Published with permission from the guide book: Mellow Mountain Trails Hiking Guide to Colorado’s Upper Arkansas River Valley
by Nathan Ward.
Pass Creek Lake
The hike to Pass Creek Lake climbs to a high mountain basin and lake at treeline. The beginning of the hike is rocky and steep, but the middle gets easier with a gently rolling trail along Pass Creek through pine and aspen forests. The final push to the lake is again steep, and you’ll cross several small streams. The hard effort is worth it when you arrive at a beautiful high mountain lake with incredible alpine views.
For a longer adventure, camp near the lake and hike to higher elevations.
Trailhead Access & Facilities
A high clearance, 4WD drive vehicle is needed to reach the trailhead.
From the junction of US 50 and US 285 in Poncha Springs, turn north on US 50/285 and drive west on US 50 for 2.3 miles. Then turn left on dirt CR 210. Drive south on CR 210 for 1.2 miles then turn right on CR 212. There is a sign for Pass Creek here but it’s somewhat hidden by a tree. Continue on CR 212, which becomes a rough high-clearance road for 3.10 miles. At the junction of CR 212 and CR 212A, stay left on CR 212. There is a sign for Pass Creek. Continue 0.9 miles to the trailhead for Pass Creek Trail #1411. Park here.
There are no facilities at the trailhead or along the trail.
Location: Just West of Poncha Springs
Distance: 6.4 Miles – Out & Back
Hiking Time: 4 hours or More
Best Months: June through October
Trail Type: Singletrack
Dog Friendly: Yes
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 9,661; High Point 11,360; Climbs/Descends 1,821
Land Status: San Isabel National Forest
Maps: Trails Illustrated #139
Note: The trailhead sign says the lake is 4 miles one-way, but it’s actually only 3.2 miles.
0.0 Trailhead – Pass Creek Trail #1411. Elevation 9,661 ft. (N38 29.05, W106 11.12) Start hiking at the trailhead sign.
0.4 Trail climbs steadily on a rocky singletrack. Three old cabins decay beside the trail.
0.6 Trail undulates a bit before climbing again. See and hear Pass Creek to the left.
0.9 Enter an aspen forest that is even more beautiful in the fall.
1.0 Trail swings to the left and climbs.
1.5 This is a good rest and snack spot – beside the remains of two old cabins.
2.1 Cross a small stream. Along the way, look for the two rectangular notches in trees, at regular intervals. This is to tell you that you are still on the trail – it’s obvious in the summer, but the notches could be useful if you get caught in the snow.
2.2 Cross another small stream. There are no bridges on this hike so streams are crossed by stepping on rocks. It’s not difficult.
2.5 Another small stream crossing.
2.7 Begin a steep ascent on a very rocky single track.
2.8 Cross a small stream. Trail flattens out a touch before the final climb.
3.0 Cross another small stream. Steep climbing.
3.2 You have arrived! Pass Creek Lake, elevation 11,360 feet. Congratulations! (N38 27.68, W106 13.69)
Return the same way back to your car.
6.4 Back at the trailhead.
The Colorado backcountry is popular – bikers, hikers, motorcycle riders, hunters and equestrians use the trail system in the Arkansas Valley, and everyone wants a private piece of heaven. Even if you don’t agree with everyone’s motives or methods of travel, please treat them in a courteous manner.
If you require search and rescue services, it can be costly. Buy a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card to protect yourself. Funds from the CORSAR program go into the Colorado Search and Rescue (SAR) Fund. If a CORSAR card holder becomes lost or injured in the backcountry, the Colorado SAR Fund pays eligible search and rescue expenses.
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