Explore the most popular forest 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.

Very beautiful this time of year! Lake is thawed and hardly any snow

backpacking
3 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.

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.

hiking
18 days 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
25 days 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

1 month ago

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

When I was a kid I helped build that cabin. Loved hanging out up there for a few days at a time during summer.

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

Awesome hike for an overnight trip. In August, I was able to just keep refilling my 1 liter nalgene along the trail, there is plenty of water. Trail is well marked and the views are stunning the entire way. The trail gets steep just before the lower basin and can gas your legs. There's a neat little abandoned cabin along the trail after breaking off the Rainbow Trail. I hear there is good fishing up there, but I had no luck.

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.

on Lakes of the Clouds

5 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

epic. saw elk. Aspens were yellow and great did it in about 4 weeks ago. lakes were clear and amazing. snow on the peaks.

fishing
7 months ago

epic trail, the lakes area is incredible. some snow at the peaks. colors of autumn, saw 2 bull elk near beginning.

backpacking
7 months ago

Backpacked this on September 23-24, 2017. The drive from the first parking lot to the closer parking lot is indeed 4WD, but it does save you a good 2-2.5 miles. There's one particular section with a deep rut and steep climb and many portions are private property, so there are few options to park.

Started off our hike around mid-afternoon and it was warm, but we knew rain was in the forecast. It didn't started raining until halfway into our hike. Halfway through our hike, we could also finally see the beautiful mountain peaks and they were foggy, but didn't appear to have much or any snow on them. We ran into a couple of different groups on their way down. Only one guy said he made it to the top of Humboldt earlier in the day. Another guy said it was extremely windy and their group turned back.

We camped about half a mile down from the lower south colony lake and we were wet and very cold. By the time we opened our tent an hour later, there was a thin layer of ice and snow where there hadn't been any before.

It sleeted/snowed until about midnight and we woke up to a bit more snow/ice than the previous day. The surrounding peaks had a good amount of snow on them. Thought about trying to summit Humboldt, but it was definitely too cold when we woke up. Trip was still worth it for the amazing views in that basin.

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.

hiking
8 months ago

Drove up until we were about 6 miles from the top and then parked the jeep. Hiked up another mile or so and then back down. Very rocky, but a beautiful walk.

8 months ago

lots of rocks rough but fun and beautiful area

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.

Trail is not well maintained but manageable. If you don't have 4 wheel drive then you have to hike 2.5 miles to the trail head which is straight up. Challenging but awesome hike. Lots of Bighorn sheep when you get up to the peak.

hiking
8 months ago

The trailhead shown on the map is actually the Gibson Creek trailhead. at the termination of County Road 172 (Not hermit Road which hits Rainbow trail much further south. Hermit road is a continuation of County Road 160. The best description of the trail directions is at the San Isabel National Forest website.
https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/psicc/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=12756&actid=50

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.

backpacking
8 months ago

fishing
9 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.

hiking
9 months ago

My friend and I hiked this and it is a nice hike, but maybe not my favorite in this area. You spend most of the time plodding through deep forest with no good views. The last part is waist high plants with beautiful flowers, but once again, not much in the way of those "ahhhh" views. We stopped at the first lake with is pretty. There are some really steep parts with lots of loose rocks/gravel/sand which makes it treacherous coming back down. Lots and lots of ankle twisting fist sized rocks covering the trail from top to bottom. For the same exertion but far more payoff in prettier views, do the Venable hike instead of this one.

backpacking
9 months ago

3 stars because: the last 1-2 miles of trail are heavily overgrown, if there has been rain or you are hiking in the a.m. get ready to be soaked from the waist down.

Secondly, the last mile is VERY steep, so steep that pack dockeys could not ascend!! we talked to people who had to rig up a pully system to get their donkey through some particularly steep/muddy sections...NEEDS SWITCHBACKS...they were very worried about the descent so warning to people with livestock!!!

Lastly, there is literally one legal fire pit near the lakes so if you like traditional camping with a fire, you may or may not get lucky. Real estate for backpackers is slim unless you're an ultralighter and dont need much space or you bring a hammock. Very steep walls lead into the lakes, it is exhausting getting from one to the other.

also, we had hail in the evening and lots of frost in the morning! woo hoo

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

backpacking
9 months ago

Backpacked up to Goodwin Lakes with my pup. The hike is heavily wooded until you actually get to the lakes. The first two lakes are still below tree line for the most part but there is a path that goes up to the upper lake that has a great view and a nice waterfall. No fire pits up there but still a nice place. Overall a good hike and an okay place to spend the night.

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