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Backpacking: Colorado > Rio Grande National Forest > Conejos Peak Ranger District

Quick Facts

Medano Lake Trail

Beginning Elevation: 9,600 Feet (2992.5 Meters)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Ending Elevation: 11,500 Feet (3584.8 Meters) Medano Lake
Length, One-way: 4.0 Miles (6.67 Kilometers)
Trail Number: 887
Usage: Moderate to Heavy
USGS Maps: Medano Pass

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

Medano Lake is located 2 miles north of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. Medano Creek originates high in the Sangre de Cristos and flows into the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. Access is by 4-wheel drive vehicles, either through the Monument or via Forest Road 559, off of Highway 69. Motor vehicles are prohibited on the trail from the road to Medano Lake. Fishing varies, but there are usually enough brook and rainbow trout to keep fishermen interested. Cutthroat, brook and rainbow trout live in the lake.

Medano Lake Trail begins just below Medano Pass. Starting in a stand of spruce-fir, the trail rises moderately as it follows Medano Creek to Medano Lake. Medano Creek and Medano Lake offer the visitor good fishing possibilities. Suitable campsites are available. A short hike to the ridge above Medano Lake provides the visitor with magnificent views of the Sand Dunes.

The road to the trail is very difficult and should only be attempted by high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles or hikers.

Directions from Alamosa: Drive east on U.S. Highway 160 for 14 miles to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. Take Medano Pass Jeep Road, a very difficult 4-wheel drive road 5 miles through the Dunes to the Forest Boundary. The trailhead is 6 miles from the Forest Boundary. The road to the trail is very difficult and should only be attempted by 4-wheel drive vehicles or hikers.

Directions from Highway 69: Travel northwest from Gardner on Highway 69 until you see County Road 559 on your left. Turn here; for about 6 miles you will be traveling through private property. Shortly after entering the National Forest boundary you will arrive at a parking area where Forest Road 412 and 559 meet. All two-wheel drive vehicles must stop here. High-clearance four-wheel drive vehicles may continue to Medano Pass. Licensed vehicles may drive down to the Great Sand Dunes.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Open: Memorial Day Weekend through Mid-October .

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Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Backpacking Suitable campsites available
ICON Cold Water Fishing Medano Creek and Medano Lake
ICON Four-Wheel Driving Access trail from Forest Road 235.
ICON Hiking & Walking Medano Lake Trail
ICON Horseback Riding Popular area
ICON Viewing Scenery Magnificent views of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument

Related Activities
Medano Pass Primitive Road - The Medano Pass Primitive Road is a four-wheel drive road that begins in the park and goes north to Medano Pass and the Rio Grande National Forest.

Medano Pass Road Four-Wheel Drive Road - Medano Pass Road makes a wonderful day trip for licensed, high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicles. It can include a stop in the Great Sand Dunes National Monument.

More Information
Frequently Asked Questions
Email the Local Ranger

Visitor Information:

Conejos Peak Ranger Station, 15571 County Road T-5, P.O. Box 420 , La Jara, CO, 81140, Phone: 719-274-8971, TTY: 719-274-3139


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