Explore the most popular camping 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
2 days 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.

hiking
4 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.

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

I'm old, fat, and broken. Did the loop in two days. Camped near one of the lakes then did the hard part on day two and to the car around three pm. Seen some 80 year old white haired women doing this, so anyone under age eighty should have no problems. Good warm up for Humboldt peak.

backpacking
8 months ago

Highly recommend for experienced hikers/backpackers. Views are incredible.

The trail is not for the faint hearted and in my opinion it should be rated as hard. If you are scared of heights, easily fall/trip, or have a hard time keeping your balance, don’t recommend the hike from Comanche Lake to Venable Lake due to Phantom Terrace….the hike is along a narrow mountain ridge.

You will need suntan lotion and prepare for some really steep climbs.

On my record tracks pinned 2 really good campsites.

If you have any questions, I’m on Facebook Messenger.

backpacking
8 months ago

Awesome hike up to the lake. I recommend camping below or near the lake then summit the following morning and you're nearly guaranteed to be the first one to the peak in the morning. Avoid summiting between 11am and 2pm as weather moves in fast and there are few places to hide above the saddle. You will get struck by lightning if you're up there in a storm. I personally got snowed on on July 4th. So either summit in the morning and be heading down around 10 am or wait till afternoon storms pass. Easy hike up to the switchbacks. Once up the saddle you have to navigate a couple thousand feet up a rock field. Make sure to stay to the right when ascending even though left looks to be the best way. While ascending you will think your almost there but no. Once you reach the false peak it's another 300 yards maybe. Bring a pencil to sign the geocache. Enjoy the view. Don't feed the marmot.

fishing
8 months ago

I hiked to Comanche Lake and back. I didn't do the loop. It took me two hours to get to the lake. Fishing was great up to 12:00 PM.

Spectacular challenge with elevation gain , wildlife, views, clear water !!

hiking
9 months ago

Got stuck in a hail storm all the way down, but the views are totally worth it.

backpacking
9 months ago

I'm not sure it gets more Colorado, than this trail. Aspen groves and pine forests, massive elevation gain potential, slightly sketchy traverse, and beautiful Alpine lakes with trout in them. One of my favorites for sure

Beautiful. Hiked this trail in the fall. The aspen trees were bright yellow, chill in the air. It was glorious.

backpacking
10 months ago

This area is everything we had hoped for! Beautiful scenery, wildlife, fishing. The hike wasn't too bad, beginning at the trailhead makes a big difference. Walking up the FS road would have taken a lot more time and energy. Saw a few other hikers but only one group camping near us. Great trip, we'll be back again!

10 months ago

Beautiful trail, good fishing, lots of wildlife.

Completed the loop today (Up V, down C). Conditions and the trail were both fantastic. Lots of wildflowers, and, with the exception of one ~150 meter stretch near Comanche lake, the trail was dry. Lot of bugs in the lower elevations.

backpacking
10 months ago

In late june, there was quite a bit of snowmelt on the Comanche side. Phantom terrace is something you don't want to miss. Hiking up venable lake side and down comanche is the way to go. Hard to catch fish in the high winds, but there are fish in the lakes

hiking
11 months ago

My very first fourteener! We hiked up the gorge which was extremely hard and came down the ridge. We needed up getting lost because of snow patches but it was totally worth it. Stunning views front the top! Very beautiful

backpacking
11 months ago

Climbed this peak in summer of 2010. Anticlimactic peak following great views of the Crestones. Be sure to take water!!!

cross country skiing
Sunday, January 29, 2017

Very good ski up to Rainbow Trail and then south for a ways. Luckily someone had been up through the snow several days before as it is not marked in winter. No snowmobile activity evident!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

very demanding,coming down very had on knees,always stepping on or over rocks very few level spots beautiful at top will not do again too many better trails

