Fort Collins, CO: Lake Agnes

One of Colorado State Forest's most recommended trails, the short and steep trip to Lake Agnes delivers with craggy peaks, scree fields (home to pika), and fish-filled alpine waters.
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One of Colorado State Forest's most recommended trails, the short and steep trip to Lake Agnes delivers with craggy peaks, scree fields (home to pika), and fish-filled alpine waters.

This short, steep trail begins near a historic cabin and skirts a marshy flatland before turning uphill through a deadfall-scattered forest. This area is the moose-watching capital of Colorado, so watch for their flattened antlers and dark silhouettes along the trail (especially in the mornings and afternoons). Switchbacks climb beside the Upper Michigan Ditch and offer unfettered glimpses of the Nokhu Crags. The sheer western faces of their 12,485-foot peaks are the dramatic backdrop for the pristine alpine lake. The tough hike ends at the shores of Lake Agnes where fishermen settle into the sandy western bank for a shot at moderately sized rainbow or cutthroat trout. Allow at least an hour for the easy 1-mile trip around the lake and more if you plan to stop for a picnic or a swim. The road to Lake Agnes is closed during the winter. Check early and late season road conditions with the Moose Visitors Center at (970) 723-8366.-Mapped by Kristy Holland

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 3.6

Waypoints

LAT001

Location: 40.4898696, -105.9032443

A 1.8-mile drive up a battered Jeep road leads to the cul-de-sac trailhead. There is ample parking and a toilet, but the steep road ends above 10,000 feet and is closed through the winter. The trail begins near the old cabin on the south side of the parking lot.

LAT002

Location: 40.4873481, -105.9027088

Turn right @ Y-junction following signs uphill toward Lake Agnes.

LAT003

Location: 40.4870242, -105.9027027

As you begin a series of tight, short switchbacks along the edge of the Upper Michigan Ditch, look left and up to catch early glimpses of the Nokhu Crags.

LAT004

Location: 40.4846849, -105.9025008

Go straight @ 3-way junction where the trail evens out and begins a short descent to the lakeshore.

LAT005

Location: 40.484285, -105.9025159

From the rocky beach at the lake's northern edge, you can clearly see the surrounding 12,000-foot peaks and a small island on it's western side. From here, the circumnavigation around the lake's rocky shore can take an hour or more.

LAT006

Location: 40.4817219, -105.9013011

The entire east side of the lake is a scree field with a well-trodden, but rocky path just a few feet above the water line. Rocks on the path itself are fairly solid, but watch your footing above or below it where your body weight will shift loose stones.

LAT007

Location: 40.4802998, -105.9013796

Pick your way through a wet and grassy snowmelt drainage before rounding the lake's southern side. To get around, either jump and scramble around sheer boulders along the lakeshore or head inland and bushwhack over a tree-covered knoll. You'll drop down to a muddy, boulderless beach a few hundred yards away.

LAT008

Location: 40.4826533, -105.905083

Cross 2 small wooden bridges as the trail enters the woods to skirt a small lagoon. Look for schools of baby trout in the shallows.

LAT009

Location: 40.4828061, -105.9038109

Fishermen frequent the sandy beach just across from the lake's tiny island. The island is only 100 feet or so from the shore, but the short swim would be tough in the lake's frigid waters.

LAT010

Location: 40.4842821, -105.9024096

A short loop trail offers an alternative way to begin your return trip. It's only an extra few hundred feet of travel, but offers a close-up view of the Nokhu Crags steep lower slopes and a peek at the Upper Michigan Ditch.

Trail Sign

Location: 40.4873421, -105.9027261

The trail is well marked and easy to follow, but don't be fooled by the low mileage, it's almost all uphill form here. ©MacKenzie Ryan

Nokhu Crags

Location: 40.4855755, -105.9023076

Early view of the 12,485-foot Nokhu Crags from the switchbacking section of trail. ©MacKenzie Ryan

Lake Agnes

Location: 40.4828541, -105.9015727

Lake Agnes' small island and the relatively mellow mountains cradling it's eastern edge. ©MacKenzie Ryan

Nokhu Crags

Location: 40.4812301, -105.9015191

Looking back on the Nokhu Crags. ©MacKenzie Ryan

West Side

Location: 40.4814586, -105.9049845

The rocky path on the lake's west side is smoother and easier to navigate than the east side. ©MacKenzie Ryan

Fish

Location: 40.4827072, -105.9048772

The State Forest Service stocks Lake Agnes with Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout every spring. In the shallows of the lagoon, you may seem them schooling together for protection from birds and fishermen. ©MacKenzie Ryan

Island

Location: 40.4829275, -105.9046733

The lake's unnamed island is just a hundred feet or so from the shore. This view from the back of the lagoon shows the saddle between the Nokhu Crags and Mount Richthofen in the background. ©MacKenzie Ryan