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BLM>Colorado>Field Offices>Gunnison>Recreation>Hiking Information>Hiking Trails>Powderhorn Lakes Trail
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Powderhorn Lakes Trail, T#3030
Length: 4 miles to Lower Powderhorn Lake; 4.5 miles to Upper Powderhorn Lake
Difficulty: Moderate walking at high altitude
Season of use: Mid-June through October
Amount of Use: Moderate hiking, backpacking, and horse use
Elevation Change:
    Beginning: 11,200 ft.
    Ending: 11,600 ft. or 11,860 ft.

Location Map

Topo Map

How to Get There: From Gunnison go 9 miles west on Hwy. 50, take Hwy. 149 south for 20 miles. Turn left on Indian Creek Road (County Rd. 58) and continue on a rough 2-wheel drive road for 10 miles. The trailhead sign and parking area are at the end of the road.

Trailhead Parking/Camping: Parking is available at the trailhead. Low impact camping is permitted all along the trail. You will note that popular campsites near the lakes have been affected by camping use. We would prefer that you continue to use these sites rather than impacting new areas. Minimize your impacts by using existing fire rings, keep your fires small and burn only dead and down wood. Better yet use a stove.

Photo of Powderhorn Lake
Photo by Arden AndersonCopyright

Attractions: This trail leads to both Lower and Upper Powderhorn Lakes. The trail climbs through a Spruce forest to a large meadow at 11,700 ft. The meadow contains a wide variety of wild flowers and, from the northern rim, offers good views to the north. If you're quiet and lucky you may see elk grazing in the meadow in the early morning or late evening. The lakes themselves are set in a beautiful cirque basin. The Lower Powderhorn Lake provides fair to good trout fishing as do the stream and beaver ponds of the West Fork of Powderhorn Creek. The Upper Powderhorn Lake sometimes has fish and sometimes suffers from winter kill. 

Narrative: The first 1.5 miles of the trail climbs through a mature spruce/fire forest, emerging into a scenic meadow. The route crosses the meadow and goes back into the woods, continuing to rise and fall across several small drainages. At mile 3 the trail climbs fairly steeply and emerges in a meadow beside some beaver ponds at the West Fork of Powderhorn Creek. Here, the trail splits. Follow the right fork .25 mile further upstream to the lower lake. The trail skirts the west side of the lower lake and follows the creek for another .5 mile to the upper lake.

Hazards/Considerations: Be sure to take a map of the area and compass to aid you in staying on the right path. It is important to be prepared for typical July and August afternoon thunder showers. It is best to get an early start and avoid ridges and open areas during storms to avoid lightning strikes. Be sure to take sunscreen, rain gear, and drinking water. Remember, hiking at high altitudes requires more time and energy. Take your time, enjoy the scenery and avoid over-exertion. Be sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return. Please practice catch & release fishing as much as possible.

Additional Information: Powderhorn Lakes Trail can be used in conjunction with the East Fork Trail, the Middle Fork Trail, and the Powderhorn Park Trail for a beautiful 3 or 4 day trip.

Powderhorn Lakes Trail Location Map


Created by the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado
Point of Contact:
Jim Lovelace

Last modified: January 6, 2011