Willow Lake Trail is a 10.2 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.

Length10.2 miElevation gain2805 ftRoute typeOut & back
dog friendlyCampingHikingNature tripsBird watchingrunningForestLakeViewsWaterfallWildflowersWildlifeBugsSnow
Description
Waypoints (5)
Tips
Getting There

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.

1. Start early: if you're driving from Colorado Springs, you'll need to leave by 0700, so you can be on the trail by 1100. Otherwise, stay overnight in Crestone or at a campsite at the trailhead. There are photographic advantages to early morning and late afternoon light on this hike. 2. If you take a dog, beware of the rocks on the upper sections of the trail. They can be tough on the pads of its feet. Also take some food for it; it will expend more energy along the trail than you will - mine goes out and comes back, making his trek about twice the length of mine. 3. Snow and ice remain on the trail and at the lake well into June. Forewarned is forearmed. 4. There are fish in the lake; so take your pole and license if you're so inclined.

From Colorado Springs, drive south on Hwy 115. Turn west on US Hwy 50 toward Canon City. Follow Hwy 50 through the Arkansas River valley to Poncha Springs. Turn south on US Hwy 285 for 25 miles. Bear left on CO Hwy 17. At the south end of the "town" of Moffat, head east on County Road T into the town of Crestone. At the stop sign in town you'll see a sign on the right directing you toward the Willow Creek trailhead. Turn right on Galena Ave. and follow it to the end. This road begins paved, however it soon turns to dirt. The road becomes a little rough; there's even a sign indicating the need for 4-wheel drive; however most vehicles could make it to the parking lot. If your vehicle cannot, simply pull to the side of the road and walk, it will not add much to your hike. From COS, this trip is 175 miles, lasting about 3.5 hours.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (246)
Photos (291)
Recordings (187)
Completed (537)
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Erin Sumpthing
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 11, 2021
Hiking

Beautiful! A scramble toward the top, but worth it. Definitely need snow shoes for the second half of the trail.

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Joe G
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Hiking
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Anya Kaufmann
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HikingIcySnow

Beautiful trail. Would definitely need snow shoes to get to the lake. We made it through most of the elevation gain with crampons but then the snow got too deep. Trail was easy to follow. Lots of switchbacks!

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Sam Landfried
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 25, 2020
Hiking

Perfect weather the day before Thanksgiving

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Brett Bachman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 23, 2020
Hiking

Fantastic views! Not that hard.

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Lori Loehr
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Hiking
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Hong Tran
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 9, 2020
BackpackingGreat!Scramble

One of my favorite trails and views in Colorado. Recommend staying the night as the morning is beautiful.

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Rachel Cengia
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 4, 2020
BackpackingGreat!

Beautiful trail! Hiked this 9/26 and the fall colors were gorgeous. Well maintained trail, easy to follow with gradual elevation gain. Great campsites right before the lake. Common backpacking trip to camp and summit Challenger/Kit Carson the following morning. Definitely recommend!

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Tulah Lily
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarOctober 3, 2020
HikingGreat!

Very nice trail! Took about 3 hours with snack/photo breaks to get to the top and only 2 to get down. The incline in the beginning of the trail I found to be the hardest, especially with the sand. In the latter part of the way there, there are some more moderate switchbacks and flat sections. The lake at the top is gorgeous and my friends and I did a polar plunge and it was freezing but luckily the sun warmed us up as we laid on the rocks afterwards! We hiked on Saturday Oct 3 and there was no snow or mud on the trail.

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Renier Navas
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HikingGreat!
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rob maclaren
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 28, 2020
HikingGreat!

Did it 9/27/2020. Beautiful with leaves changing. Well maintained trail. No snow. Saw very few people - had the lake to ourselves. Distance is about 10.5 miles. Arrived at 9AM with lots of space still available in the parking lot. Took about 3.5 hrs up and 2.5 hrs down at a relatively relaxed pace.

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Grace Abbett
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 16, 2020
WalkingMuddySnow

great trail, very difficult incline on the second leg of journey. little bit of snow at top made it pretty muddy. took me and my dogs 6 1/2 hours to do the whole thing. we are avid hikers but the incline slowed us down.

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Josh Horstman
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Hiking
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Broc Smith
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Hiking
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Simon Guérard
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 24, 2020
Hiking

The way up this lake is very nice and manageable! It's the approach to challenger/kit carson, which I recommend if you have the skills. But just this is already nice. Also, 2WD can make it to trailhead, which is a refreshing change!

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Hugo Schumann
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 23, 2020
HikingGreat!

Loved it! The lake at the end is beautiful. Lots of great scenery along the way.

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Daryle Dickens
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HikingGreat!
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Joseph Campbell
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Hiking

nice hike. lots of switchbacks

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Gabe Monroy
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 22, 2020
Hiking

Great hike. Steady incline, not very hard. A little monotonous on the way up. Lake was worth it though.

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Claudia Zurlini
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 22, 2020
Via ferrata

Beautiful trail!

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Lisa Graybill
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 19, 2020
Hiking

Steep climb to start, then a long level stretch along the valley - lovely!

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Erik Johnson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 8, 2020
Hiking

Great trail for some good exercise and exceptional views once you are above the first set of switchbacks and hit the meadow. Out and back in 3:50, I live locally in the valley so well acclimated to this altitude. Finished my 3L camelback just as I got back down so bring plenty of water to help along the way. I also always pack a bottle of aminos with beet root powder and some granola bars for endurance, highly recommend especially if you aren’t acclimated to higher altitudes. Definitely coming back to camp for a night and go higher up in the area.

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Mike Bland
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 8, 2020
HikingGreat!

We had a great day for hiking the trail. As others stated, the distance on our 3 GPS devices (watch for each of us and handheld GPS) all had the round-trip distance at 12 miles vs the sign showing 9 mi at trailhead. Beautiful lake and glad we made it all of the way.

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Michelle Scully
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 6, 2020
Hiking

Wow! This is beautiful! And hard! Backpacked up here for two nights so that added to the challenge of this uphill battle. Down was hard as well even with a day in between. Loved the area though there were quite a few people camping, including the Rocky Mountain Field Institute. So not quite a solitude feeling for dispersed camping. Longer than AllTrails claims in mileage. Anyone know if the black long hair dog is missing from someone? Saw it running up the path Saturday the 8th.

Comment from AllTrails

- 5 months ago

Thanks for your feedback. This trail has been reviewed and updated to reflect the comments in this review. For additional questions please email support@alltrails.com

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Jacob Green
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 6, 2020
HikingGreat!

Beautiful, great trail. Steady incline up, nothing technical. A good day hike for sure. If you want to make a trip out of it, consider camping at the lake and attempting the 14’ers accessible to you (Challenger, Kit Carson).

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William Fuchs
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 30, 2020

7/27 very nice trail. definitely longer than stated 15.5km according to my watch. the views are very nice. be careful at the end there are many trails from the campground to the lake. we clearly took a non official one which required a crossing of the river on a relatively thin log and then a bit of a scramble over rocks to the lake. it was not an issue and my children were happy with the extra challenge...if you like to fish we saw a couple of huge trout at the lake.

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Jonathan Corsetti
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 25, 2020
Hiking

Wonderful hike (albeit more like 11 miles) Beautiful scenery, jaw dropping heights but never made you feel unsafe. Not sure if I would rate it as ‘hard’ .. but awesome for sure, an ass kicker too. Lake is beautiful once you get there, near the end of the hike feels like climbing up into Mordor. Would love to come camp and so some summiting in the morning with more time. Also very well maintained.

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