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  • Writer's pictureVien R. Guenther

Crater Lakes, South Boulder Creek Trail – James Peak Wilderness/Roosevelt National Forest

From the main South Boulder Creek Trail, continue past the first junction if your aim is the Crater Lakes. The sign at the second junction will direct you to that trail. Going to the two main Crater Lakes is a six-mile round trip hike from the trailhead. If you want to go to the Upper Crater Lake, be prepared for a steep ascent going up to the ridge. From there you still have to climb up a ways which brings you to a viewpoint above the upper lake. Then you will have to do some scrambling over big boulders to get down to the Upper Crater Lake. There is another way up, but you won't get the great view looking down on the lake.

CRATER LAKES (Main Crater Lakes elevation 10,600 feet) - 6.5 to 7.5 miles

Snow in late June

Hiking here in June you will still find snow in some areas, so the trail might be difficult to follow. Unless someone else already created a temporary trail over the snow which you just have to follow. It helps to have a GPS with you which my husband, Hermann, always carries, not only to record our hike but also to know where we are.

Wildflowers in summer

Wildflowers also abound here, if you are lucky to pick the right time. In the meadows, as well as by the streams and lakes, you will find wildflowers everywhere!

Stream along the Crater Lake trail
Lower Crater Lake
Trail to Upper Crater Lake

It's a steep climb to the Upper Crater Lake, but don't hurry, look back down from time to time and you will see the view getting better as you reach the ridge. The mountains and the lower lakes below are such an amazing landscape you will be in awe, as you can see on the photo. Nature is really amazing, isn't it?

We also hiked here in early Autumn and we found some wildflowers by the trail still in bloom (photo below). Hiking in Colorado you will find many surprises.

View of Lower Crater Lakes from the ridge
Upper Crater Lake



If you are camping, you will have time to go hiking to the top of the Continental Divide, which separates the Pacific and Atlantic watersheds.

There are many fine campsites in the James Peak Wilderness, but campfires are not allowed and group size is limited to only 12 - including pets.

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