Take In The Views Of Three Stunning High-Alpine Lakes At This Western US State Park

High-alpine lakes — situated at a minimum of 10,000 feet above sea level — stand out as jewels of nature, amazing to anyone who encounters their breathtaking beauty. Typically located in mountainous regions, they're commonly surrounded by the rugged embrace of rocky peaks. These ultra-clear waters, often formed by glacial processes, mirror the towering cliffs and lush forests that they sit beside. Nestled in secluded locations, they offer stunning panoramic views and a sense of tranquility often unmatched in lower-altitude environments.

If you're an outdoor enthusiast or hiker seeking to explore a serene and remote location, trekking to a high-alpine lake is the perfect opportunity to do so. While they are far rarer than your average lake, State Forest State Park treasures a trio of them: Ruby Jewel, Kelly Lake, and Clear Lake. Nestled amid the wilderness of Northern Colorado, the park is just a 1.5-hour drive from Steamboat Springs and two hours from Fort Collins.

Hiking to the high-alpine lakes in State Forest State Park

With 71,000 acres of diverse dense forests and rocky peaks, this park will not disappoint anyone who loves to hike. If you want to get a taste of all the park offers, backpacking the North Loop trail offers just that. Following this route, you'll not only get a good look at the awe-inspiring Medicine Bow Mountains but you'll encounter all three of the park's alpine lakes.

However, it should be noted that this trail is for expert-level hikers only as it contains difficult terrain and runs close to 30 miles long. For a shorter trip, hike the 7-mile trail to either Kelly or Clear Lake. Or visit Jewel Lake via the Ruby Jewel trail, just a 3.5-mile hike, which includes the trek from a nearby parking lot.

During the winter, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiles are all permitted for use on these trails. While you are encouraged to take in the unbelievable scenery found at State Forest State Park's high-alpine lakes, no watercraft or swimming is allowed in their waters. If you're looking to go boating or swimming, the park permits this at North Michigan Reservoir.

Additional outdoor recreation in State Forest State Park

Beyond hiking to these beautiful alpine lakes, State Forest State Park is brimming with additional options for outdoor recreation. For instance, trails like the American Lakes or Thunder Pass route are beloved by horseback riders. Take your horse through stunning forests, covered in aspen and pine trees. If you're an avid fisher, State Forest State Park offers prime opportunities for the sport at Big Creek (Lower and Upper) as well as North Delaney.

State Forest State Park is also a fantastic travel destination for animal lovers. Whether on foot or on horseback, as you make your way through the park terrain, you're bound to encounter an abundance of wildlife. The area is a fantastic place for birders to spot a beautiful variety, including Steller's Jays and Black-Capped Chickadees. If you're extra lucky, you might even spot a moose. Well, maybe not "extra" lucky, as the park is famous for its large moose population. Whatever you do or see while at State Forest State Park, remember to respect the power of Mother Nature and take proper precautions to stay safe amid unpredictable weather, animals, and terrain.