Sunday, September 11, 2016

I

hiking
Tuesday, September 06, 2016

This is NOT a moderate 4 mile hike! The hike from the Rainbow Trail parking lot to the Dry Lakes Trailhead is 2 miles. The trailhead for Dry Lakes Trail branches off from the Rainbow trail and although the Forest Service sign says 3.5 miles to the lakes, it is closer to 6 miles. The entire hike will be close to 8 miles, which doesn't seem like a big deal for experienced hikers, at least we don't think so, but we didn't pack enough water or food for a 16 mile round-trip hike. The trail is uphill the entire way and full of rather large lose rocks that make it difficult to move at a decent speed. So, to sum it up, start early and pack enough food and water!!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

This hike is well worth it. Not to far and not to difficult. I was there the last week in July and the fish were rising all over. I will definitely be back and bring my fishing rod next time.

hiking
Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Beautiful hike! I started at 4:30 from the 2WD trailhead off County Rd. 120. Beautiful walk up from pasture around 8000' to the summit. I had heard that you need to be careful in the upper section not to miss the route through the east and west gullies and cliff out. 14ers.com was helpful and the cairns too. Take your time coming down! I would recommend bringing a 4WD with high clearance so you can start from upper trailhead. The extra 2 miles at the end of the day back to 8000' is rough. Colony Lakes Basin, the cliffs, the flowers, the beautifully forboding and aptly named Broken Hand Pass, the Teton-esque horn that is Crestone Needle, the metamorphic rock that is frighteningly steep and unforgiving yet filled with hand and foot holds. A perfect experience!

hiking
Monday, June 27, 2016

A pleasant trail. The beginning definitely is a climb, but it does even out to a slightly more gentle uphill after a while.


We were a little paranoid about finding the right trail. You start from the Horn Creek Trail Head and make the climb up to access the Rainbow Trail. When you T at the Rainbow Trail, turn right towards Horn Creek. After a short walk, you reach the a split for the Horn Creek Spur or "Trail 1343"-- which is the Dry Lakes Trail.

hiking
Thursday, November 12, 2015

South Colony Lakes area is one of the best in Colorado and Humboldt Peak offers great views. As many cutthroats as you can catch!

hiking
Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Very demanding trail, it was strenuous and rocky, climbing, climbing and more climbing. The foliage and views were really awesome, the stream along side was beautiful for most of the hike. The lake at the trail end is around 12000 feet, so enjoy my pictures from the hike. The posted sign indicates 3.5 miles in, it's actually 5.0 miles in, total in and out 10 miles. I started at Horn Creek trailhead, so it was a total of 12 miles in an out to Dry Creek/Lake.
So get there, and enjoy Colorado and the Sangre De Cristo mountains!!!
I've completed several hikes in this area, everyone of them "amazing"!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Amazing views of the lakes and surrounding mountains!

hiking
Monday, June 29, 2015

amazing trail with waterfalls, lakes, summit views and aspen groves
easy to reach with a sedan to the trail head
its actually closer to 14 miles round trip
things i wish i knew ahead of time:
1) go late summer, we went end of june and there was still a lot of snow melt, the trails were very wet and muddy towards the top and the snow obscured a lot of trail which made for interesting guess work
2) bring bug spray, the comanche side is mosquito filled, you will get eaten alive
3) go up venable and down comanche (comanche is much steeper)
4) towards the top of venable lake the trail splits, right brings you to the lake and left brings you to phantom terrace to complete the loop. EASY TO MISS. dont miss it, this will make your life hard because phantom terrace is named because the trail is hard to find and doesnt look like it exists.
5) once over the first saddle take the trail veering left along the ridge to find comanche lake

it was beautiful and one of my favorite hikes ever

hiking
Monday, June 01, 2015

beautiful hike with great views of the valley. we tried late may but there were still large patches of snow at 10,000 feet obscuring the trail. we had to turn around before we could make it up to the lakes but there were aspen trees lining the path. it would be a pretty early fall hike too.

camping
Saturday, March 07, 2015

Had a lot of fun camping and hiking to the top.Camped at 10,000ft above the lake ,what a view.

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