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American Lake



6.5 mile 10.4 kilometer loop
74% Runnable


Ascent: 1,972' 601 m
Descent: -1,972' -601 m
High: 11,370' 3,466 m
Low: 9,412' 2,869 m


Avg Grade: 12% (7°)
Max Grade: 29% (16°)


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Trail shared by Megan W

A great destination any time of year, but especially wonderful in Sept. for brilliant fall colors

Megan W

Features Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife


This popular trail has just enough elevation gain at altitude to be a good workout. The rewards are ample: beautiful fields of wildflowers, a pristine alpine lake and a heaping dose of colorful aspens. Most folks consider the trail to American Lake to have better fall leaf viewing than its more exposed neighbor Cathedral Lake Trail.

Runner Notes

Much of the trail is very smooth packed dirt, but sections with large embedded rocks and roots will slow progress. Mostly shaded for the entire length when leaves are on the trees.


From the limited parking area just off Castle Creek Road, hop across a small stream and enter a fenced meadow encircled by stands of mature aspen. From here, the relentless climb begins via a series of long switchbacks. The going is fairly steep, but you're ensconced in one of the most majestic aspen forests in the area. Occasional views across the valley and intermittent creek burblings keep the ascent from becoming too monotonous.

Just as you begin to suffer from aspen splendor overload, the trail abruptly enters a shady evergreen forest and the grade eases. There are still a few steep pitches through the woods but overall this is where you can recover a bit. The path surface becomes rockier in the woods but the trail is well maintained with deadfall promptly removed. Cross through a couple of grassy meadows where wildflowers thrive and wildlife is often spotted.

Round a spine to head west and enter the Devaney Creek drainage. Here, enjoy a handful of joyous steps of downhill travel. This soon ends as the trail angles up steeply again for the last push to the lake. Emerge from the woods into an alpine wonderland of scree, distant peaks and intense sunlight. Navigate a couple of short talus fields on the way to the water's edge. The small green lake is bounded on two sides by cliffs and rock slides where chirpy pika make their homes. A series of faint secondary trails wind over the banks to reach fishing spots, campsites and viewpoints. It is hard to find a more scenic place for a snack and quiet contemplation.

Horses are allowed on this trail, but there is little evidence of their usage.

Flora & Fauna

Aspens galore!

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Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 8 votes


  4.5 from 8 votes
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in Colorado


18 Views Last Month
4,005 Since Sep 27, 2015



Be prepared for eye-popping displays of turning aspens in September
Sep 27, 2015 near Aspen, CO
American Lake shimmers invitingly after a steep climb
Sep 27, 2015 near Aspen, CO
Progressing up the switchbacks on the American Lake Trail
Sep 28, 2015 near Aspen, CO
One of the pleasant meadows along the American Lake Trail.
Sep 28, 2015 near Aspen, CO
Cross through a patch of scree on the way to the lake
Sep 28, 2015 near Aspen, CO
Early morning views across the valley
Sep 28, 2015 near Aspen, CO


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