South of Westcliffe, Colorado, the South Colony Lakes are a set of scenic backcountry waters in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area of the San Isabel National Forest. The South Colony Lakes is located in Custer County, on the east side of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, north of Grand Sand Dunes National Park.
There are three main bodies of water within the South Colony Lakes, each of which can be reached on the South Colony Lake Trail. The journey to the lakes is considered moderately difficult, with most visitors staying overnight in the backcountry.
South Colony Lakes Access
There are two parking lots located at the end of South Colony Rd to access the South Colony Lakes Trail #1339. Due to popularity, both parking lots may be full in peak hiking seasons. Trail access is open to day-hikers, backpackers, and horseback riders; mountain biking is prohibited.
While the upper parking lot may be technically accessible by all vehicles, 2WD and low-clearance vehicles are strongly advised to park in the lower parking lot and access the trailhead on foot. Vehicles with 4WD and high clearance will be much better suited to reach the upper parking lot.
A great spot to spend time in nature, popular activities at South Colony Lakes include camping, fishing, hiking, and horseback riding.
Birding and Wildlife: The entire South Colony Basin is filled with a wide range of bird species, including hawks, jays, sparrows, nutcrackers, pipits, bluebirds, dippers, chickadees, warblers, and hummingbirds. On the ground, visitors may also encounter bears, bobcats, squirrels, pikas, elk, deer, fox, coyote, marmot, and other Rocky Mountain creatures.
Camping: There are many backcountry spots for primitive camping near the South Colony Lakes, with “Leave No Trace” policies strongly encouraged. Obvious campsites are available along the road, on the trail, and around the South Colony Lakes’ shorelines. It should be mentioned that there are no water or facilities available in any of these free camping areas.
Fishing: The South Colony Lakes are filled with cutthroat and other trout species, which can be fished with a proper state license. Anglers are welcome to fish in the lakes as well as the streams along the way with generally peaceful, and favorable fishing conditions reported.
Hiking: In total, a round trip journey to visit all of the South Colony Lakes encompasses roughly 9 moderately difficult hiking miles. With frequent stream crossings along the way, the first major lake is found approximately 3.5 miles into the trail before reaching a peak elevation of nearly 12,100 feet.
In July, it is very common to see wildflowers among the dramatic forest and mountain views along the trail. Beyond the lakes, the Old South Colony Lakes Trailhead can also be used access to three of the area’s 14ers: Humboldt Peak, Crestone Needle, and Crestone Peak.
Horseback Riding: Horseback riding and camping are permitted on the South Colony Lakes Trail, although the horses themselves are not permitted within 300 feet of the lakes to protect the water and local ecosystem.
There are other activities found in the surrounding San Isabel National Forest.
Address: Old South Colony Lakes Trailhead | S Colony Rd, Westcliffe, CO 81252
Season: Year-round | Best from March – October
Map: fs.usda.gov… (PDF)