American Lake

Round Trip Distance: 6.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 9,418 - 11,384 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 4 hrs.
Trailhead: American Lake
Fee: none
Attractions: Forest hike, alpine lake

American Lake is located in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness Area of the White River National Forest near Aspen, Colorado. The trail begins off of the Castle Creek Road where it climbs through an aspen and conifer forest that is awash with a large variety of wildflowers. Easy access helps the American Lake trail to receive very heavy usage especially on weekends and holidays through the summer months.

To get to the trailhead from Aspen follow the Castle Creek Road for 10 miles where a sign will direct you to the parking area which will be on the right. For turn by turn directions enter 'American Lake Trailhead Aspen Colorado' into your driving app.

The easy to follow hard packed trail starts out through pleasant stands of aspens where deer can sometimes be spotted nearby.

After a short distance the route enters the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness where special rules, as pointed out at the trailhead kiosk, apply.

Wildflowers and a thick verdue of various plants cover the slopes that the sun is able to penetrate.

As the trail gains elevation conifers of pine and spruce begin to dominate the somewhat darkened forest.

Occasionally the trail will cross a meadow that provides an enjoyable change of scenery from that of the dense forest.

Eventually the ridgeline of Leahy Peak (13,322 ft.) that forms part of the cirque surrounding American Lake comes into view.

Crystal clear water greets hikers as they arrive at American Lake where to the tantalizing delight of the many fisherman that make the journey cutthroat trout can easily be seen swimming to and fro along the shores.

Although the hike to American Lake is a little longer than the one to the nearby Cathedral Lake, of the two, American Lake is the easier hike. With similar elevation gains the extra distance gives the American Lake trail an average grade of 15 compared to 18 for Cathedral Lake. While both trails see a high number of hikers, American Lake is undoubtedly the busier while our opinion is that Cathedral Lake and its surrounding area is by far the prettiest. To find out for yourself all you have to do is 'Take two hikes'.