Directions: There are two main ways to get to Wellington Lake. (1) From Denver take 285 south. One way to get there is to turn south at Pine Junction onto Pine Valley Road (126). Follow 126 south through the towns of Pine and Buffalo Creek to 550 and turn right at the sign for Wellington Lake. Follow good dirt roads through the Buffalo Creek Recreation Area for 11 miles to the lake. (2) The more popular way to go is to take 285 to Bailey and at the bottom of Crow Hill, turn right at the sign for Wellington Lake. Travel 11 miles on good dirt roads to the lake, following obvious signs along the way.
Wellington Lake is an interesting place… The lake is an iconic landmark in the Pike National Forest but there is surprisingly little information about it online. The lake is privately owned and managed by Castle Mountain Recreation and not run by the National Forest Service. Castle Mountain maintains a large campground and some small hiking trails but these trails do not connect to the larger Buffalo Creek Recreation Area trails nor the Lost Creek Wilderness Area trails.
The main hiking attraction at the lake is the series of waterfalls at the far end but there is also a hiking trail that follow the lake shore for about .5 mile. Once you arrive at the park’s office, pay the entrance fees and follow the dirt road through the campground as far as you can. Be sure to park at the day use areas and not in someone’s campground. At the far end of the campground you’ll see a small sign pointing the way to the Waterfall Trail. The trail is short and leads to the base of the cascading waterfall. In the spring and early summer the waterfall can be very impressive. There is also a side trail that leads up to the top of the falls, and then on a bit further to some other small cascades.
Just before the final trail to the waterfall you’ll see a sign for the lake trail. Turn left here and follow the easy trail through the forest to the lake shore. There are many nice spots here to stop and relax and the views across the lake, particularly of The Castle, are fantastic.
Wellington Lake is a beautiful spot but during the summer months it may be hard to find a peaceful wilderness hiking experience. The lake sees a lot of visitors, mostly for camping and fishing. That being said, The Castle is one of the most famous rock formations in the area and seeing it reflected in Wellington Lake is worth the trip and the crowds.
HIKES BY REGION
NATIONAL PARK HIKES
- BENT'S OLD FORT NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK
- COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT
- CURECANTI NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
- DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT
- FLORISSANT FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
- MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
- ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
- GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
- HOVENWEEP NATIONAL MONUMENT
- SAND CREEK MASSACRE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- YUCCA HOUSE NATIONAL MONUMENT
- HIKES BY CATEGORY
- $UPPORT GHC
- INTERACTIVE MAP
Pike National Forest, Private Ownership
Date Hiked: June 4, 2016
Distance: 1.5 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 250 ft
Elevation Min/Max:7,957 to 8,088 ft
Trailhead Lat/Long: 39º 18' 42" N; 105º 22' 13" W
Managing Agency: Castle Mountain Recreation (Private)
Fee: Yes ($5/car + $5/adult)