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Crested Butte, Colorado, United States

Three Lakes Trail

A spectacular trail with a new wow around every bend.

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 4.5 miles / 7.2 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
 
Overview: This is an amazing trail,one that is well worth the trip to its remote location. This trail is packed full of beauty and excitement, and is only moderately difficult hike.

In this hike you will visit three beautiful alpine lakes, see many different types of wildflowers (in season), view dramatic mountain ranges, and enjoy thundering waterfalls. You will encounter ever changing plant life. The trail alternates between wildflower meadows, aspen forest, and fir and spruce. The trail is well marked and easy to follow. It has a good tread way, and an average 8% slope.

The trailhead is located in a pretty remote part of Colorado so why not consider camping here. The Lost Lake campground is one of the most scenic in Colorado. There is also plenty of free dispersed camping off Kebler Pass or forest road 706 on the way to Lost Lake.

This area does charge a day use fee of $3. There are restrooms, water, and parking available at the trailhead.

Dogs are allowed on a leash, or under direct voice command.
Horses allowed on the trail, but no motorized vehicles are allowed.

The trail has an elevation gain of around 500ft. The trail signage indicates 3 miles round-trip. The 4.5 miles shown here includes hiking around lost lake, the side trip to Dollar Lake, side trip to the falls, and completing the loop between trailheads (via the road)

The forest service indicates this trail is only open June - November. Be sure you call and make sure the area is open before driving to the trail.

For any questions or comments please contact:
Paonia Ranger District
403 N. Rio Grande Ave., P.O. Box 1030
Paonia, CO 81428
Phone: (970) 527-4131 Fax: (970) 527-4151 or
E-Mail: lbroyles@fs.fed.us or vullrey@fs.fed.us


Tips: The Lush Underbrush and abundant lakes come with a price, Mosquitoes. Consider long pants / shirt and don't forget your bug spray.

The trail includes some really great photography opportunities. Bring your good equipment.

Consider a wildflower identification guide to identify the many species of wildflowers you will encounter.

Fishing is good at all three lakes, so bring your fishing gear. (When I was there in July Mosquitoes were the most productive bait)

Points of Interest

Campground
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Trailhead

The trail starts at Lost Lake Campground on the shores of Lost Lake Slough. (Slough Means an area of soft, muddy ground; swamp or swamplike region)

To reach the campground
From Paonia, travel east on Hwy 133 for 16 miles to Gunnison County Road 12, (Kebler Pass Rd.). Follow CR12 for 14.5 miles to Forest Road #706, (Lost Lake Rd.). Follow FR#706 to its end at Lost Lake Campground.

From Crested Butte, travel west on Gunnison County Road 12, (Kebler Pass Rd.) for approximately 16 miles to Forest Road #706. Follow FR#706 to its end at Lost Lake Campground.

The trail starts out gently in a wildflower meadow, and is easy to follow.



map

Wildflower Identification

Shaded by old growth aspen this lush trail is abundant with wildflowers. There are over 70 species of wildflowers in the area. The forest floor is covered with fern, wildflowers, and moss. This gives the trail a "tropical alpine" feel that is reminisant of the northwest.

The pictures below were all taken on this trail. Look at the photo title for the name of the flower.
Viewpoint
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Views of Ruby Range

As the hike gets started it is easy get distracted by the wildflowers and miss some great views of the Ruby Range with Lost Lake Slough in the foreground.

You will be looking at the tallest peak in the Ruby Range, Mount Owen, which reaches up to 13,058 feet. You will also see the lesser known Ruby Peak(12,641 ft) a little to the right.

The yellow wildflowers you are hiking through are Golden Corydalis.
Water
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Lost Lake & Middle Creek Crossing

After about 0.7 miles of hiking you will reach Lost Lake at an elevation of 9,870 ft.

If the creek is not to swollen you can cross hear by rock hopping or wading. If runoff has the creek raging or you just want to hike around the lake follow the trail to your right along the shore of Lost Lake

Lost Lake offers the best fishing of the three lakes. It is full of hungry 8-10" Brook Trout
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Lost Lake Campsite

Odometer 1.4 miles
Shortly after crossing middle creek (on the opposite shore of lost lake), you will find a nice backcountry campsite. The site has room for a couple of tents and is situated between the shore of the lake and a nice little pool in the stream.

The site has some beautiful views of the ruby range across the lake.
Water
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Middle Creek Falls

Odometer: 2.1 miles
Elevation: 9970

Along the trail there is a nice waterfall that is easy to access. Be careful as the rocks around the falls are very slippery.

If you are adventurous you can follow the creek in an off trail scramble up to a second and more spectacular falls. Beware this requires hands on scrambling on some very loose and steep rock. This side trip should only be taken by those comfortable in this type of terrain.
Viewpoint
map

West Elk View

Odometer: 2.4 mi
Elevation: 9880

You will break through to a clearing with spectacular views of the West Elk Mountains.
The West Elk Mountains offer seclusion and ruggedness that are hard to come by in Colorado.
Volcanic activity has produced long lava flows, sometimes pushing mud before them. Ridges were crumbled and carved by wind and water into fantastic turrets, pinnacles, and crenellated bulwarks.

The West Elks are outlined with tiny undeveloped towns like Crawford, Hotchkiss, Paonia and Somerset; thus freeing this wilderness from any major metro area.

The angry and menacing mountain that dominates the left side of the mountain range is Mount Marcellina (11,348-ft). The mountain is 2 miles wide and rises almost 3000 ft directly from Keebler Pass. This is a very unique and memorable mountain that will be easily recognized once you identify it.
Junction
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Trail to Dollar Lake

Odometer: 2.6 miles
Elevation: 10000 ft.

This is a short .2 mile side trip to Dollar Lake. Unless you hate lakes it is worth the minimal effort.

On your return trip from dollar lake don't miss the right turn to continue your decent to Lost Lake Slough
Water
map

Dollar Lake

Dollar lake is the third alpine lake you will see today. It is lush and beautiful with East Beckwith Mountain standing tall over it.

There is a really nice campsite situated on the shore of Dollar Lake. The campsite has room for 2-3 tents.

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Beckwith Pass Trail Junction

At the junction with Beckwith Pass Trail, continue straight towards Lost Lake Campground
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Middle Creek Crossing

Towards the end of the hike you will cross middle creek one last time. This time there is a metal bridge to help you cross
Pictures in this guide taken by: colokeith

Three Lakes Trail Trail Map


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About the Author

colokeith
colokeith
7 guides
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I am a Colorado native and outdoor enthusiast. I enjoy most outdoor activities. Follow me on twitter...

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