Hike to Spirit Lake

Rate this Adventure Colorado East Inlet Trailhead

Added by Eric Schuette

Hike to a spectacular alpine lake (en route you will pass two more) where moose and osprey often outnumber the people you will see. There are several backpacking sites along the trail that provide great access to Spirit lake and destinations higher in the valley.

One can reach spirit lake as a day hike, however it is most often visited as part of backpacking trip. Either way the route is the same and it starts at the East Inlet trail. To park you are supposed to pay or show your park/national lands pass. From the East Inlet trailhead you will soon pass Adams Falls, which is a popular detour from the trail or for some the destination. From Adams Falls you will pass in and out of meadows and pine forest until you begin a steep climb out of the valley.

At ~3.5 miles you crest out of the valley and begin a serious of ups and downs through pine forest and next to the creek until you reach Lone Pine lake, the first of several lakes, at mile 5.4. After Lone Pine lake you will begin a series of switchbacks that will eventually level out and open up as you approach Lake Verna. Just before mile 6.9 you will reach Lake Verna, which is the end of the official trail. Between Lone Pine lake and Lake Verna are the most coveted backpacking sites, which are reserved quickly when the permit process opens each year.

Continue around the north side of Lake Verna on an unofficial but partially maintained trail (there were trees cut off the trail by rangers). As you reach the inlet of the lake there will be a spur off to the left that begins to switchback up towards Spirit Lake. After nearly .5 miles the forest will open and you will find yourself at Spirit Lake. The unofficial trail continues higher up the valley, which is covered in another adventure.

Based on its orientation in the valley, Spirit Lake is best visited for sunset but is a beautiful destination anytime of the day. Although it's possible, it is very rarely visited in winter or early spring.

Pack List

For those who want to visit Spirit Lake as a day hike, standard hiking gear is sufficient. Snacks, water, appropriate clothes/footwear, camera, and first aid kit are all recommended (as well as the park pass to park)

For backpackers, you do have to have a permit from the backcountry office and the sites (especially high up in the valley) do fill quickly. You are also required to have a bear canister and please check with the backcountry office for additional restrictions. For additional gear, make sure to have a tent, sleeping bag/pad, water purification/filter, sufficient food, and if you feel nervous about bears...bear spray (but it very unlikely you will ever need to use it).

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Backpacking, Fishing, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



15.8 Miles

Elev. Gain:

2000 Feet


Easy Parking

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Added by Eric Schuette

I love adventure and exploring. Currently spending time hiking, climbing, fishing, and celebrating with a good beer in Colorado. On Instagram @ericschuettephotography Cheers!!!

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