If you’re looking for the perfect fall hike Columbine Lake a great option!

On this hike you enjoy limited elevation gain, stunning views of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, late blooming wildflowers, and of course the teal blue of the clear mountain lake.

To prepare:

  • Bring layers, food, water (or water purification tools), a camera, and a credit card for the fee station if you plan on hiking between Memorial day and September 15th.  (The hike will take anywhere from 3+ hours so plan accordingly.)
  • Proper footwear. Though the trail is defined, you will encounter roots, rocks, and boulders.
  • A dog (if you have one) with a leash and doggie bags.
  • A vehicle with higher suspension is recommended because the road to the trailhead has fairly large bumps and potholes. However, if you take it slow, a smaller vehicle will work.

Getting there:

  • Take 83 off of highway 40 (as if you’re going to Devil’s Thumb Ranch).
  • At the first “T” Take a left onto 84.
  • Once you pass Strawberry Road (on your left), keep left at the fork, (this turns into USFS 129 and there should be a creek on your right).
  • Stay on USFS 129. There will be a fee station on your left where you can purchase a pass for $5/car.
  • Continue on USFS 129 and stay left at the fork before the Meadow Creek Reservoir.
  • Approximately three-quarters of the way around the reservoir you will see the trailhead parking lot on the left. (There are fairly primitive bathrooms located here – the only bathrooms you’ll encounter on the hike.)
  • Park, display your pass, sign in the hiking registry, and hit the trail!

The Hike:

The trail is approximately 8 miles round-trip and takes anywhere from 3+ hours to complete. The destination is the perfect spot to have a picnic, so plan ahead and make a day of it. The trail is rocky but well maintained and defined. Also, though there are multiple water crossings, all of them have rocks, bridges, or makeshift log bridges to use. (No one likes wet socks!)

Once on the trail keep your eyes peeled for moose and deer, especially in the meadows and forests! (My first time hiking this trail in July, I saw three big bulls and a few cows!) 


About a half a mile in, you’ll see an old homestead on your right. It’s pretty cool to check out and imagine how people used to live.

The trail is slightly sloped for the first three quarters and the last leg being a more dramatic incline. The trail runs along a few meadows, the Meadow Creek at times, enters pine forests, boulder fields, next to cliffs, and waterfalls. It is a very beautiful and fairly low impact hike.


Once you get to the lake there are plenty of boulders to sit on and enjoy the view. Some people (and dogs) swim, though the mountain lake’s icy chill prevents many.

Moral of the story:

Columbine Lake is a very accessible, beautiful, and enjoyable hike for anyone looking to get out, explore, and see some of Colorado’s untouched beauty this fall. Protected by cliffs and trees, you will not encounter the cold winds that other hikes are prone to this time of year, and with the cooler temps and natural springs, a variety of wildflowers are still blooming in the meadows and creek beds, (yes even in September).

If you still need more convincing, check out the photos below. Then grab some gear and your friends and hit the trail to Columbine Lake, you’ll be glad you did!