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A scenic hike to a collection of crystal-clear lakes set in a stunning high alpine amphitheater.


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Map Key

4.2

Miles

6.7

KM

Out and Back

11,484' 3,500 m

High

10,378' 3,163 m

Low

1,107' 337 m

Up

1,110' 338 m

Down

10%

Avg Grade (6°)

24%

Max Grade (14°)

Dogs Off-leash

Features Fishing · Lake · River/Creek · Views

Overview

Waterdog Lakes is arguably the most popular alpine lake hike close to Salida. This steep, somewhat rugged hike can feel demanding at times, but the beauty of the towering pine forest and the rushing of the stream will help keep your mind off the pain as you climb. Soon, you'll break out into the stunning alpine bowl and reach the shores of the first crystal-clear lake. But keep hiking—there are three different lakes to visit in this basin.

Need to Know

This is also a popular snowshoeing route in the winter.

Description

Thanks to Waterdog Lakes' easy access directly off Monarch Pass / US Highway 50, any car can make it to the trailhead, and it's a quick drive from town. The easy access makes this hike extremely popular, and the parking areas can fill up quickly on weekends.

The hike begins at a well-marked trailhead on the mountainous side of the highway, climbing quickly into the narrow valley alongside a rushing stream. The ascent switchbacks up the valley, but it can still be steep in places, with some loose, rolling rocks and boulders in classic Sawatch style.

If you persevere, you'll eventually reach the first of the Waterdog Lakes. Be sure to enjoy the view, but keep going—this is just the first of three. After reaching the first lake, sometimes the route can get a bit unclear, but the most common way to reach the other two lakes is to pass to the right/north of the first lake, traverse along the east side of the second lake, and then end at the third lake (the smallest).

There is a rugged semblance of a trail that continues beyond the third lake all the way up to the Continental Divide, junctioning with the Continental Divide Trail. That extension is not mapped here, but you may choose to do it for some strenuous bonus miles and the chance to stand on the Divide.

Once you've finished enjoying this stunning alpine lake basin, retrace your steps back down to the highway.

Contacts

Shared By:

Greg Heil with improvements by Jesse Weber

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 1 vote

#2

in Monarch Pass

#2197

Overall
  5.0 from 1 vote
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Recommended Route Rankings

#2

in Monarch Pass

#345

in Colorado

#2,197

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Photos

The first of the three Waterdog Lakes.
Apr 17, 2024 near Whitepine, CO

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