Explore the most popular lake 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.

Beautiful trail, aspens, and lakes.

Great hike. The aspen are GORGEOUS now. However when you get to the sign that says Rainbow trail and points both right and left, go right. You have to be a Mt. Goat to do the left trail. We lost quite a bit of time going that way then turning around to find the right trail. Didn't make it to the lake so are heading back next Sat.

We took the swift creek trail which led to a sign and we took the Lake of the Clouds trail marked 3.75 .. it was probably 6-8 miles total from the trailhead to the gorgeous lake. We walked through the aspens and the leaves were changing to gorgeous yellow and orange. The lake was crystal clear perfect for trout fishing.

This trip is a strong uphill on a trail that is overwhelmed with rocks and hard to get into a good flow. For 4 miles you are in trees with glimpses of mountains but no real view until the top. Once at the top it is pretty but I don't feel it is worth the effort required compared to other hikes in the area.

Plus side is the drive in is on pavement most of the way. Downside is you have to dodge horse crap in the parking lot

Great fishing at the lakes, lots of wildlife and things to explore. Sort of a long hike but worth it.

Does anyone know if there is dispersed camping on the way up?

hiking
6 days ago

This trail head is difficult to find and when you do it is busy with Jeep & 4 wheelin’ vehicles. Dust in your face, rocky, nothing very scenic to justify the climb. Too many other good trails to experience in CO.

backpacking
8 days ago

This is a great trail with beautiful lakes. It is awesome because it is not well traveled but the trail is easily followed. There are jaunts along the stream here and there, a large meadow at half way point, steep parts if trail, lots of Forrest and beautiful plants growing among the sections of pine and Aspen. Plenty of Aspen around the 10,000 elevation mark for nice Fall colors. A peaceful trail, only 1 single person seen on our 3 day stay. Bighorn sheep, marmots, pika, deer, along with a rare sighting of a stoat. You get lots of big views at the meadow and then the lakes. Beautiful even with the 80% loss of pine to beetles. Typical Sangres hike - steep places and long trail but doable as a day hike.

My first hike in 10+ years. The trail had 2 areas that are quite an incline for new hikers. It was well worth the pain to make it to the upper lake. We had a once in a lifetime view of the moon setting behind the mountain while we ate our early lunch.

hiking
15 days ago

My wife, brother, my two kids (my son is 4, he rode in a backpack carrier, but my 6 year old did the hike) and I hiked up to Venable Falls.
According to my Apple Watch, the falls are 2.6 miles from the parking lot trailhead. There is a sign there clearly indicating the falls, and it’s a relatively easy climb down to the falls.

It was an awesome time and the falls were awesome to see.

hiking
20 days ago

This trail is definitely one of the most difficult trails I've done in this area. However, I started at about 1pm and I was back down by 5:30pm. Not one of my fastest hikes. I'll echo others in that it isn't incredibly scenic until you reach the lakes, but once you do reach the lakes it is absolutely worth every pebbly steep hill you climbed to get there. Not sure about the previous commenters' distance discrepancies. The NFS map and sign places the lakes 3.5 miles into the trail. Fitbit had me at 3.45 miles when I reached the lakes and AllTrails had me at 3.8 miles. The ascent is not the most fun; just take as many breaks as you need and don't let your legs go cold. The descent could easily wipe you out so take your time there as well. Absolutely stunning ending to a brutal hike.

23 days ago

I have a stock FJ with road tires that need changing and it did fine. Don’t listen to Robert...

backpacking
26 days ago

I back packed this area last week. Yes, the road is rough, mostly with large boulders. I had no trouble getting to the TH with my 4wd 2012 RAV4 and all season tires. Go slow and pick your trail. As others have mentioned the partly exposed metal culvert is nasty - stay to right on the way up and all will be OK. The bugs are gone. There are many nice camp sites on the south side of the lower lake. Treat your water as there are many bighorn sheep and people in the area.

backpacking
27 days ago

This was my very first trip to Colorado and the lakes are still my favorites in all the state. It is a rocky uphill climb, and for a "flatlander" Hoosier like myself, the elevation was challenging to adjust to. As it also was my first real backpacking trip, I pretty unprepared as far as gear and choice of clothes. The campsites up top were a great place to unwind and recharge for a couple days. A very friendly doe lived up there while I visited and followed me around most the time I was there. Beautiful mountains, lakes, and insanely undisturbed, dark-night, galaxy-filled skies await at these lakes.

29 days ago

cbc 3b 0xx schest cvs4xex guheby c u 45 mvr

hiking
1 month ago

Had noooooo idea what I was getting myself into. Just decided that I was going to take the Lakes Of The Clouds trail and it was definitely challenging. But the view was beyond amazing.

backpacking
1 month ago

Hiked this trail Aug 11. Our app recorded 6.2 miles RT from the upper parking lot/TH. It takes about 45 min-1 hr to drive to the TH from Westcliffe. You definitely need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle to drive the last 3 miles of the road to get to the upper parking lot and to get out of your parking spot (HA!) (we had to tow someone out of their spot because they were stuck). There is room for about 20-25 vehicles at the upper lot, and another parking area about a minute down the road. The lot was mostly full by 9am, and this is the busiest TH we've seen in the Westcliffe area. A bathroom is at the lower TH.
It is a typical CO trail and not anything too extreme or rugged. We had gorgeous weather and it was beautiful, varying scenery. Saw about a dozen ptarmigan. Also saw 4 horses along the trail, and some horse poop. Some remnants of wildflowers, but mostly dried out. No mosquitoes. Lots of views from Music Pass and neat bristlecone pines around the pass. The view of pointy Tijeras Peak was our favorite, and it also happens to be the backdrop of Lower Sand Creek Lake--just gorgeous! Some backcountry camping sites at the lake and good fishing! Many trout were swimming around as we ate lunch at the lake. Note: You do hike up in elevation and down and up again to get to the lake and then reverse to get back to the TH, so it can make for some "hot" climbing back up to Music Pass in the afternoon on your way back to the TH.

The above, posted directions for this trail are wrong. Here are the correct ones:
-Drive south on Hwy 69 for 4.6 miles
-Turn right on CR 119 (Colfax Ln) and drive south for 6 miles to a T intersection
-Turn left on CR 120
-After 0.2 mi, the road makes a sharp right and becomes CR 119
-Continue 5 miles to lower Music Pass TH
-Road (now 4WD) continues for another 2.5 miles and ends at upper Music Pass TH

backpacking
1 month 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.

beautiful hike!

hiking
1 month ago

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
1 month 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
1 month 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!

It was a good long hike - 8 miles total, out and back. Only for the adventurous and experienced!

backpacking
1 month ago

Very few people encountered. Scenery isn't spectacular until you reach the upper basin...then WOW! It is a strenuous trail for heavy packs: very steep first 1/3, second 1/3 trail more moderate, last 1/3 very rocky and steep to the lakes. Nice campsites below the upper basin in the trees.

backpacking
1 month 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!

Road to the 4x4 TH is rough.. otherwise nice hike. Took us about 3 hours to get to the lake. About a little over half the trail is on a rocky road. The trail splits off into two trails once you’re done with the road portion. Right path is shorter but steeper. Also has some trees in the way. Left path is longer but flatter.

hiking
1 month 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
1 month 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.

This hike is definitely not one to miss! I wrote a blog post with more details https://wordpress.com/post/www.traillatte.com/259

Load More