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Backpacking: Colorado > White River National Forest > Aspen Ranger District

Quick Facts

American Lake Trail

Average Time: 2 - 2 1/2 Hours
Beginning Elevation: 9,400 Feet (2865.1 Meters)
Difficulty: Difficult
Elevation Gain: 1,965 Feet (598.9 Meters)
Ending Elevation: 11,365 Feet (3464.1 Meters)
Length: 3.2 Miles (5.1 Kilometers)
Other Maps: Trails Illustrated 127 Aspen, Independence Pass
Recommended Season: Summer to Fall
Trail Number: 1985
Usage: Heavy
USGS Maps: Hayden Peak

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

The hike to American Lake is one of the most accessible in the Aspen Ranger District
Copyright: Amy Pyle - Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
The hike to American Lake is one of the most accessible in the Aspen Ranger District
From the trailhead, the trail heads downvalley for a short distance to a trail junction. The trail to the lake takes off at a right angle at the junction. The trail rises steeply, switchbacking for about 1-1/2 miles through an Aspen grove before reaching spruce trees where the trail levels a bit. Continue to a large meadow, stay along the lower side of the meadow, turning southward, and reenter the forest. The trail will rise gently, approximately 1/2 mile before the lake, the trail crosses a rock slide area. The trail arrives near the lake's outlet.

Directions from Aspen: Drive 1/2 mile west of Aspen on Highway 82. At the roundabout, turn onto Castle Creek Road. Drive 10 miles to the Elk Mountain Lodge. There is parking on the right where the trailhead begins.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Accessible: Memorial Day Weekend through September (NOTE: Access to this trail may be prevented due to snow early in the season.) .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports
Winter Conditions. Beware of avalanche danger and hypothermia. Updated: 2002-12-23 14:35:00.0

Ranger TipGet an early start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Wear sunblock to avoid severe sunburn

Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Amy Powell (New York, NY)
Time of Day: afternoon
Length of Time: 5 hours
Difficulty: Hard
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: We did this hike in early June 2014. The second half of the hike was still almost completely covered in snow pack, some of it very deep. We received good advice from a hiker on his way down that we would get lost near the top. If that happened, to find our way to the crevice and follow that up until we reconnected with the trail. That worked! The lake was rewarding
Conditions: a lot of snow and mud.
Recommended Clothing: Wear layers. We wore shorts and layers on top but would have been better in pants with gators to protect from the deep snow.
Suggested Accessories: Poles are recommended.

Difficulty: Hard
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: steep trail in good condition; great views all along; excellent birding opportunities in spruce forest on flats
Conditions: large snowpiles still block trail in flats, did not reach lake.

Filed By: Pamela Schilling (Carbondale, CO)
Time of Day: 9:00 a.m.
Length of Time: 2 hours one way
Difficulty: Easy
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Neutral
Report: This was a beautiful, but steep, hike through an incredible aspen grove, then through pine forest to the lake with several meadows along the way. Wildflowers at their peak - mosquitos and deer flies, also. The lake was a great place for a lunch. Biggest reward, besides the incredibl lake view, was finding a Monument Plant (green gentian) at one point on the trail.
Conditions: Hot, dry, dusty. Breeze at the lake kept the bugs at bay.
Water Availability: Not much water once you start up the switchbacks, until you get to the lake.

Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: a few small snow fields leading up to the lake but nothing difficult to walk through. I wore sneakers and didn't have any problem.

Difficulty: Easy
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Trail still under a great deal of snow.

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Fishing Limited fishing in American Lake
ICON Hiking & Walking American Lake Trail

Related Activities
Castle Creek Road - This drive is one of the most enjoyable drives in the Aspen area. The paved road follows Castle Creek 13 miles up the valley.

More Information
Frequently Asked Questions
Email the Local Ranger

Visitor Information:

Aspen Ranger District, 806 W. Hallam , Aspen, CO, 81611, Phone: 970-925-3445

Links to other sites:
Forest Conservancy - Current Information from Local Volunteers: Closings and Conditions


Local Lodging

Stay at the Aspen Square Hotel
Stay at the Aspen Square Hotel

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