Explore the most popular nature trips 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
15 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

hiking
22 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

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.

hiking
1 month ago

Amazing hike!

2 months ago

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.

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.

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
3 months ago

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

fishing
3 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!

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.

backpacking
3 months ago

Bear frequenting the camp area below Willow Lake. Approaches while you're cooking/eating. Doesn't seem to be overly aggressive yet, but bold and habituated to people. Bear has clearly gotten a hold of human food recently.
Please hang all of your food and scented items 10 feet up and 4 feet out. Or bring a bear canister. There are not a ton of trees with ideal branches, but they can be found -- worth the time and effort. Don't leave food unattended.
Day hikers and backpackers should pack out all trash and food leftovers to prevent this bear from being further enticed.
Trail is in great shape and features really good views of the valley and Sangres.

hiking
4 months ago

Great hike but we lost the keys to our Land Rover on the way down. Infinite karma to anyone who finds them and connects back with me.

Great hike. I never saw anyone the entire time. Lots of downed trees to deal with but otherwise not nearly as hard as this flatlander was expecting! Unbelievable views at the top!
I can say I was grateful for trekking polls. The loose rock and steep downhill would have been killer without them.

backpacking
4 months ago

this trail is great access to mountains like Adams and other 13er/14ers it doesn't have many poeple on it ever really (much less then willow) and is way easier but a little longer.

backpacking
4 months ago

it's a easy trail you can runn up with great veiws of the valley and not to many poeple however don't be mislead by the Cairns all around the trail...

Magnificent! The water felt warm enough to swim in of it had been sunny.

hiking
5 months ago

This was the best alpine lake payoff of any trail I've done. We did it early in the season so the mosquitos weren't bad yet. As others have said, the first set of switchbacks are the hardest and the ones on the rock scree were the windiest. I'm out of shape and my wife is 4 months pregnant - our total time was 7.5 hours, 5.5 of moving time. 10.1 miles total. We saw some bighorn sheep on our way down and also swear we heard a moose, though not to be seen.

hiking
5 months ago

Willow Lake was a beaut. No need for any type of traction. Lake is completely thawed and there was a huge trout in the stream below the lake. Bringing the rod next time! RT took 7 hours with a long break at the lake and lots of stops for photos. Garmin watch clocked 12 miles RT but we dink around a lot.

Climbed Crestone Needle in Sep 2015. Well maintained trail from trailhead to base camp at alpine lakes at base of needle. Lord of the rings style mountain in this area. Absolutely beautiful.

Load More