Explore the most popular hiking trails near Crestone with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

hiking
9 days ago

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

Comfortable slope up to wilderness boundary where two other trails branch off to access canyons to the north and east. Huge wide valley filled with the yellow and orange fall brilliance of aspens.

hiking
16 days ago

great fall hike there was a little snow and ice towards the top be careful on the way down i slipped and fell a few times

backpacking
1 month ago

Great trail. The last half mile before the lake is quite steep and difficult. The lake is beautiful and well worth the effort.

hiking
1 month ago

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
1 month ago

We hiked 4.5 miles up for a round trip of 9 miles. We were the only ones on the trail. If you love aspens the lower elevations are full of amazing aspen groves. Got into an amazing thicket that was prime bear habitat-decently fresh poop on the trail. Didn’t seem like this trail was used too much at all-pretty overgrown, but easy to get through. Got steep and loose rock where we turned around.

We hiked about 3.5 miles up-for a round trip of 7 miles-on August 29. Gorgeous trail. Some aspen groves up on the mountain and on the trail starting to go golden. Saw one person starting ahead of us and one person on our way down. Puppy dog loved all the smells. Creek crossings easy.

Awesome dispersed camping spot in an aspen grove about ~4 miles into the trail on the left marked by a post if you’re headed to the lake.

hiking
1 month ago

Amazing hike!

backpacking
1 month ago

Beautiful trip for my first time backpacking, only passed a few people and largely had the whole trail to myself! Some really nice camping spots set up for disperse camping, there were some raspberry bushes along the trail close the lake and the lake itself was gorgeous!

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful spot with very little traffic. A few camping spots along the path.

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.

Amazing.

backpacking
2 months ago

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.

backpacking
2 months ago

This review is for backpacking the trail. It was an absolutely beautiful but challenging hike. With 3,000 vertical ft gain over 5.6 miles, expect to be going uphill most of the time. There's some strenuous uphill stretches that start about 2/3rds of the way in but you are rewarded with amazing scenery throughout. We set up camp about a half mile from the lake. The trail was pretty lightly trafficked which was nice.

This was a challenging hike with a pack on, but I can see how day hikers find this more of a moderately difficult hike without the extra 25+ pounds of weight. The trailhead sign states 12 miles roundtrip which was accurate, but the time estimate of 11 hours seemed exaggerated unless you are a beginner hiker, not acclimated to Colorado altitudes, or not in great shape. The hike up took us a little over 5 hours with frequent breaks, the return around 3 hours. I would estimate hiking with just day packs should shave off around an hour each way.

camping
2 months ago

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
2 months ago

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.

The trail is beautiful. It runs along N Crestone Creek and the water is in sight much of the way, making the surroundings lush and green, with plenty of mature aspen. We also encountered some interesting rock formations, and possibly the remains of an old mine.

I would say the difficulty is more like moderate+, not quite as difficult as the Willow Lake trail, but not categorically different either. Caveat: we did not make the whole trip, since we wanted a shorter hike this time. So we went in just a couple of miles before turning around.

A word about mosquitos from someone who lives here: this year has been unusually devoid of them due to the severe drought we had winter/spring. Normally, they are out in force from about the end of May to late July or early August, with the worst of it being in June. Just thought it was worth mentioning since someone said there were no mosquitos.

hiking
2 months ago

Trail is a bit of a grind...head toward the notch on the left...beware rockfall. Once thru the notch its an easy ridge walk to Kit Carson over Challenger Point. We used our hands a lot on the way down to keep from sliding on the loose rock. Scenery is absolutely stunning!

backpacking
2 months ago

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!

