Granite Lake

(Weminuche Wilderness)

  • Rating: Difficult

  • Distance: 19 miles (out and back) 

  • Elevation

    • Trailhead: 8980 feet

    • Max: 10,490 feet

    • Gain: 2400 ft (1 way), 3500 ft (round trip)

    • Lake: 10,350 feet

  • Road Status: Poison Park Road (FR644)

  • Trail: Weminuche (592) 

  • Trailhead Directions (31.1 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs, CO)

  • Trail Map

  • Notes: Not recommended for day hikers.  On the way back, there's a 600-foot climb during the last 2.1 miles in order to reach the Poison Park parking lot. 

Nestled high in the Wemincuhe Wilderness near Pagosa Springs, Granite Lake is a spectacular gem hidden deep within a glacially scoured granite bowl.  Since it's located at 10,350 feet, it is surrounded by trees, many of which escaped the spruce beetle devastation.  The lake is crystal clear and the shoreline drops steeply into the abyss.  Unlike the lakes on the eastern side of the Weminuche Wilderness and the South San Juan Wilderness, granite rock outcrops and boulders cover the landscape.  

The lakes can be accessed via the Weminuche Trail (592), which begins at Poison Park above Williams Lake.  Access to the Weminuche Creek drainage is not ideal since the whole valley is privately owned.  As a result, the trail starts at 9130 feet and drops to the valley floor, 600 feet below, over the course of 2.1 miles.  This section of trail is well engineered and offers a few glimpses of the Weminuche Creek Valley, which is a classic, glacially carved, U-shaped valley.  Look for evidence of the glacial past in the form of glacial erratics and glacial striations in the granite bedrock.  The terminal moraine is located at the lower end of the valley at a fairly low elevation of 8000 feet. 

At mile 2.1, the trail breaks out of the forest and offers views of the craggy side of the Weminuche Range.  The range has a distinct pinkish-white ash layer that is capped with hundreds of feet of volcanic breccia.  Both rock layers indicate an explosive volcanic past.  Hossick Creek Trail (585) diverges faintly to the right.  Near mile 2.2, the trail passes next to a fence corner.  Falls Creek Trail (673) parallels the fenceline to the left.  Continue straight and cross a shallow irrigation ditch that diverts water out of Hossick Creek.  At mile 2.5, you'll cross Hossick Creek, which can be difficult to cross at during high water.  Hossick Creek is at the lowest elevation on the trail (8470 ft) and you'll begin a fairly steady climb to the lake. 

 

At mile 3.5, you'll cross Milk Creek, which is named for the color it turns when it entrains fine material from the pinkish-white volcanic ash layer high above.  The trail travels on the fridge of aspen-lined meadows, offering great mountain views.  At mile 6.8, the trail crosses the East Fork of the Weminuche, which can be difficult to cross at high water.  At mile 7.8, the Divide Lakes Trail (539) diverges to the left in an open meadow.  There's no trail sign, but at the junction, veer right and continue on the Weminuche Trail.  A little over a half mile later, the trail crosses Weminche Creek and climbs steeply up a drainage.  At mile 8.9, the trail to Granite Lake veers left (there's no trail sign).  Gain the steep ridge, then traverse across an open meadow, and then drop steeply down to the lake.  There's an outfitter camp near the shoreline, but the best campsites are located on the west side of the lake above the outlet.  The trail around the lake is faint and steep in places.       

Additional Option: The spectacular and remote Pine River Valley is located less than a mile below the lake outlet.  And Divide Lakes are located another 2 miles from the valley.

 
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