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

backpacking
5 days ago

backpacking
6 days ago

My SO and I planned to do this loop over 2 nights but were cut short due to weather. We hiked up to venable lake, it was 6.5-7 miles. The aspen groves were beautiful and the view before making the final climb amazing. The lake area was open and rocky, but good for setting up a tent. Unfortunately we got all settled in and the predicted light rain turned into a pretty bad storm and we had to throw everything in our packs and make a run for the trailhead. I’ll definitely be back to finish the loop another time.

The roads to the TH are mostly paved followed by a short section of an easy dirt road.
Although this area is beautiful, I'm only giving it 3 stars because my friend and I lost the trail. We hiked it on July 29. Our guidebook ("Hiking Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Wilderness" Falcon Guide) had incorrect directions--the correct directions are to go right at the Rainbow Trail and then left on the Horn Lakes Trail. So with the extra detour of going the wrong direction at the beginning, this hike didn't start off well. There is a bathroom at the TH. Only a few downed trees on the trail, lots of wildflowers, and even wild strawberries that were quite yummy! Complete solitude--we only saw 2 other hikers on this trail the entire time. AROUND TREELINE, THERE IS A SECOND CREEK CROSSING--MAKE SURE YOU GO RIGHT AND CROSS THE CREEK! We went the wrong way and continued straight ahead on the well-worn trail that ended at a pond in the beautiful basin. We should have turned around and backtracked, but we thought the trail was overgrown (like some others in the area) and thought we'd soon find the lakes. No such luck! We bushwacked for 1 1/2 hours through thick bushes, mud, and what must have been game trails with lots of (bear?) poop, and we finally gave up when we figured out we were on the opposite side of the basin where the lakes were and it was time to head down.

backpacking
10 days ago

Went backpacking up the Venable part of the loop in a group of four of us over the weekend. We measured it as a 7 mile hike from the lot to the largest Venable Lake on a Fitbit and an Apple Watch, which is different that the map. I am new to utilizing the app so not sure what happened but it took us by surprise as the sign notes that the hike to Venable Lakes is 4.75 miles. The last section to the largest lake was very challenging with significant elevation gain. It is straight up the side of the hill/mountain to a small plateau. There is a great camp site near the first lakes. The hike itself is very beautiful, with wildflowers and groves of aspen. The views are incredible as you can see across the valley to the Wet Mountains in several spots. Most of the hike was in the forest until the last section. We camped just off the trail near the largest lake. The fishing was incredible. There are some big cutthroats in that lake and each of us caught at least one. The trail is very rocky and coming down was more of a challenge and it was hard on the feet. I didn't notice it as much on the hike up. Perhaps a recent washout with the storm that blew through. We were visited by a few deer bucks at our camp site each night. They were very tame and curious and were content to be 30 yards away and watch us cook dinner.

horseback riding
11 days ago

I love the Rainbow Trail; it doesn't get any better for me! Swift Trail up to the Lakes is steep and rocky but the beauty at the end is worth every step!

backpacking
18 days ago

Went on a three day backpacking trip to Venable lakes. From the parking lot at the trail head, you have about a half mile of uphill until you hit the rainbow trail. You stay on the rainbow trail for an extremely short distance, about 30 meters, until you hit the Venable creek trail. From there you walk pretty steadily uphill with two or three major switchback areas. You can stop about half way up and see the Venable falls. If you stay on the high trail, there isn't much to see due to the vegetation, but if you are willing to drop low and walk back up, there is a great view from the creek. The trail sign says that the distance to the lake is 4.75 miles, however we tracked with a Garmin and from the parking lot, to where we set up camp in the lower Basin, it was about 5.88 miles.
If you are looking to fish, the lower Basin that is next to the old fallen cabin, has no fish and in fact is just wetlands. However, there are trees unlike the upper lakes and there are more camping spots available then the higher lakes and is safer with lightning and wind. The upper two lakes, the ones more prominent on most maps, have some nice fish and bite on both lure and fly depending on the day.
Overall, it's not the most beautiful sangre drainage, but it is still worth the walk in.
Great hike, beautiful views, and delicious fish!

