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Backpacking: Colorado > Rio Grande National Forest > Conejos Peak Ranger District

Quick Facts

Crater Lake Trail

Beginning Elevation: 11,620 Feet (3622.2 Meters) Elwood Pass Road 380
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Gain: 2,020 Feet (629.7 Meters)
Ending Elevation: 10,760 Feet (3354.1 Meters) Ends at Crater Lake
High Point: 12,200 Feet (3803.0 Meters) Continental Divide
Length, One-way: 3.5 Miles (5.83 Kilometers)
Trail Number: 707
Usage: Heavy
USGS Maps: Elwood Pass

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

Aspen Trees in the fall
Copyright: Unknown
Aspen Trees in the fall
This is a wonderful, though moderately strenuous day hike. The trail starts in a forest and climbs above timberline to the Continental Divide. Spectacular views abound here. The trail makes a descent down the west side of the Continental Divide to Crater Lake, a beautiful green lake surrounded by mountains. The lake offers fishing for cutthroat trout in addition to its scenic beauty.

The trail leaves the Elwood Pass Road 380, passing through scattered subalpine forest. The visitor quickly reaches timberline. Once the Continental Divide is reached, the trail begins to descend the west side. This section may be in poor condition; it was scheduled for reconstruction.

This trail serves as access to the Continental Divide Trail 813, which offers the user unlimited possibilities for recreation. Visitors are requested to contact a Forest Service Office for the regulations governing use of the Continental Divide Trail which passes through the South San Juan Wilderness Area.

Suitable campsites are available at Crater Lake, but otherwise are quite limited.

Directions from Monte Vista, Colorado: Proceed south on the Gunbarrel Road, State Road 15, for 12 miles. Turn west onto Forest Road 250 for 32 miles, to Forest Road 380. Continue west on Forest Road 380 for 7 miles to the trailhead.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Open: Late June-Early July through September .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

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Filed By: b p (alamosa, CO)
Time of Day: noon
Length of Time: 5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Toughest part is getting out of the car after a one hour drive from Monte Vista and starting on an inclined trail. Once you get used to that the rest is easy to the lake. The lake is gorgeous and blue. There is a trail that circles the lake shore. Lots of huge fish hanging out near the end of the trail/lake exit/stream. I speared one (first time) and was able to grab some others but too slippery. The hike out is more uphill than down but not too crazy steep. When you get to the lake, eat, drink, rest, and save some energy for the hike back. Some small waterfalls to see on the other side of the lake.
Conditions: Some small snow drifts still around that cover the trail. About 10 drifts to walk over easily, and about 5 small streams to ross. Most fallen trees have been cut out of the way. Some mud and water follows the trail for small portions. I didn't get my feet wet with snow or water. Rocky in some parts, lots of forest shade for the majority, exposed to sun in some parts.
Water Availability: I brought a camelpack of water, some beef jerky, and trail mix. I didnt eat more than a few handfuls of food, and drank about half my water (about 2 liters). Lots of water sources along the way, not sure if clean to drink or not.
Recommended Clothing: shorts, hiking boots, tshirt, hat. Brought light coat just in case. I would bring sun protection. It was also windy at the beginning/end of trail where its above the timber line.
Suggested Accessories: Bring basic fishing gear, good hiking boots, water, snack/lunch, hat. I used a hiking stick at the end cuz my legs were tired. Crater lake looks perfect for skinny dipping or swimming. Not as cold as I expected.

Filed By: joe Rivas (pagosa springs, CO)
Time of Day: 8:30-3:30 p.m.
Length of Time: 1.5 hrs. in 2 hrs. out
Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Toughest part is the first mile and the second mile climbing out. Biggest reward is the view of Montezuma Peak and Crater Lake from the trail above. Good place to eat lunch is at the lake. Found trash people left behind and packed it out. Pack your trash out. Pack lightly and bring your camera.
Conditions: Some snow on the northern aspects. Crossed a few small creeks. Leave early to avoid storm on the upper elevation part of the trail. Wear nice hiking shoes with ankle supports-alot of rocks.
Water Availability: I brought two water bottles with 40 oz. of water. Drank one bottle in and one bottle out.
Recommended Clothing: I used cotton shorts and a cotton shirt. Prepare to get wet and pack a rain jacket.
Suggested Accessories: Bring a fishing pole to fish and a camera stand for pics. Also a hiking stick would be nice.

Filed By: kelsey
Time of Day: Usually near lunch time
Length of Time: about two to three hours depending on number traveling
Difficulty: Easy
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: I found the start was the hardest part becuase it starts off at a high incline. I recommand start early. Planning to eat lunch at the Lake is nice it is warm. The water can be cold. All around wonderful.
Conditions: There are tons of wildlife as well as foliage to see. On occassion there is some snow. It is rocky
Water Availability: take what you know you would drink and then some. You gain altitude and it gets windy and sunny. Then the drive back can be a while with out water.
Recommended Clothing: Take something warm to wear when you get to altitude.

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Backpacking Suitable campsites at Crater Lake; other choices quite limited
ICON Cold Water Fishing Cutthroat trout in the lake
ICON Hiking & Walking Crater Lake Trail
ICON Horseback Riding Moderately strenuous
ICON Viewing Scenery Spectacular vistas

Related Activities
Blue Lake - Located in the South San Juan Wilderness, access is by foot or horse travel only. This scenic lake is heavily used. Brown and brook trout can be caught here.

Continental Divide - Blue Lake to Elwood Pass Tra - Visitors will be rewarded with spectacular vistas in all directions. Due to the exposed nature of most of this trail, extremely close watch should be kept on weather conditions.

More Information
Frequently Asked Questions
Email the Local Ranger

Visitor Information:

Conejos Peak Ranger Station, 15571 County Road T-5, P.O. Box 420 , La Jara, CO, 81140, Phone: 719-274-8971, TTY: 719-274-3139


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