2015 Clifton Designs

Jan 7, 2018

Crater Lake Trail


Trail- 6.5 miles in, 6.5 out, 13 miles total round trip.

My all time favorite hike in the area is the Crater Lake Trail. The trailhead is maybe 15 miles west of Jasper in the direction of Summitville. The sign "Crater Lake Trailhead" is visible before reaching Summitville.

The trailhead is almost always muddy if because it also doubles as a drainage for the hill. The initial climb starts at 10,800 and is not too steep. It winds up through large old pines for maybe quarter to half mile.

The end of the pines are at (tree line) maybe 11,200. At this point, you are hiking along the slope of a large hill loaded with many curious marmots. They can be seen slinking in and out of holes while the more adventurous ones may perch on a rock and observe your activity.

After crossing the Marmot hill, there's a rain-water pond which signals that you are nearing the Continental Divide. At the peak of the hill, you will see piles of rocks and a "San Juan Wilderness" marker.. Welcome to the top of the country! This is the divide where water splits, some flowing east, some west.

At this point, the hike becomes easy because it's all down hill to the lake. The trail follows and crosses a nice creek which overflows the trail at some points. Massive views abound in all directions.

Finally, as the trail winds down in to the canyon, there's a short climb to get to the lake. You will not see any hint of a lake until you are virtually on top of it. It's hidden in a glacial crater near the peak.

Once at the lake, trout can be see everywhere- swimming and feeding. There are occasionally fisherman and campers in the area at peak summer months. Otherwise you can usually count on a quiet and uninterrupted adventure on this pristine high-altitude lake. As of 2017, there are at least 4 campsites with fire pits so there's plenty of room to pitch a tent.

An important note would be that the hike out is more strenuous than the way in! Be sure to pack ample water and food to recharge your energy once reaching the lake. Also try to leave early as there are often afternoon thunderheads that bring deadly lightning to the high country above tree line. It would be great to split the hike by camping overnight then hiking out on fresh legs.

-Larry Wolcott


Trail near the continental divide, October 2017


Trail heading downhill towards the lake from the divide, October 2017


Crater Lake, October 2017


New Posts
  • jaspercolorado
    Feb 12, 2018

    I reposted this from the old forums by Marisa. Larry and I attempted to find Little Brown Lake, but it eluded us....however the next day Bella and I found Big Brown Lake. This was a pleasant hike about 45 mins up to the lake (and about the same back down) through some lovely Aspen groves and fields of the national forest. I parked just off Silverlakes Rd and started down Road 706. Almost immediately we had to ford a small stream...well, Bella happily splashed her way to the other side. It was quite a relaxing and easy hike, with only one spot where I had to pick between a "steep" or a "steeper" path up the hill. The lake itself was quite expansive (where are the elk hiding?) and looking at a map, FDR 259 Rd comes close to the southern end of it. After pausing for a few pictures, Bella and I headed back down this scenic little trail. All in all a delightful hike, and given the water, a good one if accompanied by your dog....and no GPS required.
  • jaspercolorado
    Jan 9, 2018

    These pictures are a couple of years old but one of the fun posts that I wanted to bring back from the old forum. Winter in Jasper is so much fun.
  • jaspercolorado
    Jan 9, 2018

    Here's a great hike some of you might enjoy. The Cat Creek trail is accessed near the Terrace, along Road 250. As you see the first Rio Grande National Forest sign, keep your eyes peeled for the Cat Creek sign. The trail head is obvious and offers handy parking. The first quarter mile of the trail is a little rocky and sometimes wet because it follows Cat Creek. After clearing the first section, it opens up to a lush green meadow with fantastic rock outcroppings. As you continue on the trail, it enters heavily wooded forest offering a most enjoyable trek. The trail crosses Cat Creek many times and gives many opportunities to splash in the cool water of the creek. After the first mile or two, the forest is quite amazing. There is no shortage of logs and tree stumps to sit and enjoy the scenery. A lot of us have been in the area for quite some time yet this trail is one of the least explored. If you're looking for something different to do, this might be just the ticket!