Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado

The Ultimate Traveler's Guide (By Coloradans)

alpenglow on snow sprinkled mountains in the summer at Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado

Everything You Need to Know About Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado

A Guide To Everything You Can Do + Expert Advice From Coloradans

As Coloradans, exploring alpine lakes is hands-down one of our favorite things to do, and Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado is one of our go-to’s. Pretty much every time we’re in town, we make the visit, and it’s always a 10/10 experience.

Not only is Trout Lake one of the most photogenic spots along Lizard Head Pass, the mountain route connecting Rico and Telluride, Colorado, but it’s also super accessible (no seriously, it’s literally roadside). It’s a local favorite for summer wildflower sightings, stand-up paddle boarding, fishing, and picnicking. Not to mention, it’s super close to some of the most gorgeous hikes in the San Juan Mountains.

In our guide to Trout Lake in Colorado, we’ll break down everything you need to know about this Telluride gem, from details on nearby camping to the best times of day (and year) to visit the lake.

And as we always do in our guides, we’ll be sure to include plenty of dreamy photos from our many visits to Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado. Because seeing is believing when it comes to the beauty of this alpine lake. Let’s get started!

forest of green trees with alpenglow dotted mountains including Lake Point Peak near Trout Lake Colorado

Disclosure: We’ve included gear recommendations in this guide to Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado. If you choose to book or buy through our links, we may earn a commission, at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support our small business and allows us to continue creating this free content.

All recommendations in our guide are crafted with love and expertise, from platforms we use and trust for our own adventures, both in the San Juan Mountains of Telluride and beyond.

Where in Colorado is Trout Lake?

How To Get To The Lake From Telluride

sun streaming over Pilot Knob, Golden Horn, and Vermilion Peak from Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado

Trout Lake is about a 14 mile drive south of Telluride, Colorado. To get there from the main road in town (W. Colorado Ave.), you’ll head west out of town. 

You’ll hit two traffic circles when leaving Telluride. At the first, go straight. At the second, you’ll take the second exit, which goes toward Mountain Village and Lizard Head Pass (CO 145). Drive this for about 10 miles and Trout Lake will be on the left hand side of the road.

To park, you can hang a left onto N. Trout Lake Rd and there’ll be a lot right on the shoreline. You can use the GPS coordinates we’ve included below to get you there.

  • GPS Coordinates: 37.828586, -107.886644
  • Nearest Towns to Trout Lake: Ophir, Mountain Village, and Telluride, Colorado
  • Trout Lake Elevation: 9,720 ft
  • Cell Service: Don’t count on your phone working out here. We highly advise bringing a satellite communication device like this brand we use if you plan on exploring the area. This is essential to access emergency help.

Is Trout Lake Accessible All Year?

Closures You Should Know About

alpenglow on snow sprinkled mountains in the fall at Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado

Trout Lake is open and accessible year-round, but it’s also located on a high elevation mountain pass right outside of Telluride, Colorado that can (and does) close if winter weather gets too dicey.

If you intend to drive up to Trout Lake during the colder months (or in winter conditions, which can really happen any time of year here), an AWD or 4WD vehicle with all-weather or snow tires with a mud/snow designation is a smart move.

For 2WD vehicles traveling in winter, the tires we mentioned earlier or tire chains will be important.

Note: Colorado may implement its chain law during inclement weather. You’ll want to ensure you’ve equipped your vehicle with the required tires and/or chains to adhere to the law.

Must-Know Details About Visiting Trout Lake in Colorado

Expert Advice from Coloradans

sun streaming over the tips of snow dotted mountain peaks that frame Trout Lake Telluride

Ok, now that we’ve covered the essentials, let’s dive into our top tips and advice for seeing the best that Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado has to offer.

Looking For The Best Vacation Rental To Book When Visiting Trout Lake in Colorado?

Telluride is one of our absolute favorite places in our home state of Colorado, and our curated list of awesome lodging in Telluride includes the spots we’re loving.

Our Favorite Season To Visit Trout Lake in Colorado

summer at Trout Lake Colorado with alpenglow and snow on the mountain tops

There’s no denying it: if we could pick one season to see Trout Lake in Colorado, it’d 100% be summer. Specifically mid-July to early August for the best wildflower sightings (and this area has some seriously dreamy flowers).

This season is when the greenery around the lake is most lush and when water levels are higher (more on this later). Plus, if you plan on getting out on the water, the further into summer you get, the warmer the water will be, which can make stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, and canoeing much more enjoyable.

alpenglow on Lake Point Peak at surrounding mountains seen from Trout Lake Telluride

It’s also worth noting that the summer months are also the most accessible, with the smallest likelihood of the road leading to Trout Lake closing due to inclement weather (which can really happen any time in the Colorado high country).

