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.
June through September .