Boulder Lake, Rock Creek Trailhead, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado

Boulder Lake - 5.7 miles

Rock Creek Trailhead

Boulder Lake

Boulder Lake

Round-Trip Length: 5.7 miles
Start-End Elevation: 9,487' - 9,785' (10,127' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +298' net elevation gain (+1,365' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Boulder Lake - 5.7 Miles Round-Trip

Boulder Lake is located 2.85 miles from Rock Creek Trailhead in the Eagles Nest Wilderness near Silverthorne. It occupies a wide berth in a spectacular alpine valley in the Boulder Creek drainage.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

A moderate trail follows the Rock Creek, Gore Range and Boulder Creek trails through montane and subalpine forests to the lake. A more challenging trek continues west on an unmaintained route to Upper Boulder Lake:

From the parking area, follow the Rock Creek Trail to the Gore Range Trail and bear right (.4 miles : 9,638').

The Gore Range Trail moderates on a rolling climb through lodgepole stricken by pine beetle. Despite aesthetic damage to the canopy, the forest floor is healthy with grasses and flowers. Travel eases above a large meadow that attracts moose and elk (.8 miles : 9,798').

It keeps straight through a false intersection with faint spurs branching left and right (1.0 miles : 9,895'). The trail crests at 1.75 miles (10,127') and tilts sharply downhill on a winding course to the Gore Range Trail - Boulder Creek Trail junction (2.35 miles : 9,685'). Turn left (west) on the Boulder Creek Trail.

The Boulder Creek Trail bypasses a blocked off split to the left (2.45 miles), and bears left at an unmarked split shortly after (2.5 miles).

The first split is part of the original trail that's recently been closed and re-routed due to erosion. The second is actually the main trail, which leads over Boulder Creek to the lake's north shore and continues another 3+ miles to Upper Boulder Lake (10,984'). A No Fire sign just past the 2nd split ensures the right choice.

The path you're now following climbs steeply and levels by a large meadow on the southeast shore of Boulder Lake (2.85 miles : 9,782').

A good social trail runs along Boulder Lake's marshy perimeter, but you must improvise your way over the outlet stream to re-join the main trail on the north shore. Though classified as an unmaintained route west of the lake, it can be taken up-valley for over a mile before losing clarity.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 42.633 W106 10.036 — Rock Creek Trailhead
  • N39 42.329 W106 10.199 — .4 miles : Gore Range Trail junction - bear right
  • N39 42.435 W106 10.634 — 1.0 miles : False junction - keep straight
  • N39 42.796 W106 10.792 — 1.5 miles : Rolling climb north on Gore Range Trail
  • N39 42.958 W106 10.828 — 1.75 miles : Reach crest, begin mod-steep descent
  • N39 43.241 W106 11.167 — 2.35 miles : Gore Range - Boulder Creek Trail junction
  • N39 43.177 W106 11.278 — 2.5 miles : Unmarked split for north shore approach
  • N39 43.134 W106 11.563 — 2.85 miles : Boulder Lake (south shore)

Worth Noting

  • Neither trail signs nor many popular maps adequately illustrate the fork leading to the south shore of Boulder Lake. Distance and difficulty is the same for day hikers, but those with heavy backpacks camping further up-valley should aim for the north shore to avoid having to cross the outlet stream.

  • Though maps indicate a more direct approach is possible from the Boulder Creek Trailhead, the Forest Service discourages this option due to private lands in that vicinity.

  • The Rock Creek Trailhead vicinity is part of the Alfred M. Bailey Bird Nesting Area. The site was designated by the Denver Field Ornithologists in 1971 in recognition of the area's high concentration and wide variety of nesting bird. Look for raptors, turkey, grouse and waterfowl on the hike to Boulder Lake.

  • Mosquitoes are prevalent along these trails and at Boulder Lake. Long sleeves and repellants are advised.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. No permit is necessary. Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.

  • Due to heavy use, campfires are not permitted in the Boulder Lake vicinity. Campfires are otherwise permitted for dispersed camping in the backcountry, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any lake or stream in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.

