Crater Lake and Mirror Lake certainly have very generic names for lakes, but the views are by no means ordinary. Hiking to Crater Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness of Colorado should be on the bucket list of just about anyone living in the state. The views of the extremely unique Lone Eagle Peak make this one of the most scenic lakes in the country. Here’s everything you should know.
It is worth noting that in this article we are discussing the Crater Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, not the Crater Lake in the Maroon Snowmass Wilderness.
Difficulty – Strenuous
Distance – 14.6 miles round trip (23.50 km)
Height –10,395 feet (3168.40 m)
Elevation gain – 3,027 feet (922.63 m)
Duration – 8-9 hours (book time)
Hike Class: Class 2
Trailhead Location – Monarch Lake Trailhead (8,367 Feet)
Dogs – Allowed on leash
Need To Know Information
- A permit is required for anyone planning to stay overnight from June 1 through September 15. More information on that can be found here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/arp/recarea/?recid=8080
- Dogs are allowed on leash.
- Between Nov. 15 and June 15 the final mile of road to the trailhead is closed, requiring hikers to hike exra.
Crater Lake Via Monarch Lake Trailhead – 14.6 Miles Round Trip (23.50 km) – 3,027 Feet (922.63 m) Total Elevation Gain – Class 1
This hike is a relatively straightforward hike that starts at the Monarch Lake Trailhead. In only a couple hundred feet, you’ll be along Monarch Lake and seeing absolutely stunning views. The trails are well traveled in the first couple of miles, but the traffic drops quite a bit once you pass monarch lake.
The first 2 miles are relatively flat, but hikers begin to ascend more once they hit the trail junction for the Arapahoe Basin Spur. Hikers continue straight on the Cascade Creek Trail.
3.3 miles in, hikers will reach a junction for the Buchanan Pass Trail. This trail heads off to the left, but hikers stay straight. The trail here goes through Aspens where moose are frequently seen, and even has several gorgeous waterfalls.
The next junction is at mile 6.3. This left turn is the Pawnee Pass Trail, but hikers should continue straight. Hikers will begin to see small spur trails to campsites in this area towards the lake. Simply follow the main trails all the way to Crater Lake.
Hiking in Winter
This is an extremely popular first come first serve backpacking zone. There are specific rules and regulations for camping here, and specifici campsites that backpackers are required to camp on.
There is also a nearby campground at Arapaho Bay. You can reserve spots and get more information here.
Here is a detailed weather forecast for the area:
Snowmass Village, CO
Partly cloudy, with a low around 2. Wind chill values as low as -17. West southwest wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.
Sunny, with a high near 18. Wind chill values as low as -17. West wind 15 to 20 mph.
Partly cloudy, with a low around 2. Wind chill values as low as -15. Southwest wind 15 to 20 mph.
Patchy blowing snow between 9am and 5pm, then patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 21. Wind chill values as low as -11. Southwest wind 20 to 35 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%. New snow accumulation of less than half an inch possible.
Patchy blowing snow and a slight chance of snow showers before 11pm, then snow showers and areas of blowing snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 7. West wind 20 to 35 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.
Snow showers and patchy blowing snow. Cloudy, with a high near 11. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.
A chance of snow showers before 5am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around -1. Chance of precipitation is 30%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Directions to Monarch Lake Trailhead:
Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about