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American Lake

Intermediate
 4.5 (8) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A great destination any time of year, but especially wonderful in Sept. for brilliant fall colors


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Map Key

6.5

Miles

10.4

KM

Loop

11,370' 3,466 m

High

9,412' 2,869 m

Low

1,972' 601 m

Up

1,972' 601 m

Down

12%

Avg Grade (7°)

29%

Max Grade (16°)

Dogs Leashed

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

Overview

This popular trail has just enough elevation gain at altitude to be a good workout. The rewards are ample: beautiful fields of wildflowers, a pristine alpine lake and a heaping dose of colorful aspens. Most folks consider the trail to American Lake to have better fall leaf viewing than its more exposed neighbor Cathedral Lake Trail.

Description

From the limited parking area just off Castle Creek Road, hop across a small stream and enter a fenced meadow encircled by stands of mature aspen. From here, the relentless climb begins via a series of long switchbacks. The going is fairly steep, but you're ensconced in one of the most majestic aspen forests in the area. Occasional views across the valley and intermittent creek burblings keep the ascent from becoming too monotonous.

Just as you begin to suffer from aspen splendor overload, the trail abruptly enters a shady evergreen forest and the grade eases. There are still a few steep pitches through the woods but overall this is where you can recover a bit. The path surface becomes rockier in the woods but the trail is well maintained with deadfall promptly removed. Cross through a couple of grassy meadows where wildflowers thrive and wildlife is often spotted.

Round a spine to head west and enter the Devaney Creek drainage. Here, enjoy a handful of joyous steps of downhill travel. This soon ends as the trail angles up steeply again for the last push to the lake. Emerge from the woods into an alpine wonderland of scree, distant peaks and intense sunlight. Navigate a couple of short talus fields on the way to the water's edge. The small green lake is bounded on two sides by cliffs and rock slides where chirpy pika make their homes. A series of faint secondary trails wind over the banks to reach fishing spots, campsites and viewpoints. It is hard to find a more scenic place for a snack and quiet contemplation.

Horses are allowed on this trail, but there is little evidence of their usage.

Flora & Fauna

Aspens galore!

Contacts

Shared By:

Megan W

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 8 votes

#1982

Overall
  4.5 from 8 votes
5 Star
75%
4 Star
0%
3 Star
25%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#272

in Colorado

#1,982

Overall
199 Views Last Month
4,345 Since Sep 27, 2015
Intermediate

0%
0%
83%
0%
17%
0%

Photos

Be prepared for eye-popping displays of turning aspens in September
Sep 27, 2015 near Aspen, CO
American Lake shimmers invitingly after a steep climb
Sep 27, 2015 near Aspen, CO
Good opportunities to revel in the aspen's colors here
Sep 28, 2015 near Aspen, CO
This is the place to be if you like fall colors
Sep 28, 2015 near Aspen, CO
Progressing up the switchbacks on the American Lake Trail
Sep 28, 2015 near Aspen, CO
One of the pleasant meadows along the American Lake Trail.
Sep 28, 2015 near Aspen, CO

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Check-Ins

Jun 11, 2020
Eric Harrill
6.5mi
May 29, 2020
Oscar Garcia
Aug 18, 2019
Matt Greenfield
Sep 28, 2018
Angel Davis
Sep 22, 2018
Al Smith
Only my 2nd day at this elevation made for a difficult hike along this brutally steep trail. 7mi
Aug 8, 2018
Jess Emmerson
Loved the hike and the views 6.5mi
Jul 28, 2018
Samantha Cooney
6.5mi
Jun 30, 2018
Ezequiel Treister
Awesome hike with George 6.5mi