Adventure Travel

Colorado’s 7 Most Breathtaking High Altitude Lakes

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High altitude clear alpine lakes in the Rocky Mountains, as viewed from a mountain summit above

Image: Shutterstock/robert cicchetti

Colorado’s 7 Most Breathtaking High Altitude Lakes

We all know Colorado is full of insanely picturesque mountains, green valleys, and steep rock faces, but did you know the high altitude lakes are just as beautiful? While they’re often hidden away behind craggy peaks, Colorado’s best high altitude lakes aren’t as hard to reach as you might think.

All it takes is some strategic planning (I.e. getting up early to start hiking) and these beauties are all yours to explore. If you’re new to hiking in the Rocky Mountains, remember that thunderstorms roll in quickly after noon, so be sure to get off-mountain as early as possible. Stay safe out there…and of course, have fun!

Ice Lakes, Silverton

A local favorite, Ice Lakes is reached by a short and steep trail near Silverton, Colorado. The lower half of the trail is below timberline, darting through aspen and conifer trees. The upper half follows several switchbacks before leveling off at the basin. In late summer, the ground is covered with blooming wildflowers and even a marmot or two. The pristine turquoise lakes are created by mountain runoff, which means they’re cold. Really cold. Feeling brave enough to jump in?

North Halfmoon Lakes, Leadville

After a seriously challenging hike and scramble through the Mount Massive Wilderness, you’ll find yourself staring at some of the most beautiful pair of lakes imaginable. Tucked under the western face of Mount Massive, it’s no wonder hikers rise and shine early to catch a glimpse of these natural masterpieces.

Frozen Lake, Georgetown

Found in Rocky Mountain National Park, Frozen Lake is accessed after a challenging scramble through wide-open territory. The route is unmarked, aside from a few cairns, so a detailed map is required to reach the site. Frozen Lake is nestled beneath The Spearhead, a renowned rock formation and climbing destination. Once you reach The Spearhead, you must ascent it’s rock face before finding Frozen Lake behind it. Luckily on the way, you’ll pass a few other alpine lakes in case you can’t quite make it to Frozen Lake.

Summit Lake, Idaho Springs

If you want to visit Summit Lake, you’re in serious luck. Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the world’s highest paved road, passes right by the lake. Even though it’s easy to access, the sensational atmosphere of Summit Lake is untouched by tourism. At 12,836 feet in elevation, you’ll be blown away by the alpine tundra surrounding the area. Look for Mount Evans to the east for an incredible view.

Twin Lakes, Durango

At the summit of an iconic hike in southwest Colorado, Twin Lakes stands out as one of the most beautiful high altitude lakes in the entire state. The region, known as Chicago Basin, is hiked by adventurers who wish to summit the three surrounding fourteeners: Mount Eolus, Windom Peak, and Sunlight Peak. By the time you reach the basin, you might be hot enough to actually get in the water!

Little Echo Lake, Winter Park

After a quick one-mile hike through the James Peak Wilderness Area, Little Echo Lake reveals itself as one of the most beautiful places in Colorado. Hikers have flocked to the lake for more than a century, enjoying the refreshing waters and trout fishing opportunities. And that’s not to mention it’s proximity to Denver, which makes it the perfect day trip escape.

Hidden Lake, Steamboat Springs

Secluded in the Routt National Forest outside of Steamboat Springs lies Hidden Lake. This small, often overlooked spot is perfect for those who wish to camp overnight and enjoy the lake’s wonder for days on end. In fact, if you visit during off-peak times, you might even be the only person around.

Mandy Burkholder is a travel, adventure, and outdoor writer who honed her craft in the foothills of the La Plata Mountains of Southwest Colorado. After a stint in the Swiss Alps, she now resides in Tennessee. Follow her on twitter — @mandyburkhold3r

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