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PSST… 40 Spectacular Lake Hikes in Colorado to Explore This Summer

Colorado literally has it all. You can explore busy city areas, charming suburbs and community parks, and you can find unique cocktails or any type of food you may be craving. But with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we sometimes forget about the acres upon acres of incredible wilderness right in our backyard! 

To help get you out to see some of our state’s best scenery—from wildflowers to mountain summits—we rounded up some of our favorite lake trails in the area. Each one of these trails leads to an awe-inspiring body of water, complete with mountain views. Whether you want a quick trip just up the road or an adventure all the way across the state, every single hike on this list promises views, challenges and a breath of fresh air! 

Our list is ordered by hiking distance, so keep that in mind as you’re scrolling through!

Sprague Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 0.8 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Photo courtesy of Damian Berns via AllTrails

Located in Rocky Mountain National Park, Sprague Lake offers an easy loop hike with stunning views of the mountains and diverse wildlife. This hike is perfect for families and beginner hikers due to the short distance and small elevation gain.

Wellington Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 1.5 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Wellington Lake is more of a hangout spot than a hike, but it still offers plenty of spots to explore. Depending on where you start, your hike can be anywhere from 1.5 miles to a 3-mile loop.

Maroon Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 1.9 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Maroon Lake brings you those iconic Colorado views you’re looking for in the form of the Maroon Bells. Though, because of the incredible views, it’s also a heavily trafficked area during the warmer months.

Saint Mary’s Glacier and Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 1.9 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Famous for its year-round snow, located at the base of Saint Mary’s Glacier, this trail is one of the most accessible alpine hikes in the state. Adventurous hikers can continue up to the glacier, just be sure to bring some traction and a hiking pole or two.

Long Lake Loop

Total Hiking Distance: 2.3 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

This easy loop hike is located in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, about one hour west of Boulder. Because of it’s easy-access and beautiful scenery, this trail is pretty busy during the summer. 

Rainbow Lakes

Total Hiking Distance: 2.5 Mile

Difficulty: Easy

Photo courtesy of DeWayne Hansen via AllTrails

Rainbow Lakes Trail is a 2.5 mile heavily trafficked trail located near Nederland, offering beautiful views and great fishing. It tends to be covered in snow late in the year, so check the AllTrails page for updated information before you go if you don’t feel like snowshoeing. 

Lost Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 2.6 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Lost Lake is an accessible 4-mile hike to a beautiful alpine lake surrounded by the mountains of Indian Peaks. Just over one hour northwest of Denver, the trail up to the lake takes you along a creek, a slide waterfall, a set of tumbling cascades, and a variety of wildflowers.

Forsythe Canyon

Total Hiking Distance: 3 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

This easy, leisurely hike is great for those looking for a low effort-big reward type of hike! Along the way, you’ll pass a waterfall, wildlife, wildflowers and more. 

Hanging Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 3 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Hanging Lake may be a bit of a tourist trap, but we can’t really blame people for wanting to see this natural wonder! The lake lies in a soft limestone called travertine, giving the lake a brilliant green-blue color and creating unique rock formations around its edges. The trail itself is short but steep and is a must-visit for all Coloradans. 

Bierstadt Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 3.2 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Bierstadt Lake is a short, but moderately difficult hike to a sub-alpine lake with great panoramic views in Rocky Mountain National Park. At the lake, the trail forms a one-mile loop along its shores, offering beautiful vista views and a place to catch your breath. 

Silver Dollar Lake and Murray Lake Trail

Total Hiking Distance: 3.9 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Photo courtesy of Ravi Raman via AllTrails

If you’re looking for a moderate hike with a massive view, check out Silver Dollar Lake and Murray Lake outside of Georgetown. It’s also one of the best hikes for wildflowers! This moderate trail is a classic Rocky Mountain favorite. Plus, you get two lakes for the price of one hike. 