hiking
18 days ago

My daughter and I hiked the Comanche side from Alvarado Campground to Comanche Lake and back. The elevation gain was challenging for us flatlanders (from Houston area) but it was well worth it. The trail was a little rough at times with washout and rocks but just enough to keep you engaged. The forest was very peaceful, with plenty of wildlife and the views of the valley were spectacular. Comamche Lake is a jewel and worthy of the effort. An awesome experience. I am looking forward to completing the loop one day.

horseback riding
19 days ago

This was my second time riding this trail. The first time we were snowed out just above the old cabin remains. It's a great ride, allbeit extremely rocky for horses. I recommend shoes. My horses have done this trail twice barefoot; however, one is a mountain mustang and the other is mountain horse stock, both of which have always been barefoot and worked over rough terrain routinely. The views are amazing and well worth the effort. If taking horses above treeline, I recommend only very experienced trail horses, as the path narrows considerably and the slope becomes very precipitous. I actually got off and led my horse for the last half mile; my partner chose to ride to the lakes. Hiking or riding this is a great trip to make.

backpacking
22 days ago

Beautiful hike. Had 3 dads and 6 kids on this trip. Spent the first night at the lower ponds. Second night was at Venable Lake. We enjoyed the views and quiet, but would not recommend being above tree line during Summer afternoon thunder showers.

There are two trails that go to the lakes, both are well shaded and have wildflowers along the way (most are starting to fade though). The lakes at the top were beautiful and offered some great photo ops. There were few people on the trail, which made the trip even better.

backpacking
29 days ago

Last year in August we backpack to Camanche Lake, spent the night then hiked back out the same way. it was a nice hike and a good trail.

hiking
1 month ago

A lot of work for little reward. Not much of a view on the way up or at the end. Lots of nice trees though!

off road driving
1 month ago

I have a lifted 2004 Jeep Wrangler with Goodyear 33x12.50 MTR tires, and this trail was rough, but absolutely beautiful. I loved it and my wife & daughter did not like it. Do not bring a stock vehicle up this trail.
Robert

Spent 4 days last week. Beautiful, relatively low traffic during the week, excellent fishing. Agree with those who said the trail is really rugged and rocky, physically exerting, particularly with a heavy pack on your back. Poles are really helpful on descent. Gets cold at night even in June, and some of our group had trouble with the altitude (camped at almost 12K). If you just hike to the lakes you are not getting everything out of this trip, as the highlight for me was hiking way up on the ridge above lake 3, where there is a beautiful little waterfall along the way, and a breathtaking view of all 3 lakes and out the canyon.

2 months ago

One of my fav trails. Short drive from town to see alpine views.

Great hike, although the full hike is closer to 10 mi.

off road driving
2 months ago

Beautiful views! Extremely rocky though but worth it.

A really cool trail and an awesome place to go backpacking. Stay there a few nights and go to each of the three lakes.

hiking
2 months ago

We hiked this trail 5/12/2018 via the Gibson Creek Trailhead and made it to the lower lake. Towards the beginning of the trail, we saw Henry Tjhie, and he told us we wouldn't need our snowshoes. The mud and snow depth then was manageable in boots and there were only a handful of places where we had to walk across snow, many of which are probably melted by now. The frozen waterfall was very neat. Just before the lake, there was a large snow field, and we only sunk into the snow in a few spots. Saw less than 10 people the entire time, so it was very peaceful. The large, wide creek crossing was doable with a couple large logs to walk across, even with all the snow run-off. It was slow going for most of the trail since there are LOTS of downed trees, creating all kinds of obstacles, some of which you have to wander off the trail to go around. Lots of birds in the area. It was neat seeing a ptarmigan once on the way up and once on the way back in about the same spot. It was very windy at the lake, so much that it was creating waves, something we had never seen in the backcountry. We spent a while trying to figure out how to get to the upper lakes. We tried going around on the right side of the lake, but no luck. We did, however, spot a bunch of fish in some of the ponds behind the lake on the right side. We realized later that the trail to the upper lakes goes around on the left side via some logs over part of the lake; the trail was difficult to see because of heavily overgrown bushes. Even though the lake was beautiful and serene, only giving this trail 3 stars because of all the downed trees, difficulty route finding to the upper lakes, and lack of views on the way up.

