Colorado is one of the most beautiful places in the world, an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Colorado provides an abundance of incredible hikes, mountain biking trails, winter sports, fishing, rock climbing, rafting… You get the point that this list goes on and on. When we began setting out to explore Colorado this summer, we discovered a series of Colorado’s best alpine lakes in a local magazine. With so many options, and limited resources, focusing on these lakes provided an inexpensive way to witness the natural beauty of this incredible state.
Alpine lakes are high altitude lakes that are typically crystal clear due to a lack of algae or moss which cannot grow at high altitudes. The following list contains a few favorites that offer day hikes ranging from strenuous to a simple trot from the parking lot.
Coordinates 39.0274906 N -106.8428175 W
The trailhead for Cathedral Lake is only 12 miles outside of downtown Aspen. By far the most strenuous hike on our list, Cathedral Lake sits at 11,866 feet with a 3 mile one way hike that has an elevation change of about 2000 feet. When you reach the top, your sweaty brow and shaky legs will be worth the work, the payoff is Cathedral Lake one of the most stunning lakes in all of Colorado!
coordinates: 39.6016497 N -107.1919967 W
The hike up to Hanging Lake is only 1.2 miles one way, but don’t underestimate the time it will take you to get up! This is a strenuous hike through varying terrain from craggy and bouldery to steep inclining switchbacks that may inspire nightmares about ever seeing a set of stairs again. But when you reach Hanging Lake and witness this emerald green gem with a series of cascading waterfalls those evil switchbacks seem decades in the past. This is truly one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Hanging Lake sits at 7,160 feet.
Coordinates 40°18?34?N 105°39?32?W
At 9,912 feet, the hike to Dream Lake is a 1.1 mile walk in the park compared to the first two on the list. Dream Lake is in the Rocky Mountain National Park nearby the city of Estes Park. Although this is a very easy hike, the lake is as awe inspiring as any other on the list. Dream Lake is appropriately named. When sitting by the shore you can’t help but silently daydream as fisherman try to bring in cutthroat trout and clouds pass through the sky framed by the rocky peaks. This lake provides a sense of calm that is difficult to explain. Pack a picnic and set some time aside for meditation!
Coordinates: 39°39?30?N -105°36?12?W
Echo Lake is a park situated along the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in North America. This alpine lake is at an elevation of 10,600 feet but requires no hiking to gaze upon its placid crystal clear waters. You can simply park and walk a few short feet. This is a great destination if you find that high altitudes take your breath away literally. After snapping some photos visit Echo Lake Lodge for some pie and ice cream! Next head up the Mount Evans Scenic Byway which reaches a final altitude of 14,130 feet and you will be for a moment the highest driver in all of North America.
To read our trip reviews and stories of these lakes and more, please visit our 5280 Great Lakes Series.