Length: 2+ miles round-trip
Difficulty: Easy
Why we love it: It’s a serene stroll alongside a pretty lake with beautiful views
When to go: April through October; this hike is at its best during leaf season and while the high peaks are still covered in snow
Pre-hike Buzz: Stop by the green brick City on a Hill Coffee & Espresso in Leadville for coffee made from freshly roasted beans and a slice of Quiche Lorraine or old-fashioned buttermilk biscuit.
Restrooms: None at the trailhead
Dogs: Allowed

In the shadow of Colorado’s two highest mountains, Mount Elbert (14,433 feet) and Mount Massive (14,421 feet), the Twin Lakes are a favorite retreat for boating, fishing, and simply relaxing. As a bonus, a short segment of the merged Continental Divide and Colorado trails ambles through the forest along the lakes’ southern shores.

The trail begins next to the Colorado Trail sign and closely follows the water. With no concrete landmark to reach, the distance for this out-and-back hike is whatever length you desire. This, along with almost no vertical rise, makes it an ideal early-season outing, especially this year, when the state’s highest peaks are still covered with feet of snow. It’s also perfect for a quick break when driving along Independence Pass, out-of-town guests, and kids.

In the first couple of miles, you pass a couple of junctions; just keep heading right to parallel the shore, where between the spruce, fir, and aspen trees the views of the peaks are unbeatable, especially in the rich, morning light. Many people walk this trail to find a picnic spot or go fishing in the lakes, which were carved by glaciers and (much more recently) expanded to provide a steady supply of Western Slope water for irrigation projects, as well as for people living along the Front Range.

Getting there: From downtown Leadville, follow US-24 south about 14 miles to CO-82 (signed for Independence Pass and Aspen). Turn right onto CO-82 and follow it 0.8 miles to County Road 25. Turn left onto this rough dirt road, which is passable for most 2WD cars, and follow it about a mile to the trailhead. The route here can be a little confusing; the road leads past the dam before bending 90 degrees near a “Day Use Only” sign. From here, continue straight on the widest, most major-looking road past several junctions. After a few twists and turns, the road ends at a battered Colorado Trail sign.

Terri Cook
Terri Cook
Terri Cook is an award-winning freelance writer based in Boulder. More of her work can be found at down2earthscience.com.