Backpack to the 3 Crater Lakes

Colorado Crater Lakes, Roosevelt National Forest, CO

Added by Drew Wallace

  • Distance: 6.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,100ft
  • Duration: 3-5hrs (depending how much chilling you do)
  • Three alpine lakes and an alpine lagoon
  • Glaciers and waterfalls

After turning on to Co. 16 (Tolland Rd.) from 119 at Rollinsville, drive about 8 miles down the dirt road along South Boulder Creek. The road will dead end at Moffat Tunnel where you'll find ample parking in a gravel lot with restrooms.

You'll begin your hike along sweeping meadows until you enter Roosevelt National Forest where you'll hike along the South Boulder Creek. Enjoy a casual incline as the bustling stream cools the air and hums with an atmospheric trickle along the moderately wooded and heavily rock filled trails. As the degree of incline intensifies, keep your eyes peeled for rock piles marking the trail—there's a couple of places the trail switchbacks on massive boulders making it easy to lose.

Your first destination once out of the switchbacks is a lake on your left. The trail disperses but picks up in several places. Push in further to find the second lake on your right and several camping spots. Split the two lakes and traverse the left side of the second lake to find the waterfall trail that takes you up to the alpine lake and lagoon—just look for the stream and follow it.

This is the most difficult part of the hike, but also the most rewarding. A lot of people don't take this trail and opt for the straighter, more vertical trail up where the two lower lakes are closest, but they miss the waterfalls and wildflowers, so look for the waterfall trail and take it.

Once up there you'll be rewarded with killer views and a beautiful alpine lagoon. Take some time here to enjoy it but be sure to push in even further yet to discover the third alpine lake. At this point the trail in nonexistent, but I've found the best route to take is to traverse right—going left will lead you to marshy water holes and potentially wet boots.

Pack List

  • Sunscreen
  • Hiking boots
  • Rain coat
  • Food
  • Water
  • Camera
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Backpacking, Camping, Chillin, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Year Round

Trail Type:



6.5 Miles

Elev. Gain:

2100 Feet



Dog Friendly
Easy Parking

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How to Get There

5 months ago

Incredible Views

Wow. I'm writing this on my sore legs but I'm writing this wish some serious enjoyment. The drive in, the initial climb, the views along the way, and the incredible finish. This hike has everything you could want in a hike or a camping trip. We went in shorts and I had a cutoff on but the weather was incredible, even after the sun fell below the mountains. Make sure to bring some energy with you, I had a few energy bars that did me right, but my roommate was hurting a bit more. Also, we walked on top of about 3-4 feet of snow, falling in a couple times, so make sure you have waterproof boots that are tied up tight. Amazing day, amazing night. HIKE THIS PATH!

5 months ago

Added by Drew Wallace

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