Between Trinidad and La Veta, Colorado, the North Lake State Wildlife Area is an easily accessible designated wilderness area found along the Highway of Legends (State Highway 12) in Las Animas County. North Lake SWA is bordered by private land and the San Isabel National Forest and is found just north of Monument Lake Park.
In total, the SWA covers 840 acres of protected, scenic territory in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which ranges from 8,478 to 9,905 feet in elevation. There are many, designated parking areas with posted information in the North Lake SWA, which offers visitors a chance to stop, stretch their legs, and enjoy the remote alpine territory.
To visit North Lake SWA, a valid Colorado fishing, hunting, or public land license is required for all guests over the age of eighteen. The SWA is centered around the north fork of the Purgatoire River and the North Lake Reservoir, which was created in 1907 to supply water to Trinidad.
Birding and Wildlife: For birders, North Fork Rd in the SWA provides some of the best access to high-elevation habitats in southern Colorado. Here, visitors may spot dippers and owls within the dense Rocky Mountain wilderness. Furthermore, the North Lake SWA is frequented by a large variety of wildlife including black bears, deer, elk, porcupines, minks, and more.
Boating: Boating is permitted on North Lake for crafts propelled by hand, wind, or electric motor. Gas-powered boats are strictly prohibited and wakeless travel is popular for floats, kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards. There is a boat ramp located on the north shore of the water, near the restrooms.
Camping: Camping is prohibited in the North Lake SWA. However, the Purgatoire Campground is operated by the US Forest Service just beyond the SWA’s western border. Here, campsites require a small fee and can be reserved in advance. Amenities include picnic tables, fire rings, grills, horse stables, and access to pit toilets and water.
Fishing: Licensed anglers can enjoy cold water lake and stream fishing in the North Lake SWA. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department stocks North Lake each year, with a variety of brown, rainbow, and cutthroat trout, as well as splake and kokanee salmon. Fishing is permitted both from the shore or surface of North Lake and ice fishing is permitted when the water is frozen over.
Hunting: Hunting is permitted in the designated safety zone of the North Lake SWA. Licensed and permitted hunters can find big and small game including deer, elk, bear, and turkey,
Trails: At the campground on the west end of the SWA, hiking trails are available for further exploration of the wilderness by foot, mountain bike, or horseback.
Picnicking: Picnic tables, restrooms, and drinking water are all available in the North Lake State Wildlife Area at no additional fee.
Address: North Lake State Wildlife Area, Highway 12, Weston, CO, 81091
Hours: Open during daylight hours
Fees: Valid state hunting, fishing, or public lands license required
Maps: North Lake SWA (PDF)