Clear Lake
Difficulty Moderate
Length of hike 4.4 mi. RT
Starting Elevation 11200 ft.
Top Elevation 12640 ft.
Type of Vehicle Regular
Distance to Trailhead 37.4 miles
GPS track download Clear Lake Track
Hiking time up 2:00 hours
Hiking time down 1:40 hrs

Directions to Trailhead
From the Traffic light in Ridgway, drive 31 miles south on Highway 550 over Red Mountain Pass. Turn onto road to Mineral Campground and continue for 3.6 miles to the road leading up to Clear Lake (sign "4WD and Clear Lake 4 miles"). Drive up the road for 2.8 miles and find a parking spot.


cl lake



Clear Lake, a glacial lake at 12,000 feet surrounded by majestic peaks, is a popular destination for jeepers. It is a beautiful place and worth visiting at different times of the year. If you visit early, for example on Memorial Day, you can have the place all to yourself. The snow covering the road in spots prevents motorized traffic from going past the halfway mark, leaving access exclusively to hikers and skiers. At this time, many of the slopes in the basin are still covered by snow, inviting visitors to have fun skiing or glissading. Later in the season wildflowers are abundant in the meadow adjacent to the lake.


A good Jeep road goes all the way to the lake, but hiking the final stretch, which is above tree line, lets you admire the scenery instead of watching the road. Visiting the waterfall on the way up, and the Burbank Mine on the way down makes for worthwhile detours. The climb up to the saddle north of the lake is rather steep, but after arriving at the top you are rewarded with an impressive peek into Paradise Basin and back down to Clear Lake. You can spot the destination of another hike described in this site, the small lake in Paradise Basin that feeds the middle fork of Mineral Creek. In the background, Ophir Pass road is clearly visible as it winds its way up to the pass. After arriving at the saddle, it’s tempting to follow the ridge towards South Lookout Peak. Keeping your eyes on the rock instead of the GPS receiver is advisable.


If you are comfortable on scree, you can make your way to the saddle up the scree slope to the east of the rocky outcrops, but staying on the grassy slope may actually be easier. Traversing back and forth and seeking out the grassy bumps to place your boots reduces the strain on knees and ankles.