Powderhorn Lakes

Gunnison, Colorado 81247

Powderhorn Lakes

Powderhorn Lakes Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"The Powderhorn Lakes are the centerpiece of the Powderhorn Wilderness Area, a 60,100-acre preserve that in 1993 became Colorado’s first BLM-managed wilderness. Like the rest of the San Juan Mountains, the geology of the Powderhorn Wilderness is volcanic, but here the topography is very different.

Instead of the high, rugged peaks normally associated with the San Juans, the terrain in this area is comprised mostly of huge, flat mesas topped with treeless meadows that extend for miles across the alpine tundras. The mesas are the result of a vast amount of volcanic debris-up to 5,000 feet deep in some places-that was deposited in the area between 10 and 35 million years ago. The scenic Powderhorn Lakes are situated in a deep pocket 700 feet below the eastern side of one of the mesas."

More Powderhorn Lakes Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Hiking Colorado's Western Slope (Falcon Guides)
Bill Haggerty
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"Scoured by glaciation, the Calf Creek Plateau/Cannibal Plateau area—located in the heart of the 62,690-acre Powderhorn Wilderness—is one of the largest unbroken expanses of alpine tundra in the United States."
100 Classic Hikes in Colorado (The Mountaineers Books)
Scott S. Warren
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"Although the 60,100-acre Powderhorn Wilderness Area is best known for its extensive alpine plateaus, this out-of-the-way wilderness also features some beautiful lakes and prime timbered areas. This hike accesses the heart of this wilderness in relatively short order by following the Powderhorn Lakes Trail to the wilderness area’s namesake lakes. Administered by both the BLM and the Gunnison National Forest, the Powderhorn Wilderness Area came into existence with the 1993 Colorado Wilderness Act. For years prior to that, the BLM’s portion of the tract was included in the Powderhorn Primitive Area."

Powderhorn Lakes Trip Reports

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Absolutely a great hike. Driving through BLM land at first is fun and doesn't prepare you for what you will see on the hike in. We hiked to the upper lake. Great views along the way and good chance to see wildlife. The view from the lakes edge to the high cliffs above are worth the hike alone. We were treated to a large bird of prey flying around the lake. Did have a lot of rain while there but plenty of great campsites along the edge of the lake. Fishing was good, rainbow trout in the 10-12 inch range caught on flies.

Powderhorn Lakes Photos

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Trail Information

Nearby City
1,100 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Skill Level
6.5 hours
Midsummer through mid-fall. The higher parts of the trail are generally covered with snow from mid-November until mid-July.
Powderhorn Wilderness Area, BLM, Montrose
Local Contacts
Powderhorn Lakes (USGS)
Local Maps

Trail Log