Explore the most popular nature trips 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

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.

horseback riding
8 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
11 days 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
15 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!

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.

horseback riding
16 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
19 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.

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.

1 month 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.

Couple muddy stretches near the lakes, otherwise looks like an early summer. Quite a few wildflowers out already. Tons of mosquitoes around the upper lake. When the wind is still, their collective buzzing is surprisingly loud as they blanket your tent.

Road to the 4x4 lot is in really nasty shape. Coming back down it begs for four-low and crawl mode.

off road driving
2 months ago

Beautiful views! Extremely rocky though but worth it.

backpacking
2 months ago

This was my first time backpacking for an overnight camp and it was with a much more experienced backpacker who promised a challenging and beautiful trip.

We debated whether or not to drive from the lower parking lot to the upper parking lot. A Subaru employee (We have a 2018 Subaru) happened to be running the trail beside us and told us exactly how to drive it (X-mode and in 1st gear) --- ended up being totally fine (and was also very fun). We picked up another backpacker to get her to the trailhead. Don't attempt that drive if you don't have high clearance; and to be honest probably don't do this trail if you have to hike/backpack from the lower parking lot as a starting point.

We started from the trailhead at about noon, carried in water which made our packs heavy, and stopped for small snacks and breathers 5-6 times before finding camp near the lower lake. The views start to really open up after you pass the red gate. The hike took us about 5 hours and we went very slow, due to our pack weight. The trail is on a moderate incline the the entire time and I wouldn't be surprised to learn 5 hours is a common timeframe for even those hiking in and out same day.

The lakes are gorgeous but smaller than expected, and the three 14'ers surrounding them make up for it many times over. If you have a clear sky like we did it's a big bonus. We didn't go to the upper lake until the morning after we camped --- make sure you go to the upper lake, which offers a better view in my opinion and is a great place to chill out before or after an attempt at Humboldt (Or Crestone Peak or Crestone Needle, if you are a crazy person).

It can get to be 40 degrees, windy, and with a cold ground at late night so make sure you're prepared for that. Don't forget your sleeping bag like I did.

We trekked down at about 4PM the following day and it took about 3 hours to get back down to the upper parking lot. The views as you drive away at that time are awesome.

Just gorgeous!

Trail is completely snow free as of 5/23. There are some muddy sections due to run off. Above the saddle there is a decent amount of rock/boulder scrambling and it is easy to lose track of the trail and cairns. You will probably lose the trail a couple of times. Best advice I received was to stick to the right hand side when ascending to the false summit. Cairns are much easier to identify on the descent. If camping near the lakes the night before, the summit can be reached in 1-3hrs

If bringing a dog, conditioned pads are a must due to the extent of sharp and rough rocks above the saddle.

hiking
2 months ago

Clear trail the entire way.

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.

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

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!

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