This is not an adventure for the faint of heart, as to do it in one day you'd be walking about 16 miles. But wow is it worth it! This place is other-worldly beautiful. Probably the most magical place in the gorgeous Indian Peaks Wilderness, and also one of the most remote. Lone Eagle Peak is ridiculously jagged and stunning, towering above Mirror and Crater Lake, looking like Colorado's own Matterhorn.
This hike begins at the Monarch Lake Trailhead, just past Lake Granby. You will need a pass to park here and it cannot be purchased at the trailhead, you need to purchase it from the pay station right after you turn onto County Road 6 and before the dam. For details on the fee click HERE. Also note, bring bug spray on this one, as mosquitos are common.
The trail starts by skirting along the North side of Monarch Lake. Keep an eye out for moose, plenty of which frequent this area. As you pass the lake you will start a gentle climb into the forest, following Cascade Creek. Follow the signs towards Crater Lake and you will come across four pretty spectacular waterfalls, a great place to stop for a snack and take in the views!
Past the fourth waterfall you will come to the junction to head towards Pawnee Pass or Crater Lake. Head towards Crater Lake, and you will have one slightly dicey stream crossing, depending on how much water is flowing at the time. Watch your footing and continue your way up to beautiful Mirror Lake.
Mirror Lake sits directly below Lone Eagle and is aptly named, providing a prefect natural reflecting pool for the peak on calm days, truly spectacular place for photography! Bask in the beauty of Mirror Lake, then take the trail on the West side of the lake, which winds up to Crater Lake. The trail can be confusing with downed trees and lots of branch-offs, but just continue up and follow signs to the higher numbered campsites and you will arrive at Crater Lake.
Crater Lake sits up a bit higher and off to the side of Lone Eagle. While it doesn't offer the same picturesque views of Lone Eagle, it does have incredible 360 views of the entire ridge-line of the basin you are in, and is extremely peaceful and serene. A gorgeous waterfall cascades down from the peaks near the South end of the lake. Take your time to appreciate the absolute beauty you are immersed in, and remember to leave no trace, keep this magical place pristine. Pack out any trash, yours as well as any you find left by others.
Overall, this really is one of the most gorgeous and surreal places in all of Colorado. If you are up for the mileage I cannot recommend this adventure enough. It really is one of those places you need to see in person, pictures can't even capture the beauty.
One of the best ways to enjoy this area is to backpack in and camp, however you will need a permit from June 1st to Sept 15th. Permits for Crater Lake Campground sold out in minutes this year, but you can always camp at a nearby area and hike into Crater Lake to see it. You can check permit availability HERE.
This hike starts at the Monarch Lake Trailhead, near Granby. You will need a pass to park here and it cannot be purchased at the trailhead, you need to purchase it from the pay station right after you turn onto County Road 6 and before the dam. For details on the fee click HERE. This is a popular trailhead with limited spots, so as always, plan accordingly.