This accessibility also applies to nearby hiking trails, high alpine off-roading routes, and campsites (some of which close outside of the warmer months).

muddy shoreline and low water levels at Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado in the fall

So what about fall? While there are some gorgeous aspen trees that line the shore of Trout Lake that change colors during the tail end of September and early October, the water levels at this Colorado gem do tend to get quite low in autumn. And the shoreline generally looks quite muddy (see photo above).

All of this to say, while the mountains can be quite scenic during fall, the lake itself isn’t at its best.

alpenglow on Sheep Mountain, which towers above Trout Lake Colorado

Want All The Details On The Best Time to Travel To Southwest Colorado?

Colorado’s weather and seasons can be highly unpredictable and wild. And the peak summer season comes a good bit later than most places in the US. Our ultimate guide to the best time to visit CO breaks down our expert tips you should know before booking your travels.

Is There Camping At Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado?

alpenglow on snow sprinkled mountains in the summer at Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado

Camping is not allowed at Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado, but there are plenty of campsites in the area to choose from. We’ve dropped a list below of the two that are closest to the lake:

  • Matterhorn Campground – This is a full-service campground, with picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets, and showers. There are also RV hookups at some of the campsites. This Telluride camping spot is located 1.6 miles away from Trout Lake.
  • Priest Lake Campground (dispersed camping) – While the Matterhorn Campground is one you can reserve in advance, the Priest Lake Campground is the go-to when you need a first-come, first-served dispersed camping option near Trout Lake Colorado. And it’s actually closer to the lake: only 0.8 miles away.

P.S., For more details on camping nearby, our guide to Lizard Head Pass (the road Trout Lake is on) has a more detailed list of options in the Telluride, Colorado area.

Camping + Adventure Gear We'd Recommend Bringing When Traveling To The Trout Lake Area Near Telluride, Colorado

reflection of mountains in the water at Trout Lake Telluride, Colorado

Planning on camping near Trout Lake at one of our recommended Colorado campsites? These are some of our favorite camping essentials we bring with us on our own trips (by no means an exhaustive list of must-haves…just a few items we absolutely love):

  • Our 4-Person Marmot Tent – We camped with a 2-person tent for years, but found that with the two of us and our pup, a 4-person tent made things much more comfortable. We upgraded to this one and have never looked back.
  • This Cushy Air Mattress – Yes, most people sleep on a sleeping pad when they camp, and we did too, for years. But we went camping with friends a couple years back, and they brought an air mattress and told us it was a game-changer. Let’s not lie to ourselves, no matter how nice, those sleeping pads are not comfortable. Highly recommend the air mattress option. This is the one we use, and it’s a big reason why a 4-person tent makes sense for us.
  • Backpacker’s Pantry Meals – Do we eat these for every camping meal? No. But when we don’t feel like setting up an elaborate camping meal, Backpacker’s Pantry is our go-to camp meal in a bag. Literally just add boiling water and wait. They’re delicious. Plus, we love that the brand is based in Boulder, Colorado, so we can get to support another CO business.
  • Headlamp – We use our headlamps for sunrise and sunset hikes (of which there are many epic options near Trout Lake), but also during all of our Colorado camping adventures. Late-night trips to pee? Headlamp. Setting up a fire in the dark? Headlamp. It’s a must. This is the headlamp we personally use, and we’ve tested several. It has really solid battery life and an excellent high beam for those ultra dark nights. And it’s a great price compared to similar options.
  • Deet-Free Bug Spray – If there’s one thing people get wrong about Colorado, it’s thinking that the high elevation mountains don’t get mosquitos, and near a water source like Trout Lake, you can expect many. This is the bug spray we’ve been using for years on every camping trip and every summer hike.
Golden Horn and Vermilion Peak framing Trout Lake Colorado

Other gear favorites for camping near Trout Lake include: hand and foot warmers (while the Colorado mountains can feel warm in the middle of the day, they get quite chilly, even on summer nights), a dependable, lightweight nano puff jacket for extra layering protection as temps fluctuate, and bear spray (because yes, this is bear country, and you want to be prepared).

Best Places to Stay When Exploring Trout Lake in Colorado

Our Favorite Lodging In and Around Telluride

wood cabin on the shore of Trout Lake Colorado, with mountains and trees towering behind

If you’re not planning on camping near Trout Lake, there are some amazing lodging options in nearby Mountain Village and Telluride, Colorado.

We’ve crafted a list of Telluride lodging we’re in love with, with plenty of dreamy and unique options to make your travels just a bit more memorable and fun.

alpenglow on the tips of snow dotted mountains

Want To Explore Our Favorite Campsite Near Telluride?