Monarch Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 4.2 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

This 4.2-mile loop is a perfect family hike that leads through shaded forests, across creeks and along the shore of the lake. It’s one of the more diverse, but easy hikes in the area so it tends to be a little busier in the summer.

Tyndall Glacier and Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes

Total Hiking Distance: 5.1 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

This short string of lakes is perfect for a beginner hiker in the summer and snowshoer in the winter. You start with a short trip to Nymph Lake, which is covered with lilies in the summer. Then you’ll be treated to beautiful views of Hallett Peak over a crystal clear Dream Lake before climbing up to reach the aptly named Emerald Lake.

Loch Lake Trail via Glacier Gorge

Total Hiking Distance: 5.4 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

This large, sub-alpine lake is a perfect hike for beginners or pretty much anyone else who wants a moderately difficult hike with incredible views. Sitting just below the tree line, the destination offers unobstructed views of some of the national park’s biggest peaks.

Brainard Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 5.6 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

The Brainard Lake hike is a popular one all year long as it offers great snowshoeing and skiing during the winter and an easy stroll during the summer, with views of the lake and the Rocky Mountains everywhere you look.

Diamond Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 5.6 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Photo courtesy of Sergei Selin via AllTrails

The Diamond Lake Trail leads hikers to a high alpine lake nestled in the forest below Jasper Peak in Indian Peaks Wilderness. This moderate trail leads to good fishing, past a waterfall and multiple cascades. 

Jewel Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 5.9 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

This moderate hike is a well-kept secret located near Estes Park, featuring waterfalls and a big mountain vista view. Great for anglers, the lake is also stocked full of trout in many different varieties.

Lake Helene

Total Hiking Distance: 3.2 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

This popular lake hike begins at the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park and ends at a sparkling lake surrounded by red rocks and soaring evergreens. You can also travel here from Fern Lake and hit two gorgeous lakes in one trip.

Herman Gulch

Total Hiking Distance: 6.3 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

The Herman Gulch Trail is one of the best summer wildflower hikes near Denver. The trail itself is a 6.3 mile out-and-back trail that branches off to many more trails in the Arapaho National Forest that you can explore.

Ice Lakes and Island Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 6.9 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

These brilliant blue alpine lakes near Silverton are considered to be some of Colorado’s most beautiful. The area is especially incredible in July and August when the Colorado Wildflowers are at their peak.

Blue Lakes

Total Hiking Distance: 7.9 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Lakus via AllTrails

The Blue Lakes feel like they are from an alien planet, bright blue and sparkling. And the mountain views surrounding them are equally breathtaking! The trail itself is heavily trafficked and on the harder side. 

Odessa Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 8.3 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Odessa Lake is one destination you absolutely can’t miss in Rocky Mountain National Park. The alpine scenery is striking, offering great views of Joe Mills Mountain, The Gable and Little Matterhorn.

Ypsilon Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 8.4 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

The hike to Ypsilon Lake is a  journey along a heavily forested trail in the Mummy Range of Rocky Mountain National Park. Along the way, you’ll enjoy views of rugged mountains and Roaring River, a waterfall and two sparkling lakes.

Finch Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 8.6 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Finch Lake is a moderate hike through pines, aspen glades and wildflower laden meadows to a sub-alpine lake. It’s a great choice for those who prefer solitude as it’s one of the lesser-traveled trails in the Wild Basin region of the Rocky Mountain National Park.

South Colony Lakes

Total Hiking Distance: 8.9 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

If you don’t feel like doing an entire 14er, maybe just hike to the base of one! South Colony Lakes offers views of Kit Carson, The Crestones and Humboldt Peak. The actual trail is fairly difficult, but it is a great stopping point for those who want to continue up to a summit the next morning.

Chasm Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 9.4 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

Photo courtesy of Ashley Shaw via AllTrails

Arguably one of the most beautiful hikes in the area, this trail begins by ascending above the tree lines and soon turns into a valley filled with cascading waterfalls and colorful pools. 

