Missouri Lakes, Missouri Lakes Trailhead - Fancy Creek Trailhead, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado

Missouri Lakes - 7.0 miles

Missouri Lakes Trailhead - Fancy Creek Trailhead

The Missouri Lakes

The Missouri Lakes

Round-Trip Length: 7.0 miles (includes both main lakes)
Start-End Elevation: 10,010' - 11,502' (11,514' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,492' net elevation gain (+1,610' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Missouri Lakes - 7.0 Miles Round-Trip

The Missouri Lakes are located 3.5 miles from Homestake Road in the Holy Cross Wilderness. They occupy an idyllic alpine basin below Missouri Pass (11,986') in the heart of the Sawatch Range.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The lakes sit at and just above treeline in a gentle expanse dotted with ponds, streams and tree-topped knolls. The area's mild terrain is ideal for camping, fishing and extended exploration.

The Missouri Lakes are deservingly one of the most popular destinations in the Holy Cross, and highlight the venerable Missouri Pass - Fancy Pass Loop:

The trail begins on a mild grade that steepens past .5 miles to a wide section of creek at the Holy Cross Wilderness Boundary (.93 miles : 10,360’). It narrows in a thick forest up to a bridge over the creek (1.1 miles : 10,468’), where you can divert to a set of scenic cascades just upstream.

Climbing intensifies past the bridge along the rim of a deep, narrow gorge. Exercise caution when viewing the creek from above on these potentially slippery rock slabs.

The trail crosses back over the creek (1.35 miles) and levels around a large, marshy meadow with views of Savage Peak and a diverse collection of flowers (1.5 miles : 10,805’).

It circles the meadow and funnels into the upper gorge right along the creek (2.0 miles : 10,987’), then moderates away in a thinning subalpine forest (2.5 miles : 11,170’).

Look for a sparingly marked social trail between 2.7-2.8 miles that veers SW (left) along a creek to the first Missouri Lake. This is a compelling destination that sees fewer visitors, and great choice for backpackers on busy weekends.

The main trail continues on variously rugged and moderate intervals into the upper valley where the landscape opens to Lower Missouri Lake (3.15 miles : 11,410’). Gentle terrain, ponds and streams complement this picturesque setting.

It pitches up through treeline to Upper Missouri Lake (3.5 miles : 11,502’) in a wide, level basin below Missouri Pass. Social trails fan around the lake and to various campsites; veer left and hug the shore to reach the pass.

The designated trail undulates clockwise across the inlet stream to a large tarn (3.85 miles : 11,535’), and briefly levels before turning sharply on a demanding .5 mile, 450’ push to Missouri Pass (4.35 miles : 11,986’). Poles and traction can be helpful on this steep, oft snow-covered approach.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 23.390 W106 28.257 — 0.0 miles : Missouri Lakes Trailhead
  • N39 23.140 W106 28.671 — .5 miles : Fast travel on mild grade
  • N39 23.154 W106 29.070 — .93 miles : Holy Cross Wilderness Boundary
  • N39 23.259 W106 29.130 — 1.1 miles : Cross bridge over creek
  • N39 23.306 W106 29.457 — 1.5 miles : Trail levels around scenic meadow
  • N39 23.439 W106 29.781 — 2.0 miles : Trail steepens through narrow gorge
  • N39 23.418 W106 30.253 — 2.5 miles : Travel moderates in thinning forest
  • N39 23.405 W106 30.722 — 3.0 miles : Crest over east side of Missouri Lakes Basin
  • N39 23.485 W106 30.851 — 3.15 miles : Lower Missouri Lake (11,410')
  • N39 23.698 W106 30.731 — 3.5 miles : Upper Missouri Lake (11,502')
  • N39 23.866 W106 30.797 — 3.65 miles : Trail leaves lake vicinity for Pass
  • N39 23.923 W106 30.866 — 3.85 miles : Skirt edge of large tarn under Pass
  • N39 24.226 W106 31.008 — 4.35 miles : Missouri Pass (11,986')

Worth Noting

  • The Missouri Lakes see many visitors, especially on summer weekends. Arrive early to secure choice campsites at the lakes.
  • The first Missouri Lake is not accessible from the main trail. A sparingly marked social trail branches SW (left) off the main trail at about 2.75 miles and follows its outlet stream to the lake. Basic navigation skills are required to locate the route. This lake sees considerably fewer visitors than the upper lakes, and is well-worth exploring.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area. Self-registration permits are available at the 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 15 individuals.
  • Campfires are not permitted in the Missouri Creek and Fancy Creek basins (this includes each trail corridor and anywhere on the loop).
  • Campfires are otherwise permitted in the Holy Cross Wilderness 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 Holy Cross Wilderness.
  • Gold Camp is a developed campground on Homestake Road. There are also many undeveloped campsites along Homestake Road with no fees. These are not marked but the turnoffs for each are fairly clear. Be mindful of adjacent private property.
  • Contact the Holy Cross Ranger District (970.827.5715) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip. The office is open M - F from 8am - 4pm.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted at the Missouri Lakes, Treasure Vault Lake, Fancy Lake and all creeks in the watershed with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Campfires are not permitted in the Missouri Creek and Fancy Creek basins (this includes each trail corridor and anywhere on the loop).
  • Dogs must be leashed or under strict voice control at all times.

Directions to Trailhead

The Missouri Lakes - Fancy Creek Trailhead is located on Missouri Creek Road, 9.8 miles west of Highway 24.

From I-70, take Exit 171 (just west of West Vail) and follow Highway 24 south for 12.4 miles to Homestake Road (right turn). Anticipate this turn, as it comes quickly on a bend in the road.

Take Homestake Road 7.6 miles to Missouri Creek Road - turn right. Follow this road 2.2 miles to the parking area for each trailhead. The trailheads are located several dozen yards apart in the same parking lot (Missouri is to the left, Fancy to the right).

Homestake and Missouri Creek roads are on graded dirt suitable for all vehicles. The final 2.2 miles are nominally rougher and narrower. Watch for wildlife on the road, especially moose at dawn and dusk. Spaces are limited but roadside parking is permitted in designated areas.

Contact Information

Holy Cross Ranger District
24747 US Highway 24
Minturn, CO 81645

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.


"Trail Condition Update: The Missouri Lakes Trail is clear to all lakes, with some short, steep snowfields up to Missouri Pass. These can either be scaled or avoided with minimal difficulty (though still quite steep). The trail is faint with some large snowfields between Missouri Pass and Fancy Pass, but easy to navigate (and pretty fun!). There's a very steep, long snowfield between Fancy Lake and Fancy Pass. The snow will probably hang around for several more weeks. It's harder to climb than descend; consider doing the loop clockwise until conditions improve. Traction and/or poles recommended between the lake and pass."
ProTrails Admin  -   -  Date Posted: July 14, 2014


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