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Columbine Lake, Silverton, CO: Ultimate Hiker’s Guide

If you are looking for a truly beautiful lake in Colorado, then look no further, as Columbine Lake is one of the prettiest aqua blue colored lakes in the area.

But beware as this hike is an absolute stairmaster climb to the top.

Columbine Lake: Two Roaming Souls posing

The hike offers stunning views along the way, so you will have plenty of stunning scenery to enjoy along your route. Which in the end will make the hard climb to the top well worth the trek. Details on the ultimate hiker’s guide to Columbine Lake near Silverton, CO are below. 

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Stats For Columbine Lake:

  • Distance: 8.3 miles
  • Elevation: 2,933 ft
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Type: Out & back
  • Permit: No
  • Bathroom: No
  • Dogs: Yes

Trailhead For Columbine Lake:

A mountain View looking out From The Trailhead Of Columbine Lake
View Outward From The Trailhead Of Columbine Lake

The parking lot at the trailhead for Columbine Lake is much smaller than the demand for the hike. So we highly suggest arriving early if you want to secure a spot.

There are a few other spots along the road where you can park but it adds additional distance to an already challenging hike. But in some circumstances, it is your only option. 

There are no bathrooms at the trailhead, so be sure to use the facilities in town before arriving. Or follow the Leave No Trace principles if you need to relieve yourself along the hike. 

Start Of Columbine Lake Hike:

A view of a red mountain in the distance through the forest as you hike Columbine Lake
Thick Forest As You Start The Hike Of Columbine Lake Hike

Be prepared to start climbing from the start of the hike and continually climb most of the route. The hike climbs up 2,933 feet in just over 4 miles.

Most of the trail is well maintained, so you won’t lose your footing along the trail. 

The hike first starts off meandering through the forest along a narrow dirt path. After a couple of miles, you will notice you reached tree line and the forest quickly ends, exposing you to the sun. So be sure to bring sunscreen, a hat, and layers to protect yourself once you reach this point. 

Along The Columbine Lake Trail:

Along Columbine Lake Hike
Along Columbine Lake Hike

After the first 2 miles you will reach above tree line and quickly come into an open tundra. The path is well-maintained along a dirt path. The hike will still continually climb up in elevation. 

Once you reach the tundra, you will see the path leading you to a rock face where you will eventually hit the only flat section of the hike. But don’t be fooled as this section is short before you start to climb again to Columbine Lake (although much more gradually). 

Once you get onto this ridge, the landscape begins to change surrounding you among tall mountain peaks. Continue on the path to the left as it will lead you up to Columbine Lake. 

Emily throwing her hands up as she reaches Columbine Lake
Emily throwing her hands up as she reaches Columbine Lake

Columbine Lake:

Columbine Lake
Columbine Lake

You have now reached Columbine Lake! The lake you just worked so hard for. It is quite the climb, but the reward at the end is majestic. 

If you are up for more adventure, you can walk around the whole lake, but Jake and I were pretty exhausted once we reached the lake, so we decided to take a seat and enjoy a snack.

Staring into the aqua blue water while eating a snack is one of the best rewards after hiking this steep climb. We even had the lake to ourselves for the first 20 minutes or so (we came late in the season). 

Jake posing up on a rock with Columbine Lake in the background
Jake at Columbine Lake

Hike Back Down:

Emily hiking back down Columbine Lake Trail with mountain peaks in the distance
Hike Back Down Columbine Lake

The hike back down to the trailhead will be a knee buster. We suggest hiking poles if you own some for the route back down. Simply just follow the same dirt path you climbed up on the way back down. Be extra cautious as there are many spots with loose gravel.

Emily hiking back down Columbine Lake Trail with red mountain peaks in the distance
Hiking Back Down Columbine Lake

Backpacking At Columbine Lake:

During the summer months, Columbine is a great lake to backpack to.

There are a handful of spots along the route up and some great spots around the lake. It will add difficulty to the hike as you will be carrying up 20+ lbs of extra gear, but will be well worth it to spend extra time up at the lake. 

Be sure to camp at least 200 feet away from the lake or creek. And follow Leave No Trace Principles. 

Camping Near Columbine Lake:

Camping near Columbine Lake Trailhead
Camping near Columbine Lake Trailhead

If you are looking to camp around the trailhead there are a few spots you can disperse camp along the road. Although, many of the spots are exposed and offer a small camping area.

But we parked along Mineral Creek on Road 820. Can you spot our van toward the bottom of the photo (pictured above)? You will maybe find a total of 5 small pull offs where you can camp along Road 820. 

Or check out our post 3 Great Websites For Free Camping to find campsites around the area. 

Hotels or Other Accommodations:

If camping isn’t your thing, use to find hotels nearby! Or consider booking a Vrbo.

One of our personal favorite options is to rent a campervan or RV from Outdoorsy or RVezy.

For more information about Outdoorsy & RVezy, check out our post: Outdoorsy Vs. RVezy Review | Which Rental Service Is Better

What To Pack:

Emily packing trail mix in her backpack which is one of the essentials for your hiking pack

Hiking at elevation does require a little extra thought on what to pack for a hike. The weather at the trailhead can be drastically different at the top of a mountain. So we suggest bringing a layer to put on at the top.

Depending on the time of year, the suggested clothes might change. Although we always suggest a merino wool layer, such as Unbound Merino or Isobaa.

Check out our favorite hiking gear, here! We include our favorite hiking poles, backpacks, rain layer, snacks and more!

Refer to our post: 8 Essentials For Your Hiking Pack for additional help!

If you are looking for other great blue lake hikes in the area, check out Blue Lakes, Ice Lake and Island Lake

Takeaway | Columbine Lake Near Silverton, CO Ultimate Hikers Guide:

Emily at Columbine Lake
Emily at Columbine Lake

Columbine Lake offers one of the most stunning blue lake views in Colorado. If you are up for the challenge, this hike is so worth the climb.

Southwest Colorado is home to many beautiful aqua blue lakes, so be sure to check out some others if you are staying around the area for an extended period of time.

Also, many of these mountain towns have great shops, restaurants, and breweries.

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