Summary: This trail takes you into the James Peak wilderness. The first part is an old jeep trail that will take you up to WP22, from there a new trail heads up to crater lakes. This trail fades in a couple places since it is not well defined yet, but push on and you will find it again. Bring your fishing gear in the summer.
Trailhead: From Boulder, head west on Canyon Blvd which is Hwy 119 to the town of Nederland. Continue south on Hwy 119 to Rollinsville. Turn west on E. Portal road for about 7.5 miles to the trailhead. The trailhead is by the east portal entrance of the train tunnel, proceed NW to the trail that goes over the tunnel entrance. (Lat:39.90294 Lon:-105.64399)
Trail Guides for crater lakes:
Best Seasons: Year-Round
User Groups: Hikers, Dogs, Horses,
Ranger Contact: USDA Forest Service - Boulder Ranger District, 303–541-2500
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Dennis Camell, who has posted 21 other hikes on this site
Trail Reviews Page 1 of 2 Submit your own review
Reviewed by MikeE on 8/15/2010
Great hike! Good workout, but nothing tooo tough. One note- if you're coming from Denver (driving through Black Hawk/Central City) it can be easy to miss the turn on E Portal Road. The big sign that says "Rollins Pass" is where you want to turn. Also - Don't try to walk up to the train tunnel- as cool as it looks, there's a motion-detector alarm that will yell at you to leave!
Reviewed by T Vernon on 7/19/2010
My sons and I went to Crater Lakes on an overnight backpacking trip. The first half of the hike is a steady grade, but not at all difficult. The last half (especially when carrying backpacks) is quite a bit tougher. Although the trail has been very well maintained, it is steep. We camped at the middle lakes, which I recommend since there are numerous fairly level campsites. Don't miss going to the upper lake though, as it is pristine and beautiful. However, be aware that the trail from the middle lakes to the upper lake is VERY steep with lots of loose footing. We didn't fish but there were lots of fish being caught by others. Don't forget your repellent as the mosquitos are pretty active. Up in 2 1/2 hours, down in 1 hr 15 mins
Reviewed by Chris on 6/25/2010
Great location. Not too many people. Beautiful scenery at every turn. The end is steep, but frequently, momentarily levels out after short steep portions. Not too difficult, but challenging. We brought our dog. I found it to be very dog friendly. Leashes are required, although we along with about half the people with dogs did not obey.
Reviewed by Dori on 5/31/2010
Attempted the Crater Lakes hike today, but due to the still-heavy snow pack, we could not find the trail heading off the main trail and ended up meandering around the forest until we found the Heart Lake trail. The hikes at this trailhead are difficult to navigate in the current weather and I would suggest caution as the snow continues to melt (we experienced a lot of falling through the deep snow). Good shoes and poles are a must at this time of year. It is a very scenic area and well worth the extra drive from the foothills trails, but I would suggest being prepared for some added challenge until mid-June or so.
Reviewed by Michael on 5/27/2010
I hiked a stretch of this yesterday. The snowpack is still on the trail, and I wound up following the existing footprints up. This was a mistake as I did not see the lakes - I wound up above the treeline between a few peaks. It was an incredible view and very clear. I was one of four hikers that afternoon. Lost my glasses in a case, too bad. But overall a great hike - perhaps 2.5 hours up and 1 hour down at a slight jog. Got quite steep at the end, but I think I was way off the official trail.
Reviewed by Chris on 8/23/2009
Great hike. It was about two weeks past prime wild flower season. Still a fair number of flowers. My odometer said 8.2 miles to the tunnel. You park literally at the tunnel entrance. Since this is the parking area for two other hikes (Rogers summit and Forest Lakes) there were at least 100 cars at the parking lot on a Sunday at noon. It was one of the more crowded hikes we have done. Lots of overnight campers coming down from Crater Lakes. I would do the hike again. Don't miss the third lake. Rangers were enforcing the leash law since it is a Wilderness area. A more ambitious hike would be to figure out a way to get to Forest Lakes from Crater lake and do loop. Early August on a weekday would be the best time for this hijke.
Reviewed by Michael on 6/13/2009
The plants are green, the first lake is just starting to melt. Snow for the last mile and around the lakes. Wild Cucumbers are sprouting up with a few spring flowers. There were a few trout swimming near the shore. I would recommend this hike.
Reviewed by MR on 6/13/2009
Had great rolling creeks through-out hike and trail was well maintained with cross bridges and step sections! Beautiful mile and a half section of hanging moss in conifer woods! Sounds of creek stay with you and the lakes although still a bit frozen were under beautiful backdrop of high alpine range! Still a bit of snow near lakes so where boots! Perfect distance for short use!
Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site comes from volunteer reporters and may contain errors or omissions. A current guidebook and proper equipment are essential for safe enjoyment of the hikes posted on this site.
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