Happy Hiking: Hunt Lake

  • Hunt Lake Trail
  • Distance:  7 miles
  • Type: Moderate, out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,945 ft
  • Other: Dogs Allowed
  • All Trails Link

Hunt Lake Trail is located in the San Isabel National Forest near Salida, Colorado.  As I mentioned in my previous post about Kroenke Lake, both Salida and Buena Vista are great towns to visit while exploring the surrounding wilderness area that feature some of Colorado’s famous 14ers.

While peak bagging a 14er is a popular Colorado pastime, I prefer less crowded trails to high alpine lakes which are also plentiful in this area.

Camping

There are many dispersed camping places near the two towns, and my friend Bridget who lives in Salida suggested the following options to me when I was looking for a nearby place for early morning hikes.

  • County Road 272
  • County Road 240
  • Near Shavano Trailhead

I have also stumbled across additional options off County Roads 365 and 371.

With Hunt Lake being located due west of Salida, I elected to camp one night on County Road 272.  It seemed many people thought this was a good idea, as it wasn’t even the weekend, and I found one of the last spots available Thursday afternoon.

Parking and the Trailhead

The parking for the trail to Hunt Lake according to All Trails is just off Highway 50 next to a snow mobile rental location.  The hike begins here and travels up a rocky road which is also open to motor vehicles.  I reckon I could have maneuvered my Honda CRV up the 4 wheel drive road, but it definitely would have been rough.

Not to mention, I wanted to get some mileage in, and hiking up the road added nearly three miles to the lake.  Though hiking on roads isn’t terribly exciting to me, I did spot two deer along the way.  While they eluded my camera lens, I always enjoy seeing wildlife of any kind.  At least a squirrel posed for me.

squirrel on the trail to hunt lake

After about 1.5 miles, there is a sign at the split in the road.  Boss Lake Trailhead is to the left.  Anyone who drives up may park in the small open area here. 

The CDT and CT West

The trek to Hunt Lake then continues over intermittent single track paths and wider “roads” which I have put in quotes as they are narrow and no motorized vehicles are allowed.  I was miffed to see the trail to Hunt Lake was not only part of the Continental Divide Trail, but also part of the Colorado Trail which I completed in its entirety a few summers ago.

I couldn’t believe I was repeating part of the 484.6 mile Colorado Trail, which admittedly at the end I was ready to be done.  “Stick a fork in me, I’m done”…as an old work colleague used to say.  Then I realized, it was part of the Collegiate West segments, not East (the original trail).

Whew! I was about to be annoyed with myself if I had forgotten all about Hunt Lake. But now I have a renewed interest to backpack this 82 mile West section.  We’ll see!

The Hike to Hunt Lake

Anyway, the single-track trail begins by crossing the creek and continues in a southwesterly direction through the forest until it reaches Boss Lake Reservoir.  A few wildflowers such as monkshood and Indian paintbrush dot the trail.

The reservoir is large and features a cool, old cabin on the dam.  At the dam it looks like there are two trails to the left.  One requires hopping over the narrow outlet to walk along the shore.  The other is more official.  It crosses a bridge, switchbacks up the hill, and leads hikers over the top with views of the reservoir below.

I recommend taking the official route.  Upon crossing along the top, hikers pass a giant hole on the edge of the cliff which is a remaining mine shaft.  Thereafter, the trail descends across a dirt road before gradually ascending the final mile to Hunt Lake.

mine shaft at boss lake

Hunt Lake

Hunt Lake is medium-sized.  Much of it is flanked by granite peaks, but it is still possible to explore.  I only walked part way around, as the far side is enveloped in a forest of pine trees dead from beetle kill and unappealing to me.  Regardless of the trees, most any lake hike is pretty to me.  Hunt Lake was no exception.

hunt lake

11 Second Video of Hunt Lake

I enjoyed spotting trout on its shoreline and admiring the wildflowers that speckled the grassy banks.  Before returning the same way I came, I took a short rest by the lake, snacked and rehydrated.  Intermittent bouts of a cool breeze were enough to don a jacket and keep the bugs away. 

The bluebird sky day was perfect for this 7-mile hike. On this Friday morning in July, I was the only one at Hunt Lake.  I ran into about four trail runners, four fishermen, and four hikers, most of whom I met on my descent. 

In addition, I only had to step aside from one truck headed up the rocky road just minutes away from the bottom.  While I’ve been on prettier paths and to more spectacular lakes, a hike with water offering that much solitude always ranks high on my list.  Hunt Lake is definitely worth a visit!

As always, don’t forget sunscreen, bug spray, food, water, layers and the rest of the ten essentials for hiking. ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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