Hike to American Lakes

Rate this Adventure Colorado American Lakes Trail Head

Added by Grant Whitty

American Lakes is an intermediate and well-marked trail with great features like alpine lakes, wildflowers, wildlife, and panoramic views of the Never Summer Mountains. 

American Lakes are two high alpine lakes located within State Forest State Park and the Never Summer Mountain Range. The park is located about 75 miles west of Fort Collins, Colo. along Highway 14 on the west side of Cameron Pass.

Coming down from Cameron Pass, look for a sign for the American Lakes Trailhead. When turning into the access road, make sure to fill out the form and pay the daily fee for the park ($7.00 USD // 9.24.2016). After payment, continue down the access road until you reach the parking area. The parking area is a dirt plot at the end of the access road. There will be signs. 

Once you reach the trail head tighten your hiking boots and double check that you have all of your gear. Hit the trail just behind the Sign-In Board. The trail is very wide as it is also used for snowmobile traffic in the winter. 

Continue on the wide trail for a about a mile. As you ascend you will soon intersect Michigan Ditch Road. Do not follow the road, continue straight through the interaction and to the right to continue towards American Lakes. There will be signage incase you get lost. 

After the intersection with Michigan Ditch, remain on the wide trail. Soon the trail will begin to thin out into a single-track hiking trail. From here the trail will begin slowly switchbacking up towards the lakes. We found a few grouse in the woods there.

There are quite a few switchbacks, though they are gradual, take your time. The trail will begin breaking out of the trees and into the high-alpine after a good number of switchbacks. 

Once you ascend above tree line, the lakes are just minutes away. You will wind through one last patch of small trees before you reach the lakes. 

Now the lakes will be in sight, advance onward towards the shore. Take a sip of water, have a snack and enjoy the serenity. 

We hiked to the lakes on September 24, 2016. This was Colorado's first snowfall for the upcoming winter season. Keep in mind, Colorado mountains often gets snow as early as September 1. Make sure to check the weather and dress accordingly. 

Pack List

  • Hiking Boots
  • Camera
  • Snacks 
  • Water  
  • Layered Clothing, they call it the Never Summer Mountains for a reason.
  • Backpack with Waist Belt
  • Sun Protection on Sunny Days
  • Rain Protection on Rainy Days
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Hiking, Photography, Snowshoeing

Skill Level:



Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



11 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1680 Feet



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Added by Grant Whitty

Freelance Outdoor Photojournalist from Iowa, living in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

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