North Halfmoon Lakes

Round Trip Distance: 5.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 10,582 - 12,076 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 4 hrs.
Trailhead: North Half Moon
Fee: none
Attractions: alpine lake

The North Halfmoon Lakes trail is located in the Mount Massive Wilderness Area of the San Isabel National Forest near Leadville, Colorado. From the North Halfmoon trailhead the route quickly crosses the wilderness boundary and continues a steady climb to two alpine lakes that sit in glacial basins on the west side of Mount Massive (14,423 ft.). The first half of the trail sees moderate use from hikers that are climbing the southwest Mount Massive route.

Getting to the North Halfmoon trailhead requires a high clearance 4wd vehicle. Hikers with 2wd vehicles will need to park at the Mount Massive trailhead and hike the 2.4 mile 4wd road. Entering either trailhead into your driving app will get you turn-by-turn directions.

As the trail starts out it passes a memorial that is dedicated to the 4 man crew of Army Copter 26378 that lost their lives when their aircraft crashed on Mt. Massive on August 19, 2009. Just beyond the memorial the trail crosses into the Mount Massive Wilderness.

For the next 1.4 miles the trail climbs at a gentle pace through the pine and spruce forest before breaking out onto the open lower slopes of Mount Massive.

Near the mile and a half point the trail that climbs the southwest side of Mount Massive branches off on the right.

As the trail continues past the Mount Massive junction it becomes more primitive in nature. After a short distance the trail comes to a place where some small trees are laid across the route that continues on up North Halfmoon Creek. The path to the right is a bit disguised but after a few feet there is a cairn that comes into view. After crossing a rocky outcrop the well traveled route once again becomes more apparent.

As the trail continues climbing it alternates between forest, where distant views are obscured, to open areas that reveal some of the surrounding peaks and basins. Glimpses of Deer Mountain (13,761 ft.) can be seen up ahead on the left where it towers above the rideline.

Eventually the trail reaches North Halfmoon Creek and the climb up to the basin gets a bit steeper. There are several stretches that are steeper than the rest but fortunately they are short lived. As the trail reaches the lower basin it levels off a bit. There is a cairn at this point that marks the spot to go to the left if your destination is the lower lake. The better looking trail continues on the right heading up to the larger upper lake.

It might not be apparent but when the trail reaches the stream take advantage of the makeshift bridge of rocks to cross to the other side.

The Lower North Halfmoon Lake comes into view as the trail crosses a short ridge. Mount Oklahoma (13,845 ft.) is the highest point on the west side of the basin. The ridge in the background forms part of the Continental Divide. The lakes themselves are part of the headwaters of the Arkansas River.

By hiking around the south side of the lake you can get the rugged west slopes of Mount Massive (14,423 ft.) to enter the background. To put it into perspective, the summit of Mount Massive, which is off to the right, is a little more than 2,450 feet higher than the lower lake. We've climbed Mount Massive several times and looked down on the Halfmoon Lakes from its summit thinking 'we oughta go there'.

 Mount Elbert (14,439 ft.), the highest point in Colorado, dominates the background while heading back down the trail. A keen eye might be able to see the trail where it goes around the point of rocks on the northeast slope about 500 feet or more below the summit.

There are a lot of good primitive campsites around the trailhead and in various places along the 4wd road. After having completed the hike to the lower lake we have determined to repeat it on a day that allows more time above treeline before afternoon thunderstorms are predicted and hike directly to the upper lake. The upper lake is the larger of the two and should have better views of Mount Massive and the other surrounding peaks. However you choose to go about it if you would like to see it for yourself all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.