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Columbine Lake Trail #509

 5.0 (11)

A strenuous climb to a 12,700-foot glacial lake surrounded by rugged high-alpine charm.

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Point to Point

12,659' 3,858 m


10,403' 3,171 m


2,295' 700 m


40' 12 m



Avg Grade (8°)


Max Grade (39°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Accessible year round by way of snowshoe, but the avalanche danger is high here.

Stay on trail to protect the fragile high-alpine grasses. Camping is allowed, but plan on moving your tent every two days.

Only experienced climbers should attempt the surrounding peaks. Be careful of loose scree.

Narrow, 4wd road to access trailhead has very few parking pullouts (~4-6). Not recommended.
Steep trail NOT advised for most inexperienced visitors.


With its more popular neighbor to the south - Ice Lakes - attracting most visitors, the lesser known Columbine Lake Trail still offers the best that the alpine backcountry has to offer.

Starting right in on the switchbacks, the trail gains its first 1,000 feet of elevation in no time as it ascends the expansive and heavily wooded eastern arm of Lookout Peak, bringing with it spotty views of the mountain peaks across the highway.

Just 1.1 miles from the trailhead, the route exits the trees, leveling briefly inside its first basin before climbing into its next. With the wider horizons, views of Anvil Mountain and Ohio Peak open up, as well as the higher 13,000-foot peaks that rise against Silverton’s southwestern edge. In the furthest distances, you can spot the imposing silhouettes of Arrow, Vestal and the three Trinity Peaks of my favorite sub-range, the Needles.

With a few more easy ups and downs, the trail reaches the eastern shores of Columbine Lake. From here, you can continue up the arduous scree covered slopes to Columbine Pass for a new perspective on Lewis Lake and Mine.

Another option is to stay to the hiker's left of the trail that leads to the lake - there's an obvious alternative across a talus slope above the outflow stream. Climb the knob left of the lake - there are tremendous views of both the lake and across the valley at the Grenadiers and the peaks around Silverton. It's an easy hike back down to lakeside and worth the effort. And just remember, the distance described in the hike header as "3.3 miles" only covers the hike UP to the lake!

Flora & Fauna

Thick forests encompass the switchbacks of the lowest fourth of the trail before pulling out into the wide tundra above treeline.

You are likely to find a few chipmunks or marmots above treeline, as well as bears and deer in the forests.

For fisherman, Columbine Lake is rated good for brook trout.


Shared By:

Caroline Cordsen with improvements by Elizabeth Butler

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 11 votes


in Silverton


  5.0 from 11 votes
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in Silverton


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107 Views Last Month
10,047 Since Jul 7, 2017



Paintbrush in Mill Creek Basin.
Aug 11, 2017 near Telluride, CO
Columbine Lake
Aug 11, 2017 near Telluride, CO
Looking across the valley towards Silverton and the Grenadier range.
Aug 11, 2017 near Telluride, CO
Leaving the treeline - the lower basin.
Aug 11, 2017 near Silverton, CO



Current Trail Conditions

Update Conditions
Minor Issues 22 days ago See History
Add Your Check-In


Jun 6, 2022
Jeremy Fee
8 miles round trip. Snowy past the saddle and the lake is still mostly frozen. Beautiful views and worth the hike, next time I'll wait til July ish 8mi — 4h 40m
Sep 13, 2021
Jessica Flowers
Jul 3, 2021
The Turk
Jul 29, 2020
Chaunna S
Started at trailhead off 820, first 1.25 was somewhat steep, second mile from tree line up to saddle very steep, once at saddle very nice hike to lak 7.5mi — 5h 11m
Jul 26, 2020
Marc Corona
Jul 25, 2020
Scotty Freidline
Came from ophir pass, up the drainage from southeast 4.8mi — 4h 00m
Jul 19, 2020
Brandon Armstrong
Jul 5, 2020
Gina Marie
3.3mi — 2h 45m