American Lake, American Lake Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado

American Lake - 6.2 miles

American Lake Trailhead

American Lake (11,365') in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness

American Lake (11,365') in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness

Round-Trip Length: 6.2 miles
Start-End Elevation: 9,415' - 11,365' (11,378' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,950' net elevation gain (+2,110' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

American Lake - 6.2 Miles Round-Trip

American Lake is located 3.1 miles from Castle Creek Road in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. It lies near treeline at the top of Devaney Creek in a narrow, high-walled valley.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

American Lake and Cathedral Lake are often referenced together because of proximity, however the trails and final destinations are fairly different.

The American Lake Trail is distinguished by longer stretches of aspen and near-constant tree cover, while Cathedral is more open with steeper climbs through treeline. American Lake is an ideal choice for active families, runners and seeing autumn colors:

The trail enters the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness and turns up into a thick aspen forest. It winds and climbs steadily through tall aspen and a verdant grass-flower understory, gaining over 800’ in just the first mile (1.0 miles : 10,250’).

It straightens up the Devaney Creek valley and abruptly transitions from aspen to spruce-fir (1.35 miles : 10,545’). Timber breaks across a large glade at the base of a steep open slope, a great place to see wildlife (1.5 miles : 10,650’).

Travel moderates back into the forest, dipping and rising to a second open slope (2.45 miles : 10,970’). The trail is a little more rugged through cluttered stretches to consecutive openings across scree slides (2.75 and 2.95 miles).

It continues on a mild grade to the edge of American Lake (3.1 miles : 11,365’). American Lake is bound by steep walls and loose rock on two sides which limit exploration, but the east side is level, thinly treed and easy to maneuver about. Social trails lead through the area to good campsites, and large portions of the shore are easy for anglers to access.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 04.359 W106 48.212 — 0.0 miles : American Lake Trailhead
  • N39 04.306 W106 48.463 — .5 miles : Steep climb in thick aspen forest
  • N39 04.265 W106 48.680 — 1.0 miles : Steady climb that straightens out up valley
  • N39 04.125 W106 49.226 — 1.5 miles : Trail opens at base of steep, grassy slope
  • N39 03.805 W106 48.998 — 2.0 miles : Fast pace in thick subalpine forest
  • N39 03.682 W106 49.231 — 2.45 miles : Trail opens again at base of steep grassy slope
  • N39 03.580 W106 49.555 — 2.8 miles : Cross tail of first scree field
  • N39 03.490 W106 49.712 — 3.0 miles : Cross tail of second scree field
  • N39 03.407 W106 49.742 — 3.1 miles : American Lake (11,365')

Worth Noting

  • The American Lake Trail comes highly recommended for autumn colors, especially the first mile through thick aspen groves. Be bear aware in this food-rich habitat.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness. Self-registration permits are available at each trailhead and/or Wilderness Boundary. There is no fee or limit to the number of permits issued. Backpackers must carry a completed registration form with them for the duration of the trip.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 10 individuals (or 15 with people + stock).

  • Campfires are permitted in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness, 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. Location-specific restrictions may also apply.

  • Contact the Aspen Ranger District (970.925.3445) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted at American Lake and along Devaney Creek with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness.

Directions to Trailhead

The American Lake Trailhead is located on Castle Creek Road south of Aspen CO.

From the roundabout 1 mile NW of town, take Castle Creek Road 9.5 miles to the trailhead on the right. The trailhead is located across the street from Elk Mountain Lodge. Castle Creek Road is winding and narrow in places. Anticipate the turnoff, and be considerate of cyclists sharing the road.

Contact Information

Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness | Aspen Ranger District
806 West Hallam
Aspen, CO 81611

Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness | Sopris Ranger District
620 Main Street
Carbondale, CO 81623

White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602
970.945.2521 | 970.319.2670

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"The first mile of trail - a steep climb through Aspen - is heavily overgrown with shrubs. Long pants and sleeves are recommended. Hopefully the Forest Service and/or a volunteer wilderness group will make this wonderful and heavily used trail a priority for maintenance next summer. "
Joanne Houck  -  Snowmass Village  -  Date Posted: August 28, 2019


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