhead to the lake and back is at least 12 Miles. So worth it and a great hike. Just beware of the distance discrepancies. It took us about 3,5 hours to get to the top with frequent stops to take amazing pictures.

Fri Aug 17 2018

Amazing.

backpacking
Fri Aug 17 2018

beautiful trail all the way to the lake. please bring bear proof containers for food! The bear knows that hanging bags are food and tore into someone's food everyday we were there. he mauled our bear bags but didn't get our food fortunately.

camping
Sat Aug 11 2018

This is a great, challenging trail. There’s a variety of landscapes and much of the trail is picturesque. The lake is beautiful and camping area is clearly marked. The road to the trailhead has many pull-offs for car camping, I recommend a high clearance vehicle to get to the trailhead but it’s not a long walk from any of the camp sites if you have a smaller car.

backpacking
Mon Aug 06 2018

We backpacked to Willow Lake Thursday 8/2 and stayed until Saturday 8/4, summiting Kit Carson and Challenger in between. The hike up to the lake was absolutely gorgeous! Once you get up closer to the lake, you have a great view of the San Luis valley. It was definitely strenuous to gain that much elevation with heavy packs, but well worth the effort! We had a few unnerving encounters with the problem bear that has been mentioned in previous comments. It came fairly close to our camp two separate times before dark, and came right up to our tent twice in the middle of the night even though we did not have any food/toiletries in our tent or packs. It was not easily scared off even after we yelled at it and clapped our hands. I did speak with the local ranger station today, and they informed me that the bear is no longer in the Willow Lakes area so it should not be an issue for future campers.

backpacking
Fri Aug 03 2018

Large, noisy group in main campground before lake. Bear is easily scared away. Scenery is incredible. First 1/3 of trail easy switchbacks on dirt, second 1/3 undulating rock and dirt, final 1/3 trail steep and rocky in places. Moderate for day packs and strenuous with heavy packs. Hike just beyond the lake for incredible views!

hiking
Thu Jul 26 2018

Before heading up to the lake, please take a look at this link. http://momgoescamping.com/how-to-hang-a-bear-bag/ There is a problem bear in the base camp area and everyone needs to hang their smelly items (food, garbage, hygiene stuff, etc).

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