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Hiking & Walking: Colorado > Rio Grande National Forest > Conejos Peak Ranger District

Quick Facts

South Zapata Creek Trail

Beginning Elevation: 9,200 Feet (2867.8 Meters)
Difficulty: Moderate
Ending Elevation: 11,900 Feet (3709.5 Meters) Ends at South Zapata Lake
Length, One-way: 5.0 Miles (8.33 Kilometers)
Trail Number: 852
Usage: Light
USGS Maps: Twin Peaks

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

A gravel road leaves State Road 150 approximately 11 miles north of Highway 160. A four mile gravel road provides access to South Zapata Lake Trail.

This trail begins at Zapata Falls parking lot, and proceeds up South Zapata Creek to South Zapata Lake. The falls receive a moderate amount of visitors but the trail is lightly used. The trail follows South Zapata Creek to South Zapata Lake, and is steep in many places. Suitable campsites are limited along the trail. A small picnic area is located at the bottom of the falls.

At the 2.25 mile mark, North Fork South Zapata Creek Trail #868 begins. The visitor has the choice of going to North Fork South Zapata Lake or onto South Zapata Lake.

There are several ruins of cabins along South Zapata Lake Trail to view. Scenic views of the San Luis Valley are also offered along this trail.

Directions from U.S. Highway 160: From U.S. Highway 160, proceed north on State Road 150 for 12 miles to a dirt road on the right side. It is approximately 4 miles from State Road 150 to the trailhead.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Open: May through September .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

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Length of Time: 5 hours R/T
Difficulty: Hard
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: This beautiful trail is a real challenge with an awesome reward to those that reach South Zapata Lake. I did this hike alone and encountered not one other person on my way. The trail starts off with great views of the Sand Dunes - then winds through the forest until you begin to reach the treeline. I found it quite humorous to read the trail notes and signs left in the most intact cabin along the trail. Many were complaints on how steep and difficult the trail is - and it's true - the trail seems MUCH tougher than a 4.5 mile, 2500 ft elevation gain. Once at treeline and into the lush alpine valley leading towards the lake is where the awe - inspiring views begin. I ran across a herd of bighorns, and had a blast crossing the creek several times - wondering where this lake was, as it had not yet come into view. Then, settled 2000 ft directly below the CO 14er - Ellingwood Pt. Was the blue/green Lake Zapata.
Conditions: No snow during August - plenty of sunshine if conditions are good.
Water Availability: 2 quarts is a good amount
Recommended Clothing: Typical full-day Mt. stuff, ie. boots, waterproof jacket.

Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: This is a beautiful trail, but it is not a 'day hike' if you continue to the South Zapata Lakes, as suggested by the signs at Zapata Falls. Your hike to the lakes will take from 3-5 hours(one way) depending on your conditioning. The lake is subject to winterkill, so call ahead to the USFS or DOW if your intention is to fish. A very scenic and secluded hike.

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Cold Water Fishing South Zapata Creek; South Zapata Lake
ICON Four-Wheel Driving A very rough dirt and rock road
ICON Hiking & Walking South Zapata Creek Trail
ICON Horseback Riding Trail is steep in many places
ICON Viewing Scenery Zapata Falls

Related Activities
North Fork South Zapata Creek Trail - This is a steep trail in very poor condition. This trail starts in dense forest and terminates above timberline.

Zapata Falls Area - This hike is not for everyone. Be prepared to climb a short ladder, get your feet wet in cold water and balance on slippery rocks.

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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