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blue American Lake

  4.4 ( 7 ) Favorite


6.5 mile 10.4 kilometer loop


Ascent: 1,972' 601 m
Descent: -1,972' -601 m
High: 11,370' 3,466 m
Low: 9,412' 2,869 m


Avg Grade: 12% (7°)
Max Grade: 29% (16°)


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Trail shared by Megan W

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

Megan W

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


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.


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!

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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
Jun 30, 2018
Ezequiel Treister
Awesome hike with George 6.5mi
Oct 14, 2017
Michael Ahnemann
Beautiful hike with consistent grade leads to a spectacular greenish blue alpine lake.
Oct 8, 2016
Zach Dressander
Sep 24, 2016
Nick Pantier
Amazing foliage. Beautiful dusting of snow at the top. Much colder at the top, pretty warm hike up the switch backs. 5mi — 2h 05m

Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 7 votes


  4.4 from 7 votes
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