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It would be hard to think of a Colorado hike with bigger reward for a minimal effort than Timberline Lake. The 2.2-mile hike begins on the west end of Turquoise Reservoir and follows the Colorado Trail for a short distance. That trail soon heads off to the left and the trail enters the Holy Cross Wilderness. After barely 500 feet of climbing, you’re at a high mountain lake with stunning scenery and great fishing. Great camping can be found around the lake’s southeast side. Hikers can continue on a social trail to the left around the lake but the trail goes no higher into this steep basin. Have lunch or catch some fish then return the way you came.

The summer of 2013 was another dry one for Colorado, with devastating wildfires and subsequent campfire bans on the Front Range. Well, I like to have fires. It keeps us warm. So we decided to make the 2.5-hour drive to the Leadville area, where the National Forest was wetter and under no bans. I picked a lake with a short hike at random, just wanting to get out in the woods for a night. This became one of my favorite short hikes in Colorado, not more than an hour of hiking to reach a beautiful alpine lake. As luck would have it, we found an amazing campsite along the shores and had this paradise to ourselves for the night. And yes it was cold and yes we had a campfire.

Pro Tips

  • Timberline Lake offers great fishing, but it is catch-and-release only.
  • This is a great beginner backpacking trip. You can find great campsites along the lake’s southeast and south sides.
  • The trail enters the Holy Cross Wilderness, so only foot and horse travel are permitted and dogs must be on-leash.
  • Recommended season(s): Summer to fall.

    –R. Scott Rappold


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