• Activities:

    Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    9 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2800 Feet

Easy Parking
Lake
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Hiking to Willow Lake is a challenging day hike with an alpine lake, scenic waterfall, and a potential backpacking site if you choose to make it an overnight.

Nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, Willow Lake offers a stunning destination to a rigorous hike. The hike is approximately 9 miles out and back with 2800 feet of elevation gain. The trail is well marked and maintained. However, the hike rarely levels off. Be prepared for a steady incline the entire way until you reach the lake.

Along the way you'll come across a beautiful valley, wildflowers, a boulder field and finally the majestic lake. The lake itself is beautiful and has a 100 foot waterfall feeding into it. Keep your eye out for mountain goats, big horn sheep and any other critters you may encounter on the trail.

We came across several backpackers camping at the lake as an access point to the surrounding 14ers in the Sangre de Cristo Range. We also met a fellow hiker who brought his fishing pole. If these activities interest you, make sure to follow the rules and regulations provided by the National Forest Service.

Make sure to bring plenty of water and a snack to eat at the lake. To be safe, allow approximately 6 hours to complete the hike.

After the hike we stopped in Crestone for ice cream at the Crestone Creamery. A much needed treat. Besides, I believe a wise man once said, "Ice cream is the only remedy for muscle soreness and fatigue."

Getting there: The trailhead for Willow Lake is located just east of the small town of Crestone, CO. In Crestone, head east on E Galena Ave. The road quickly turns into gravel and can be a bit rough. However, I made it just fine in my mid-size car. There is a large gravel parking lot at the end of the road with a well marked sign for the trailhead.

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Trekking poles
  • Camping and fishing permits
  • 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

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It's quite a trip up taking around 3 hours but it's so worth it. Super clear water and a canoe on the water supplied for you!

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Jon King Explorer

Based in Kansas City. Instagram: @joneking

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