If the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area is the crown of the Colorado Rockies, the Crater Lakes Trail is the crown jewel. Breathtaking scenery and exhilarating trails greet hikers and backpackers in the rugged terrain of the cirque surrounding the five lake cluster called Crater Lakes.
To get to the Crater Lakes Trail, take highway 119 towards Rollinsville. Turn west on Rollins Pass Road just south of Rollinsville. Take the rough dirt road all the way to the east portal of the Moffat Tunnel and park in the large parking lot. The trail head is on the north side of the parking lot towards the tunnel entrance. Hike two miles miles along the wide gentle climb along South Boulder Creek Trail to the Crater Lakes Trail fork to the north. The mile long trail becomes steep, rocky and difficult here but beautiful pine forest and hanging moss make the climb a joy to experience.
As the trail nears the lakes, the terrain levels out into beautiful wildflower covered meadows. Follow the outlet stream to the lakes for a spectacular view of clear alpine water and rugged snowy cliffs above the treeline. Lower North and South Crater Lakes are easily accessible, and for the more adventurous among us it is another mile up a steep wall to Upper Crater Lake. Beautiful waterfalls and spectacular views are a treat on this rugged segment of the trail.
By this time there is a good chance that storm clouds will be building over the peaks. Be sure to pack rain gear as afternoon storms are a near certainty. Backpackers will want to have their tents set up early in the afternoon to provide a place to wait out the rain. By evening the clouds should clear for some great late day fishing for the evening meal.