Explore the most popular wildlife 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 views, but the trails needs work. Coming down after the summit is really difficult and would be easier with smaller steps. Avoid summitting and leaving same day - the trails will not be favourable conditions.

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
7 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.

backpacking
11 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
12 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!

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

backpacking
15 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
19 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.

hiking
19 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
21 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.

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

backpacking
23 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
1 month 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.

Beautiful! The view from the pass is amazing.

It should be noted that there is no collectable water until the river where you turn off to the lake. Not really a big deal from the 4x4 trailhead, but you'll need to bring a lot if you're coming from the 2wd trailhead.
You don't reach water until mile 5. There is a little trickle on the pass and another on the far side, but neither are very collectable and will probably stop flowing in a few weeks.

My recording said 6.18 miles, 2,599 ft ascent, 438 ft descent on the way to the lake from the 2wd.

Also, there were kind of a lot of people camping in the meadow.

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

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.

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.

backpacking
2 months ago

Great hike! Camped in the valley before the ascent to lower lake

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.

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

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.

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