- Difficulty: Moderate
- Type: Out and Back
- Distance: 5.5 round-trip
- Elevation Gain: ~900 feet
After just over an hour’s hike through a wonderfully dense forest, the trees open up and over the hill sits Timberline Lake, appearing as if the curtains had just been pulled.
Timberline Lake sits at the base of a rigid mountain bowl about 10 miles west of Leadville, Colo. and is perfect for both day hikers and overnight backpackers.
Timberline Lake Trail is well-marked and is mostly shaded by the dense forest. A small, cold creek flows alongside you as you wind up the mountain. The trail is single track and is mostly cleared of difficult rocks or roots. The most difficult spot will be the last half-mile as you gain most of your elevation here, but I’m telling you: The view is spectacular over the hill!
I was surprised at the absence of people, considering it is do-able for any type of wanderer; whether you’re a trail runner, an avid backpacker or a take-your-time walker.
Timberline Lake Trail is a perfect test run for beginner backpackers. The one burst of steep incline at the end of the trail gives you a taste of carrying your pack against gravity. Although you’re just 2.5 miles out of town, it feels like you’re way out in the sticks.
Finding a destination near water, such as Timberline Lake, is typically a gold star on every backpacker’s list in case of the need for more drinking water. However, keep in mind that your bodily fluids (or solids) should be rid of at least 200 feet away from any water source, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The trail can easily be conquered in a half-day, but this area is an easy escape from the city for a weekend and a remote area to practice outdoor skills.
FollowMyBootPrints to Timberline Lake and experience the wonder of this hidden Colorado gem!
Know Before You Go:
- No bathrooms at the top so brush up on your backcountry bathroom etiquette.
- Dogs must be on-leash.
- Plan for wet shoes as you continue the hike around the lake.
- Fishing is allowed by catch and release.
- Overnight visitors must have a permit for each person. Find it here.
From Leadville, head south on Harrison Avenue. Turn right onto West 6th Street. Turn right onto County Road 4 and follow signs to Turquoise Lake. Timberline Lake trailhead is at the western end of Turquoise Lake.