Monarch Lake to Crater Lake

 15 votes

14.9 Miles 24.0 Kilometers



2,017' 615 m


-2,017' -615 m


10,343' 3,153 m


8,350' 2,545 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (14°)

All Clear

14 hours agoUpdate

Gorgeous scenery with waterfalls and wildflowers ending at a breathtaking cirque and glacier lake.

Kristen Arendt


This hike has a great mix of scenery and culminates with a spectacular view of Lone Eagle Peak towering over Crater Lake. The trail follows Buchanan and Cascade Creeks much of the way and has vantage points that overlook multiple waterfalls. Although Crater Lake is only ~8 miles back into the Indian Peaks Wilderness, this trail feels remote and you'll enjoy a quiet outing with a few other trail users.
Features: Fall Colors — Lake — River/Creek — Views — Waterfall — Wildflowers — Wildlife


The hike starts from Monarch Lake which is located on the east side of Lake Granby. Start by checking in at the Ranger Station at the parking lot and heading out on the north side of the Monarch Lake Loop (a flat, easy 4-mile loop around Monarch Lake). On the far side of the lake at ~ 1.5 miles, stay left on Cascade Trail to start the climb.

The climb starts with some easy switchbacks through aspen and pine groves winding along Buchanan Creek. Wildflowers are abundant here and you should also keep an eye open for moose during the spring and summer. There are several waterfalls along Buchanan Creek and Cascade Creek.

There are two major trail intersections both of which are clearly marked. At ~3.5 miles, stay right on Cascade Trail at the split for Buchanan Pass Trail. At the second intersection at ~6.5 miles, stay right again to head toward Crater Lake. The trail to the left continues onto Pawnee Pass Trail.

After the intersection for Pawnee Pass Trail, you'll come to an open meadow with a large boulder field on the left-hand side. The trail crosses a large flat rock bed here and is marked by rock cairns. Follow the cairns, and you'll pick up the dirt singletrack again on the far side where several steep switchbacks will then take you up to the lake basin.

The trail appears to dead-end at Mirror Lake which is a small lake with Lone Eagle Peak in the background. Don't stop here, however, as you can pick up a singletrack trail on the west side of Mirror Lake that will take you to Crater Lake and the stunning view of Lone Eagle Peak and Mt. Achonee. Backcountry campsites are available around Crater Lake if you need more time to take in the view!

Flora & Fauna

Abundant wildflowers in the summer and aspen groves with lots of color in the fall. Look for deer and moose in the meadows along the creek.


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4.9 from 15 votes

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Your Check-Ins


Jul 15, 2017
Chad Fuller VI
Jul 15, 2017
EJ Freet
Jul 13, 2017
Kelly Olatunji
Spectacular hike! I lost count of all the waterfalls along these trails, and the finish at Crater Lake is one of my all time favorite views. The t... 14.9mi
Jul 9, 2017
Will Swope
Couple of difficult water crossings, make sure logs are stable before crossing. Some muddy patches and small amount of snow in final 2 miles.
Jul 9, 2017
Ellen Jardine
Columbines everywhere! Uncommonly beautiful and quiet. 14.9mi
Jul 8, 2017
Matthew Glazier
Jul 1, 2017
Kim Eberly
This is our new favorite hike. The waterfalls and wildflowers were amazing. 15.9mi
Jun 15, 2017
Colton Peter
Made it safely. Lots of snow and downed trees 7.5mi

Trail Ratings

  4.9 from 12 votes


  4.9 from 12 votes
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in Colorado


6,141 Views Last Month
17,201 Since Jul 24, 2015
Intermediate Intermediate



All Clear 14 hours ago
one bridge washed out but easy to navigate
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