Home | Getting Started | Gift Center | Gear Store | Topo Maps | My Wildernet | Newsletter Signup

Backpacking: Colorado > Pike and San Isabel National Forests > Salida Ranger District

Quick Facts

Bushnell Lakes

Beginning Elevation: 8,000 Feet (2493.8 Meters) Hayden Creek Campground
Difficulty: Difficult
Elevation Gain, One-way: 4,000 Feet (1246.9 Meters)
Ending Elevation: 12,000 Feet (3740.6 Meters) Bushnell Lakes
Length: 6.0 Miles (9.7 Kilometers)
Other Maps: San Isabel National Forest
Recommended Season: Spring
Trail Number: 1402
Usage: Moderate
USGS Maps: Bushnell Peaks, Coaldale

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

To reach the trailhead for Bushnell Lakes park in the turn out close to Hayden Creek Campground. Walk back to the campground and find campsite #2. The Rainbow Trail begins there. Cross the bridge and begin climbing the hill. Follow the Rainbow Trail North 2.5 miles to the junction signed Bushnell Lakes Trail. Bushnell Lakes Trail climbs steeply for 1.5 miles then levels out for the last 1 mile to the lower lake.

These lakes lie at the foot of Bushnell Peak in a beautiful steep-sided valley. The lakes offer some fine fishing in a pretty alpine setting. Native cutthroats are usually found in the Lakes. It is stocked with cutthroat every two years.

This trip can be done as a day hike, but because of the length and difficulty of the trail most hikers prefer to camp on the trail. Campers should camp well away from lake shores, streams and the trail to avoid damage to fragile wet areas.

Directions from : Drive east 20 miles from Salida on U.S. 50. Just before Coaldale, turn right onto CR 6. Follow this road 5 miles towards Hayden Creek Campground. Parking is in the turnout approximately 100 yards below the campground (please do not park in campground itself). Hike up the road to the campground.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Open: June through Mid-October .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Isaiah Downing (Colorado Springs, CO)
Time of Day: Afternoon to afternoon
Length of Time: 7hrs roundtrip
Difficulty: Hard
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Neutral
Report: Very steep hike...one of the toughest I have been on yet. A lot of elevation is gained very quickly.
Conditions: I thought it would be "fun" to do this difficult hike as an overnighter or possibly a 3 day trip, spending the middle day fishing and summiting Bushnell peak. The snow drifts were deep enough to lose the trail as you come up to the ridge that over looks the lakes. I would imagine that by mid July this snow would be gone and the trail would be easy to follow. The lakes looked like they could have still been partially covered by ice. There was a lot of snow surrounding the lakes and the waterfall between the middle and lower lakes was mostly covered by snow, a small portion of the waterfall was visible. There was a lot of wind at night blowing up the ridge. I also found a bear print on a section of the Rainbow trail, the length of the print was less than my size 9's but the width was almost triple! The descent was painful with a 34lb pack, my knees didn't want to do it. Going down took 2:40 while going up took about 4:30.
Water Availability: There wasn't any water at my final destination as I had planned on making it to the lakes. Instead I melted and filtered snow from the many drifts that blew over the ridge. There seemed to be an ample amount of streams during the rest of the hike that you could fill up from.
Recommended Clothing: Sturdy hiking boots are a must...many a times my ankle would have rolled out in lesser quality boots.
Suggested Accessories: I heard that fishing is good here but did not get a chance to try it out. Collapsible hiking poles kept me going and gave me stability on the very steep trail. I also used them a small number of times when traversing around fallen trees. I beleive that I encountered 4 trees that had fallen directly in the hiking pat.

Filed By: Matt Doss (Littleton, CO)
Length of Time: 4 Day Backpacking Trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Moderatly difficult hike in with some fairly tough parts. One of the most beautiful places on earth! Make sure you go to the top of Bushnell. The hike is hard but well worth it. Water falls and mountain lakes, what more can you ask for. There was still a little snowpack in places so it may have dipped below freezing. We only saw 2 other people in 4 day's both were close to the trail head. Very fun place!
Conditions: The weather was perfect for the first 2 nights, however we did get rain with some hail on the third night. Not bad though.
Water Availability: Plenty of quality flowing water. Cold and clear straight from the waterfall. We treated it with a carbon filter for Giardia, but probably did not need to.
Recommended Clothing: Nothing special, just regular attire for the season.
Suggested Accessories: Bring your fishing gear! The top and bottom lakes have fish, the middle does not. If you want great fishing go to the top lake, its worth the extra 3/4 - 1 mile hike, but dont plan on camping there. Its above treeline and can get windy. They hold some nice size fish, that dont see too many people. The lakes are stocked annually in august with fingerlings, I think they are brown trout

Time of Day: overnight
Length of Time: 4 hours
Difficulty: Hard
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: From the Rainbow Trail junction to the top of the first ridge is the most difficult; 1500 feet elevation gain in about 1.5 miles. From there you're home free. Hike to the highest of the 3 lakes for solitude. The lower and upper lakes have fish. middle lake is barren. Great photographic potential on the waterfalls dropping into the lakes
Conditions: Trail is well marked until you get to the middle of the 3 lakes where it becomes sketchy to the upper lake, but just follow the stream.
Water Availability: water sources along the way except for the 2 miles from Rainbow Trail junction to the valley holding the lakes.
Suggested Accessories: Bring your fly rod!

Difficulty: Easy
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Endurance hike with friend and 2 dogs had a great time and excellent allitude training.

Difficulty: Hard
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Neutral
Report: We hiked this trail 5/26/01. It climbs steadily and in areas steeply from the Rainbow trail to Bushnell Lakes. I was unable to get to the lakes because of large snow drifts near the top. The trail is easy to follow, but very rocky.

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Backpacking Bushnell Lakes Trail
ICON Hiking & Walking Bushnell Lakes
ICON Horseback Riding Bushnell Lakes Trail

Related Activities
Rainbow Trail #1336 Segment: Stout Creek to Bear C - This segment of the Rainbow Trail extends 12.2 miles north from Stout Creek to Bear Creek. Most of this segment follows the eastern border of the Sangre de Christo Wilderness.

More Information

Visitor Information:

Heart of the Rockies Chamber of Commerce, 406 West Rainbow Blvd. , Salida, CO, , Phone: 719-539-3591


About Wildernet |  Email to a Friend  |  Disclaimer |  Privacy |  Contact Us  | Comments & Suggestions
Advertisers & Sponsors |  Owners & Operators |  Tourism Promotors
©1995-2019 Interactive Outdoors Inc. All rights reserved.