backpacking
2 months ago

Did the full loop. The Natgeo topo (#138 i think) seems to differ from reality in the area where the Venable trail starts. Going up the from the venable trailhead (Not Comanche) there is an unmarked left turn which the map shows leading to the bottom of Venable trail. However, venable trail is actually straight/right about 50 yards up the rocky atv trail, and is well signed. Because of this, we went up Comanche trail and down venable. Comanche trail is completely free of snow until the Phantom Terrace, where there are 2 short sections of incredibly exposed snow at the very top. Looking over the edge of the Phantom terrace from the comanche side, both sections of snow are visible. The First one is avoidable by going up and left (northwest-ish), then down and right to the trail. This is exposed class 3 scrambling and with a pack, very wet and loose, and was sort of scary. The second section is avoidable on the right side, but you have to basically walk on the edge of the ledge. After this, the trail is in pretty rough shape until the intersection where you turn to go to Venable lakes. Lots of little wash outs, unavoidable scree piles, and loose rock. You could fall a few hundred feet if you lost it on one of these little obstacles. Everything below venable lakes is free of snow, but there are tens of downed trees in the trail.

Just did this trail. It’s pretty rugged I’m talking very rocky areas all throughout that will give your feet, ankles and legs a huge workout. The snow is melting fast and there’s a lot of run off. The snow mounds that remain are deep I’ve slipped into a few and the snow went past my knees and there was a broken tree hidden inside one which gave me a nasty scratch about two inch cut on my lower leg. So be careful!! The trail is also unkept, fallen trees liter the path forcing you to find creative ways around them. But that view at the end. My god. Amazing.

backpacking
3 months ago

Not what I would describe as an easy hike, however, incredibly rewarding. VERY steep in places especially from tree line to the first peak. From that point on elevation change is very manageable but there is a lot of scrambling over rocks. Our group is from Kansas so thin air was a challenge and we did fight some altitude sickness. Nonetheless, our group aged 40, 17, 16, 11 made it to the top and back with minimal trouble. Trail head to summit took us 7 hours and descent took 4 hours. Just below tree line we did have to battle some snow. Finding the trail reentering tree line was a bit difficult but I was warned about that so we just took our time.

hiking
3 months ago

I went up to the lake a couple days ago 5-4-18. I took the regular route (not swift creek, the signage is not so confusing once you understand there are 2 routes up to lake of the clouds) There was a fair amount of waist deep snow drifts 1/2 way up, it took me 4 hours, but I believe it will be "ready" or normal within a few weeks. BTW saw 2 bears right below the snow line (they were not aggressive at all) bring protection if hiking alone or in a small group. I didn't see another person the whole hike, true solitude. The last half is all snow but totally doable if you have the patience, seems to be rapidly melting.

lost our dog Lindsey. trained pitbull grey with white belly with stand up ears and was wearing a brown jacket. if found please post a comment saying she's found

hiking
3 months ago

Beautiful trail, I went up to the lakes yesterday 4/28. After venable falls the trail is snowed out most of the way. I used alltrails offline maps & the sound of venable creek to navigate up to the lakes.

on Lakes of the Clouds

4 months ago

Totally worth the hike!!! will definantly be back to this one but this time with plans to camp at the top.

So beautiful! We did this hike in November and the frozen waterfalls were awesome!

hiking
7 months ago

When I was younger I used to run up this trail! Now I hike up and carefully run down. It is quite difficult in spots. The lower Venable portion can be very dusty and torn apart by horse travel, which can get muddy during (practically daily) Summer rains. The higher you go the more beautiful it gets! There is a broken down cabin towards the top. The views at the top are awesome! My lovely (ha!) profile picture was actually taken at the lower Venable Lake at the top! At the very top there is this portion of the trail called “Phantom Terrace” and the trail just disappears into the scree... let me tell you one thing... I would not want to ride a horse over it! The Comanche side of the loop is more forgiving and not as difficult.

on Lakes of the Clouds

8 months ago

normally a moderate hike. 3/4 of the hike was over snow. Definitely a trying hike but absolutely beautiful. took 5 hours in and right at 3 hours back. well definitely try to make it again before too much accumulation. our 6 year old hiked it like a champ.

great trail and not as steep as many of the other trails in the area

Load More