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Monarch Lake to Crater Lake

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.9 (85) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

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


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Map Key

14.9

Miles

24.0

KM

Out and Back

10,343' 3,153 m

High

8,350' 2,545 m

Low

2,017' 615 m

Up

2,017' 615 m

Down

5%

Avg Grade (3°)

25%

Max Grade (14°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Overview

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.

Need to Know

During the summer and especially during the weekend, backpacking permits can run out. Be sure to call ahead of time if you are looking to camp overnight.

Description

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.

Contacts

Shared By:

Kristen Arendt with improvements by Kat W

Trail Ratings

  4.9 from 85 votes

#1

in Monarch Lake

#3

Overall
  4.9 from 85 votes
5 Star
89%
4 Star
9%
3 Star
1%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#1

in Monarch Lake

#2

in Colorado

#3

Overall
3,399 Views Last Month
151,880 Since Jul 24, 2015
Intermediate/Difficult

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Photos

Lone Eagle Peak above Mirror - from the Crater Lake Trail
Apr 14, 2015 near Granby, CO
Lone Eagle Peak reflected in unnamed small pond
Apr 14, 2015 near Granby, CO
Crater Lake and Mt Achonee (12,649')
Aug 14, 2018 near Granby, CO
Looking southward at Lone Eagle Peak
Jul 9, 2018 near Granby, CO
Monarch Lake trailhead in the early morning
Aug 14, 2018 near Granby, CO
At the cirque. Pure happiness.
Oct 29, 2017 near Granby, CO

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

Update Conditions
All Clear 12 days ago See History
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Check-Ins

Sep 26, 2020
Jesse Barr
Sep 12, 2020
Brian Rishel
8h 00m
Sep 6, 2020
Bill Blanford
Beautiful waterfalls, Lakes, Mountains 16mi — 8h 00m
Aug 25, 2020
Erin Andersen
Exquisitely beautiful with waterfalls galore, the rushing sound of Cascade/Buchanan Creeks and Lone Eagle Peak (what a treat!). Includes side trips. 17.1mi — 8h 16m
Jul 31, 2020
Cynthia B.
Jul 21, 2020
Laura Humes
We only went to the water fall and then turned back. We saw a moose in the lake at the end. Beautiful hike with waterfalls all the way up and back. 9.6mi — 4h 51m
Jul 20, 2020
Pendilton Whaley
Jul 7, 2020
Tom Westhoff