While the Alta Lakes area is so much more than just a spot to camp (it’s home to an epic ghost town, three scenic lakes, and even an awesome observatory you can rent), it’s truly a next-level dispersed camping option.

Our complete guide to Alta Lakes covers everything you should know about this spot, whether you plan to camp or just explore.

Activities You Can Do At Trout Lake Colorado

lush green shoreline of Trout Lake Colorado during golden hour in the summer

Trout Lake is a Telluride, Colorado gem when it comes to outdoors activities and adventures. These are some of the most popular things you can do at the lake (note: for the most part, these activities are best in summer):

  • Kayaking and Canoeing – Motorized boats are not allowed on Trout Lake, but kayaking and canoeing are absolutely fair game at this Colorado gem.
  • Stand-Up Paddle Boarding – Trout Lake is a local favorite for SUPing. The waters tend to be relatively calm, so it’s a great spot for beginners. 
  • Fishing – If there’s one thing Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado is known for, it’s fishing (hey, trout’s in the name, after all!). 
  • Swimming – Alpine waters can be quite cold (yes, year-round), but if you’re looking for a chilly but refreshing dip, Telluride, Colorado’s Trout Lake is a solid option.
  • Picnics – If there’s one thing we recommend, it’s grabbing a few breakfast or dinner essentials in Telluride, Colorado and making your way up to Trout Lake for a picnic. The mountains are beyond dreamy at sunrise and sunset.
  • Photography – We’re professional photographers, so we know a good photo spot when we see one, and Trout Lake is one of our favorite ones in the surrounding mountains of Telluride, Colorado. The alpenglow on the peaks at sunrise is truly breathtaking.
alpenglow on the tips of snow dotted mountain peaks that frame Trout Lake Colorado

Those are all the core activities you can do on or by the lake. But in addition to these, there are also nearby hiking trails (like the iconic Hope Lake Trail), and there are ample opportunities for cross-country skiing.

Want To Do Some Off-Roading Near Trout Lake?

Just a short 15 minute drive from Trout Lake, Ophir Pass is one of our favorite off-roading routes near Telluride, Colorado. It’s a truly breathtaking summertime drive, with photo-worthy high alpine views.

Trout Lake Colorado FAQs

Are There Any Fees to Access Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado?

alpenglow on Lake Point Peak and the surrounding mountains seen from Trout Lake Telluride

Nope! Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado is free to access. We love that you can get world-class views like this, without it costing an arm and a leg. That said, if you plan on getting out on the water, you may need to rent the proper gear from a local outfitter.

What Kind of Fish Are In Telluride's Trout Lake?

view of Vermilion Peak and surrounding mountains from Trout Lake Colorado

Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery, who’s responsible for stocking many of the reservoirs in southwest Colorado, stocks Trout Lake with plenty of trout. For a list of the types of fish in this high alpine lake, you can find more details at this fishing site.

overview of a road running alongside Trout Lake in Telluride, Colorado, leading to private residences along the shore

How To See The Best of Colorado

If you ask us, the best way to see Colorado is by car, hitting up the core mountain spots that make our state so iconic.

Our complete CO road trip guide is a must-read for all the details (and obviously, Telluride is already baked into it!).

Other Must-See Spots In The Area

alpenglow on Lake Point Peak and the surrounding mountains at Trout Lake Telluride CO

Trout Lake is just one of many gems in this area of Telluride, Colorado. These are some of our other favorites that are super close by:

  • Ophir Pass – This epic off-roading route connects Telluride, to the town of Silverton, Colorado, and it starts about 5 miles from Trout Lake. Prepare for some of the most gorgeous high alpine views.
  • Lizard Head Pass – This is the mountain pass that Trout Lake is located on, and it’s one of our absolute favorites in all of Colorado. Our guide has all the details on the most scenic spots to check out.
  • Alta Lakes – It’s rare that we make the drive to Telluride, Colorado and don’t swing by both Alta Lakes and Trout Lake. This area is home to three epic alpine lakes, gorgeously jagged mountain views, and some of the best dispersed camping in the state. 10/10 recommend.

Can’t get enough of Trout Lake (and Telluride, Colorado in general)? Same. For more photo inspo of this dreamy spot, scroll on down. We’ve included more of our favorite images we’ve taken of this gorgeous gem.

Consider Us Your Go-To Resource On The Best of Colorado

Hey there! We’re Ed and Sheena, two outdoors advocates, hikers, and photographers adventuring in their home state of Colorado.

We don’t believe in gatekeeping CO’s greatest gems, which is why we share guides like this one about Trout Lake.

Planning on visiting Colorado soon? These are some of our most-loved resources to get you started:

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