Crestone Needle was my 10th 14er and favorite one to date. We camped at South Colony Lake, did Crestone Peak the day before (fantastic as well!) and started this hike around 7am. Since we did Broken Hand pass the day before and our bodies were well-adjusted to the altitude and grade, it took us a little less than an hour to get to the top of Broken Hand Pass. Getting to the first gully wasn’t bad at all, but from there on it was definitely a challenge. Found myself very thankful for the rudimentary climbing experience I’ve gotten the last few months as it was by far more of a rock climb (~85-90% grade at times) than a hike. Took another 1.5 hrs to summit, then another 2ish to get back down to the lake. If you enjoy a true challenge and rock climbing, you’ll love this peak but make sure weather isn’t an issue. Descending down the incredibly steep grades would be very dangerous in the rain/snow. And DEFINITELY wear a helmet. We had handful of 1-2 ft rocks fly down extremely close to us which was very scary so be alert and stay safe! Round trip took about 5 hrs (from the lake) . As an adrenaline junkie, it was an awesome awesome climb - will absolutely go back again!

hiking
2 months ago

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).

camping
2 months ago

Fantastic trail. The mosquitoes weren't bad at all.
Although, in terms of wildlife -the bear is very curious; campers beware

fishing
2 months ago

Elusive Native cut throats ♥

We hiked to Willow Lake and then up to Upper Willow Lake today. Spectacular vistas and wildflowers and Bighorn Sheep were in abundance. It’s more than just a jumping point to 14ers.

hiking
3 months ago

As a 61 year old in not-the-greatest shape, it was truly a tough climb and descent. About 4 hours up and 2 1/2 down. But well worth the effort! Very nice occasional views as you climb, and when you get to the lake it is just stunning.
Recommend walking on trail to the left of the lake and around to the other end if you have time. The views just keep getting better. Did not attempt Challenger Point or the summit. Can only image what it all looks like from there.
Mosquitos were not a problem for us, though there were a few at the campground by the lake.
It hailed for about 45 minutes and got cold in a hurry, then let up for a while, then light rain on the way down. Rain shell and extra layers a huge plus.
No luck on the key and rings which I read about below. But if there's a way to PM me through this site, I could relay more specific directions to someone who is on the trail and at the Willow Lake campground very often.
Very happy we did this hike!!

camping
3 months ago

Wonderful, beautiful hike and well maintained trail. Concur with everone else that its about 5 miles up to the lake. We did this with a 10 and 12 year old with full packs and took us a little over 5 hours to get up. Lots of stops. Bear is still there and very persistent. At the campsite by the lake it's there every evening and followed us down to a campsite about 0.5 miles below the lake. It is very stubborn and persistent. Not aggressive toward people, just wants your food. You must hang everything, between trees and 10 feet up is the best.

Well maintained and challenging trail with great rewards. Lots of wildflowers and wildlife. If camping, definitely bring a bear canister or plan to bear bag it, as there is at least one bear who is playing the part of lingering camp host. Willow Lake is a gem and my sore muscles and feet loved the icy water. Unfortunately, my wife left her wedding rings on a tree branch at camp (first campsite on left, in site below the lake) when applying sunscreen before the long haul down. We discovered this once back at the car. Any help or info would be greatly appreciated.
UPDATE - My wife’s wedding rings were located and are in the process of being returned by the friendly rangers. Thanks for everyone’s help!

This lake is gorgeous and the vista from above is incredible. The hike isn't too hard--I'd say easy-moderate for most of it with the last half mile or so being more difficult and more rocky, but for this part you're above treeline and the views open up so I thought it was the best part of the trail. You start in a forest of mostly pines and aspens (would be phenomenal in the fall), eventually cross a meadow, break treeline, and switchback up the slope to the final stretch of rocky trail along the mountainside until you reach the overlook of the lake. You can then climb down to the shore if you want. The trail follows a brook until you reach the meadow. Bring bugspray and wear long pants--definitely some bushwhacking involved in places.

We were the first people at the lake at 10:30 AM and only saw a handful of people on our descent. Definitely recommend if you're in the Crestone area! Note that the campground fills up very early on Fridays, probably by about 9:00 AM.

The sign at the trailhead says 12 miles RT (accurate) and 11 hours of time (very inaccurate). It took us only 3 hours to reach the lake, 2 hours to descend.

hiking
3 months ago

My partner and I are two reasonably in shape folks from Ohio. We did the climb to the lake in about 3 hours, spent about an hour hanging out and a 2 hour descent. It was challenging, but very worth it.

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