I came across Crater Lake in The Outbound App one day and just knew I had to go there. The photos were absolutely stunning. We did our research and decided this would be a great first backpacking trip.
Length of Trip: 2 days +
Trail: Monarch Lake Trail to Cascade Trail to Mirror Lake to Crater Lake
Length: 14.8 RT
Elevation Gain: 2,100+
Where: Indian Peaks National Wilderness
Directions: Denver to the Monarch Trailhead
Backpacking Crater Lake, Lone Eagle Peak
This hike was incredibly beautiful but also really hard! Clay and I had not been hiking regularly, instead, we were having a way to much fun at weddings, Telluride Bluegrass and Widespread Panic. This hike really beat us up.
The hike is 14.8 miles round trip with a little over 2,000-foot in elevation gain. The climb with a full backpack was a doozy. BUT, IT WAS SO WORTH IT! Lone Eagle Peak is absolutely gorgeous. The peak stands out starkly against the mountains and reflects beautifully onto Crater Lake.
The name of the area is a little confusing as there are a number of Crater Lakes in Colorado. The Outbound App calls the area Crater Lake but Lone Eagle Peak is that big giant rock reflecting in the water. Bellow Crater Lake is Mirror Lake, which is also beautiful and how I also saw the area listed. But what’s even more confusing is that your hike starts at Monarch Lake. Confusing!
Anyhow, it’s a fabulous hike. I only wish we had given ourselves more time to enjoy the area. We got to the trailhead around 9:30 am and made it to camp by 2:30 pm right as a summer storm was rolling in.
The hike starts out relatively flat passing Monarch Lake then a series of waterfalls along Cascade Creek. The last few miles of the trail is straight up, this is where we really started to feel the burn. We found an open campsite on the left side of the lake set up our tent and then we both passed out for two hours as the rain came down. The sounds of raindrops on a tent is actually quite soothing and we slept like babies. When we woke up, we only had a few hours of sunlight left. We walked around made friends with our neighbors and of course, took a thousand photos.
After dinner, we slept like babies. We woke up early to break camp and get back down the trail. About halfway down, I went to adjust my bra and popped a blister that had formed from the strap of my pack. Pretty painful.
Our legs were toast. As we hobbled back to the car we both wished we had been a little more in shape and had more time to explore the area. I hope to go backpack there again but hopefully a little less painful.
Crater Lake Hike Details
Crater Lake Camping Permit
You will need to obtain a permit if you plan on hiking from June 1 – September 15th. Permits are now available online via recreation.gov for the 2021 season all advanced permits are taken but they do reserve some permits for 3-day in advance booking, get all the details here.
Crater Lake Camping Sites
We passed some rangers on the trail that said were their favorite camping sites were dead on with Lone Eagle Peak across the lake. Those spots were taken by the time we arrived but we found a nice shaded spot on the left side of the lake. Since each spot needs a permit the entire area feels secluded.
I haven’t had any luck finding a map of the campsites on the internet but if you’re looking at the lake we camped to the left, almost to the base of the peak. We could see other people set up around the lake so it looked each spot had a pretty great view.
There were soooo many little nats all over the place, so bring lots of bug spray. We sprayed all over the damn places even on top of our tent there were literally thousands of them!!
More Info on the Hike
Hiking Project – This is a must have hiking app from REI – you can download a trail so even without service you know where you are going. Yay for GPS
The Outbound – Great description and info on the hike!
Forrest Service – Info on the area and how to get a permit
If you hike to Crater Lake/Lone Eagle Peak tag me in your pics! I would love to see and hear about your adventure. For more hikes out and outdoor adventures check out the outdoors section of the blog.