Priest Lake is a small, manmade lake located south of Telluride, Colorado in the Uncompahgre National Forest near Lizard Head Pass. There are no developed facilities at Priest Lake, but visitors are offered sweeping views of the pine and aspen forests at nearly 10,000 feet in elevation.
Priest Lake is the primary body of water in the “Priest Lakes” system, which also includes two smaller lakes located on the north side of the water. The wet meadows of the area make Priest Lake perfect for viewing seasonal wildflowers.
Activities at Priest Lake
Priest Lake is free to visit and is easily accessed nearly 30 minutes south of Telluride. There is one vault toilet on site, but visitors must bring their own water and pack out all trash. Visitors will plenty to do within the Uncompahgre National Forest, surrounding Priest Lakes.
Birding & Wildlife: Priest Lakes’ serene alpine setting and dense forestry make it home to many native wildlife species including deer, elk, grouse, crossbills, and more. The area is usually uncrowded, which makes wildlife sightings quite common around the lake.
Boating: Priest Lake is quite shallow, but small non-motorized boats are permitted. This makes Priest Lake popular for standup paddle boards, as well as fishing from canoes, kayaks, and floats.
Camping: There are 6 designated dispersed campsites available for free overnight stays at Priest Lake, maintained by the National Forest Service. A maximum of 7 days per 30-day period is permitted and RVs and trailers are not recommended here.
Read about the camping near Telluride, Ophir and Rico.
Fishing: Although it is often overshadowed by the neighboring Trout Lake, Priest Lake also offers great fishing opportunities for the area’s native brook trout. A valid Colorado fishing license is required at Priest Lake and in its surrounding waters.
Trails: Priest Lake is a great basecamp for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, or off-roading in the area. Here, visitors can easily access the popular 17.6-mile Galloping Goose Trail, which offers a great mix of scenery and historical points of interest. Many of the roads around Priest Lake can also be accessed via snowmobile in the winter.
Address: Priest Lake, Priest Lake Rd, Telluride, CO 81435
Season: Summer, access blocked by snow in winter
Maps & Information: Uncompahgre Area Camping Guide (PDF)