August 01, 2018 Slideshows » Columns

Road Trip Hike: Willow Lake 

Share on Facebook
Tweet
Submit to Reddit
Email
Starting at the eclectic tiny town of Crestone, on the west side of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, Willow Lake is not only a strenuous hike but also serves as the launch point for people wishing to bag Challenger and Kit Carson peaks, two 14ers. Many peak baggers climb to the lake late in the day, camp overnight and then go after one or both peaks the next day.

To get there:  From US Hwy 285 and US 50, just west of Salida, go south on US 285 about 45 miles to Colorado Highway 17. Go south on Hwy 17, and the east on Saguache County Road "T" to Crestone. Once in Crestone, watch for signs pointing to the Willow Lake trailhead. The trailhead is at the end of a bumpy dirt road passable with a passenger car.
OF 14
PREV NEXT
Bob Falcone
A little less than 2 miles from Crestone you'll arrive at the trailhead. It was reconstructed in 2014 by the US Forest Service, which also expanded the parking lot and added bathroom facilities.
Bob Falcone
The information board next to the trail has lots of important information.
Bob Falcone
About 200 feet from the trailhead, the Willow Lake trail goes to the right. The trail is steep and has lots of switchbacks for about the next 1.5 or so miles.
Bob Falcone
About 1.1 miles from the trailhead the trail enters a wilderness area.
Bob Falcone
At about 1.5 miles the trail flattens out a bit, with a view of Kit Carson Mountain.
Bob Falcone
The gorgeous and lush Willow Creek Park comes into view at about 1.75 miles. Just past here is the only fork in the trail. The right fork goes down to Willow Creek Park. Keep left to continue to the lake.
Bob Falcone
For perspective, the approximate location of the lake is shown here.
Bob Falcone
The trail gets a bit rocky after the fork, and is much easier than the first 1.5 miles, with a few long switchbacks.
Bob Falcone
At about 3.45 miles the trail crosses Willow Creek on this footbridge. After the bridge go right over some loose rock to pick up the trail, which then starts steeply uphill.
Bob Falcone
At about 3.7 miles, the trail becomes very rocky, with sharp, irregular sized and shaped loose rocks. The next .3 miles, along with the first 1.5 miles, are the toughest of the hike. On the plus side, there's this great view to the west. Willow Creek park is the green expanse in the middle of the photo.
Bob Falcone
There's an easy rock-hop creek crossing after the rocky section, and the trail is easy from here on. You'll know you're getting close when you see the Rocky Mountain Field Institute's camp site. RMFI is working on the trail to Crestone Peak.
Bob Falcone
This waterfall, fed from the lake, comes into view a few hundred feet later. The trail goes to the left of the falls.
Bob Falcone
The lake comes into view after an easy rock scramble. A waterfall on the opposite side feeds the lake from Willow Creek. Follow the trail back to the trailhead for a round trip hike of about 10 miles.
Bob Falcone
The track of this hike.
1/14
Bob Falcone
A little less than 2 miles from Crestone you'll arrive at the trailhead. It was reconstructed in 2014 by the US Forest Service, which also expanded the parking lot and added bathroom facilities.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

All content © Copyright 2018, The Colorado Springs Independent

Website powered by Foundation