5 Southern Colorado Alpine Lakes to Explore

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5 Southern Colorado Alpine Lakes to Explore

Enjoying Colorado’s snow-fed lakes and human-made reservoirs is time well spent. The larger reservoirs are well-known camping, boating, and swimming treasure troves, but we polled our staff on their favorite smaller, higher elevation lakes. Here are our top 5 picks in southern Colorado. 

Hermit Lake in the Sangre de Cristos
Photo by Cydne Rader

Take your 4WD, high clearance vehicle up the bumpy road and then it’s a short, easy walk to this high-elevation lake outside of Westcliffe. Dip your toes in, your whole body, or your fishing pole. Be sure to pack a lunch and blanket - this special lake doesn’t disappoint. 

O’Haver Lake 
Photo by sdobie

For a fun, albeit busier recommendation, O’Haver Lake just outside of Poncha Springs in Chaffee County welcomes a breadth of family-friendly activities from camping to fishing to swimming to paddle boarding. Camping sites can be booked in advance at recreation.gov, but there are a number of first-come, first-served sites available too. 

South Colony Lakes 
Photo by bigvern

Located in the shadow of the Crestone Needles outside of Westcliffe, this small cluster of lakes is a backpacker's dream. This strenuous hike boasts incredible views of the surrounding Sangre de Cristo range. There are two trailheads to access these lakes, but a 4WD vehicle is needed to access the upper lot.

Lily Lake by Mt. Blanca
Photo by Kevin Barrett

This strenuous and lengthy hike to the headwaters of the Huerfano River is an excellent fly fishing spot for those willing to make the trek. Nestled below 14ers Blanca Peak, Ellingwood Point, and Mt. Lindsey, the hike to this lake pays off with priceless views. 

Ptarmigan Lake at Cottonwood Pass
Photo by im me

The 7-mile round-trip moderate hike to this lake is excellent for wildflower viewing in peak summer. The trailhead is easy to get to on the east side of Cottonwood Pass near Buena Vista. Enjoy stunning views of the Collegiate Range as you make your way up to the lake, which sits at a breathtaking 12,100 feet above sea level.