Square Top Lakes
Square Top Lakes
Trailhead: South Park 600/Square Top Lakes
Distance: 4.3 (moderate)
This trail is definitely a hidden gem. It's literally right across the street from the Mount Bierstadt trailhead, but most people are there to hike the 14er. While there were hundreds of people on the trail to Bierstadt, Logan and I saw approximately 20 people the entire hike up to Square Top Lakes. Which was a welcome change of pace from what I know the Guanella Pass area to be.
After scrounging around for a parking spot (even though this trailhead technically has it's own lot, it's so close to Bierstadt that all of those hikers use it, too), we hit the trail at around 11:45 am (I should say that I don't condone this behavior, because the dark clouds start showing up at noon every day and we were totally exposed the whole time). The trail starts out by immediately losing a few hundred feet of elevation, which Logan and I immediately knew we'd hate on the way back.
The alpine wildflowers were U N B E L I E V A B L E on this hike. I was hoping we were still early enough in the season to see them, and I was not disappointed at all. Everything looked like it had a yellow/red/purple fluff to it, and I was obsessed!
As we wound along the floor of the small valley, I could not wipe the smile off my face. I love the alpine. I love Colorado. I love getting outside and seeing new trails and all the wildflowers and meeting all the people along the way. This hike is definitely up there on my list of favorites, and the fact that I got to stare at Mount Bierstadt and Mount Evans the whole time just made it that much better.
Eventually the trail started going uphill again. It basically follows the path of the outlet streams from both lakes. This means there were lots of willows and water crossings. A few were pretty deep, but for the most part, getting your feet wet was entirely avoidable. I tend to opt for just stepping in the water because it prevents erosion, but I'm not going to walk through it if it's deeper than my boots (one section was).
Once the trail got really steep we were crossing our fingers that we were close. Luckily, the lower lake was right there! It's so pretty - a very subtle shade of aqua, like only alpine lakes have. We didn't take much time to stay there, instead heading onwards and upwards, wanting to beat the weather.
The trail splits shortly after the lower lake, with the left fork heading up Square Top Mountain and the right heading to the upper lake. We were lucky enough to play in some snow on our way up (and yes, being able to play in snow in MID JULY is lucky). And then we were in absolute awe when we reached the second lake.
We found a spot along the edge and sat down to have some snacks, put my feet in the water, and take lots of pictures. I've been craving this alpine blue and it was so hard to drag myself away from it once I got there! Eventually though, the clouds started getting darker and we knew we had to work our way back to the car.
We stopped and had a mini snowball fight, but then headed back to the car. We were starting to get sprinkled on and didn't want to risk it. The way back down is always faster, but I would almost argue that this was more beautiful, too. I have a soft spot in my heart for Mount Bierstadt, and getting to look at it the whole way down was such a treat.
If you've already bagged Bierstadt, but love the Guanella Pass area, this is definitely a good hike! It's also great for training for doing those 14ers over the summer! Basically, this is a great hike and if you have the time you should do it.