  • Contact the Dillon Ranger District (970.468.5400) for the latest on weather, trail conditions and trail-specific usage guidelines when planning your trip. The office is open M - F from 8am - 4pm.

  • For those not wishing to camp in the backcountry, there are several developed campgrounds within the White River National Forest. Contact the Dillon Ranger District for information on these sites.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs are permitted on the Gore Range and Boulder Creek trails, and within the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. Dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6'.

  • Horses are permitted on the Gore Range and Boulder Creek trails.

  • Bikes and mechanized vehicles are not permitted on the Gore Range or Boulder Creek trails.

Directions to Trailhead

Boulder Lake is located within the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest. The Rock Creek Trailhead is located 2.85 miles west of Highway 9, 7.7 miles north of Silverthorne.

From I-70, exit 205 at Silverthorne and drive 7.7 miles north on Highway 9 to Rock Creek Road (FDR 1350). The turnoff from Highway 9 is located across the street from the Blue River Campground.

Follow the gravel road 1.2 miles and turn left on the road marked Rock Creek . Continue 1.7 miles to the Rock Creek Trailhead and parking area. Though suitable for most 2WD cars in good condition, the last 1.7 miles are rough and subject to washouts. 4WD - High Clearance Vehicles are recommended.

Contact Information

Dillon Ranger District
680 Blue River Parkway
Silverthorne, CO 80498
M - F from 8am - 4pm

White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Made it to the upper trailhead in a Subaru Legacy, though it was slow going and there were a couple of challenging spots. There were two non-AWD sedans up there also. Trail was very nice, with a good amount of elevation, but enough up and down to break up the climb. The lake was lovely, though marshy around much of the perimeter so did not offer a great many "lounging" spots. All in all a great hike, but the road to the summer trailhead was a drawback."
Dori M  -  Denver  -  Date Posted: July 8, 2017
"We hiked to Lower Boulder Lake. The hike was just challenging enough to work up a sweat and make our PB&J lunch taste like 5 star dining. There were several large parties camped out on the south side of the lake so we made our way over to camp on the north side where we only saw one other person camped far from our site. The trail on the north side is less traveled so there are a couple tricky spots, but nothing horrible. The campsite we found was right on the edge of the marsh with a good breeze so the bugs weren't bad at all. We caught a couple of small fish near the lake outlet. The temps in the daytime were mid to high 60s and got down to the high 30s at was chilly. If you camp at the lower lake make sure you leave time to walk up to the waterfalls coming from the upper lake. They were a short walk from our campsite and so worth it. The views anywhere around this lake are breathtaking and we all had a fantastic time. "
Marie  -  Denver, CO  -  Date Posted: July 13, 2015
"We did the rock creek trail down to Bose mine. My husband and I enjoyed ourselves. No snow. Great overlooks of the creek below."
Julane  -   -  Date Posted: October 8, 2014
"This was a great, relatively short, hike. We had intended to do the Salmon Lake/Willow Lakes trail, but due to a complete lack of signage we didn't realize we were supposed to turn onto the Gore Range trail .4 miles in. Same place you turn for this hike, but opposite directions. Even though we did this hike in October the trails were still free of snow. Beautiful little "lake" at the end with the mountains in the background made for great pictures. Didn't make it to upper Boulder Lake... maybe next time. Just want to stress again that you should know where you're going ahead of time if you do this hike, because there are no signs indicating where to turn for Boulder Lake, just "Rock Creek Trailhead" and "Gore Range Trail"."
Alex  -  Boulder, CO  -  Date Posted: October 7, 2014
"This was a great hike - my kids (9 and 10 yr.) first backpacking trip. Don't forget to make a right onto the Gore Range Trail .4 miles from the Rock Creek Trailhead (we had to backtrack). The lake was beautiful, and we were the only ones there (though it looked like a high use area). The only downside (major!) was the mosquitoes - holy toledo, a million of them. Otherwise, a great trip!"
Amanda  -  Boulder, CO  -  Date Posted: June 30, 2014


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