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

Quick Facts

Bear Lake Trail

Beginning Elevation: 9,700 Feet (3023.7 Meters)
Difficulty: Difficult to More Difficult
Ending Elevation: 11,500 Feet (3584.8 Meters) Ends at Bear Lake
Length, One-way: 3.0 Miles (5.0 Kilometers)
Trail Number: 721
Usage: Moderate
USGS Maps: Red Mountain, Platoro

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

Copyright: Unknown
The first mile of the trail is quite steep and numerous switchbacks crisscross the slope above Saddle Creek. Hikers are advised to carry water because the climbs is strenuous and water sources are few until one reaches Bear Lake. Water found along the trail should be treated before consumption.

At approximately 10,500 feet, the trail becomes less steep and leads through subalpine meadows, from which vistas of the Saddle Creek Valley and the mountains beyond can be seen. From an elevation of approximately 11,300 feet, the trail remains within the dense alpine forest until it reaches Bear Lake. In early summer, snow banks may cover parts of the trail where it is protected from direct sunlight by the dense forest.

Bear Lake sits in a bowl surrounded by the 1,000 foot cliffs that descend from the unnamed peak above. Subalpine forest of spruce, fir, and aspen surround the lake and cover the slopes descending to the south to Saddle Creek. The Bear Lake trail passes through these subalpine forests and interspersed meadows.

The Bear Lake Trail provides a nice day hike to a popular fishing lake. Many people use the Bear Lake Trail for short camping trips. Bear Lake has an impressive setting, sitting below a 12,500 foot peak.

The Bear Lake Trail provides a good starting point for a longer backpacking trip. Just before reaching Bear Lake, the Bear Lake cutoff Trail #721.1A cuts off and skirts the unnamed peak overlooking Bear Lake from the south. It connects with the Conejos Peak Trail #720 which heads west to Conejos Peak and the alpine lake country.

The South San Juan Wilderness is entered a short distance from the start of the trail.

Directions from Antonito, Colorado: Travel west on Colorado Highway 17 for approximately 22.0 miles to Forest Road # 250. Go north on Forest Road 250 for approximately 13.5 miles, then turn west on the Saddle Creek Road # 105. Follow Saddle Creek Road west approximately 3.0 miles to the Bear Lake Trailhead. Parking is available at the trailhead.

Directions from Platoro, Colorado: Travel south on Forest Road # 250 for approximately 5.5 miles, then turn west on Saddle Creek Road # 105. Follow Saddle Creek Road west approximately 3.0 miles to the Bear Lake Trailhead. Parking is available at the trailhead.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Open: June through September .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports
Typical spring conditions indicate you should expect snow above 10,000 feet. Updated: 2000-05-09 10:35:00.0

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Filed By: Karen (Colorado Springs, CO)
Time of Day: 10:00
Length of Time: ?
Difficulty: Easy
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Neutral
Report: The directions given here to the hike are not very good in terms of distance. The trailhead is only about 1 mile or so from the FR 250. You can see it clearly if you are looking for it! We missed it and couldn't find the hike until it was too late. I bet it would be a great hike!
Conditions: A demon chicken (we think it was a crazed blue grouse)

Difficulty: Hard
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: This hike was filled with endless beauty the whole way. The end of the destination of Bear Lake makes every step worth it.

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Backpacking Bear Lake cutoff Forest Trail 721.1A is nice.
ICON Cold Water Fishing Bear Lake
ICON Hiking & Walking Bear Lake Trail
ICON Horseback Riding The first mile is quite steep.

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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