Cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to do in beautiful places

Crater Lakes Trail

  • ★★★
  • 6 miles round trip (out & back)
  • Elevation gain: 1,463 feet
  • 2-4 hours
  • Moderately strenuous
  • A few lakes, wildflowers, & great mountain views

Distance from Denver: 1 hour 30 minutes


Parking: Free

This is a typical Colorado mountain hike without any extraordinarily unique sights, but nonetheless it provides excellent mountain and lake views as well as plenty of wildflowers in the spring/summer months.

Begin the hike at the East Portal Trailhead next to the Moffat Tunnel – there is a good-sized parking lot at the end of County Road 16. Take the South Boulder Creek Trail along the beautiful creek, staying straight for two miles following signs for Crater Lakes. At the two mile mark, make a right and proceed uphill on the Crater Lakes Trail for another mile until you reach the lakes.

The trail ends at the two lower Crater Lakes, which are both circumnavigated by loop paths and situated below tall peaks. If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s an upper Crater Lake that can be reached by following and scrambling up an unmaintained path along the inlet by the northern of the two lakes. Return to your car on the same trail you came on.

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