Ouzel Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 9.4 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Ouzel Lake is nestled in a sprawling valley in the Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the better fishing destinations in the area, this moderate 4.9-mile creekside hike passes several waterfalls, including the beautiful Ouzel Falls.

Lake of the Clouds

Total Hiking Distance: 10.6 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

This alpine lake lies just above the treeline and is a rewarding day hike for advanced hikers. To reach it, you’ll need to travel a little over five-miles one way and get yourself across a wide boulder field that is a favorite habitat of spiders. Bring a map, compass, and GPS and be prepared to navigate.

Chicago Lakes Trail

Total Hiking Distance: 10.8 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Photo courtesy of Taylor Warner via All Trails

Chicago Lakes is a popular hiking trail in the Mount Evans Wilderness that has two magnificent lakes with stellar views towards the foothills and of Mount Evans. The trail starts off steep, dropping into a valley before running flat, then climbing steeply up again—perfect for more advanced hikers.

Jasper Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 10.8 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

5.5 miles one way, this mountainous and wildflower-laden hike is just over an hour outside of Denver. The trail starts at the Hessie Trailhead and continues past the lake to the Devil’s Thumb. 

Lake Isabelle

Total Hiking Distance: 11 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

Photo courtesy of Mary Fritschie via AllTrails

Lake Isabelle is one of the best winter hikes in Colorado, but it’s still beautiful in the summer! Start at Brainard Lake and make your way up the valley to Lake Isabelle where you’ll have views of the Isabelle Glacier—a permanent snowfield.

Thunder Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 11.2 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

Thunder Lake Trail is an 11.2 mile, less busy out-and-back trail located near Allenspark, featuring great views. Gaining an elevation of 2,234, this is a pretty difficult hike recommended for advanced hikers. 

Lawn Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 11.8 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

The hike to Lawn Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park follows the course of the Roaring River for 6.2 miles to a stunning mountain lake with great fishing and views.

Bluebird Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 12.1 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

Bluebird Lake is a 6-mile hike to an alpine lake surrounded by soaring peaks in the Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park. This particular hike is perfect for backpacking and for dedicated anglers.

Devils Thumb Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 12.1 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

The hike to Devil’s Thumb Lake is a wonderful hike for more advanced hikers. Although there are other, much shorter routes to the pass, this one offers unique scenery that you won’t be able to experience anywhere else.

King Lake Trail

Total Hiking Distance: 12.2 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

Photo courtesy of Alex Georgevitch via AllTrails

The difficult hike to King Lake offers plenty of wildflowers along with lots of other breathtaking mountain scenery. You can also access Betty and Bob Lakes via a .5 mile spur from this trail—making this out-and-back one of the best ways to see several Colorado lakes at once! 

Lion Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 12.4 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

This breathtaking lake is the most popular in Rocky Mountain National Park for a reason. Not only does it boast a dramatic alpine landscape, but the hike to it also features waterfalls, lakes, peaks and more.

Pear Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 12.7 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

Pear Lake is a great spot for fishing and mountain views. It’s a difficult and demanding 6.5-mile hike to get there, but it’s definitely worth it. Along the way, you’ll pass incredible wildflower fields and the beautiful Finch Lake. 

Capitol Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 16.6 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

Capitol Peak is widely considered Colorado’s most difficult 14er, but it isn’t that hard to enjoy the beautiful blue lake at its feet. The approach hike is long and occasionally steep, but it will all be worth it when you see one of Colorado’s tallest peaks reflected in the water.

Snowmass Lake

Total Hiking Distance: 20.3 Miles

Difficulty: Hard

This lake is the hardest to reach out of all the ones on our list—but it is most definitely worth it. The views of the towering mountain and its reflection are unlike any others. Plus, along the way, you’ll pass Buckskin Pass, where you’ll be treated to views of Pyramid Pike. 

Happy Hiking! 

Did we miss your favorite lake hike in Colorado? Let us know in the comments!

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