Kroenke Lake, Buena Vista, Colorado
Updated: Mar 28, 2021
Kroenke Lake is settled inside the 261 square miles boundary of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and just a few miles north-west of Buena Vista, Colorado, Kroenke Lake is an easily accessible day hike.
Only a few hundred feet from the trailhead you’ll cross North Cottonwood Creek for the first of several times. North Cottonwood Creek is a constant companion for much of the hike.
For the most part, the first few miles of the trail steadily carry you higher, but the grade is quite comfortable. Entry into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness comes about .75 miles into the hike.
Thanks to the summer-to-autumn transition, the trail conditions change at nearly every turn.
Shortly before arriving at the second bridge crossing, there is a narrow stream crossing. I suppose it’s possible this stream is a raging torrent in the Spring, however, based on the narrowness, uphill from the crossing, I’m going to say that’s likely not the case.
About 2.25 miles into the hike, you’ll come upon the 2nd bridge crossing.
Another .25 mile up the trail and you’ll come to the trail junction.
After passing the trail junction, the woods begin to thin out a bit.
About a mile after the trail junction, you’ll come to the first of two additional stream crossings. There are no proper bridges here. My guess is that this stream is significantly wider during the spring thaw.
Shortly before arriving at the above stream, snow amounts began increasing significantly and that trend continued for the balance of the distance to Kroenke Lake.
The summer-autumn transition offers an interesting tug-of-war between plants giving in to the season change, and those that generate new growth during brief “warm spells”.
Amble on for another mile or so and you find yourself at the final stream crossing.
From this stream crossing, you’ll have roughly two miles to go before you make the Kroenke Lake shore. SPECIAL NOTE: You may have noticed that the mileages I mention don’t match the trailhead signage. The signage, I believe, by a little more than 2 miles. This will be addressed at the end of the article. From this point on, dry ground was the exception and snow was the rule.
Along the way, we ran into Mother Nature’s salute to a Muppets character. Do you see it?
A couple hundred yards further and you’ll be at the Kroenke Lake shoreline.
Wanna go? From the stop light, in the middle of Buena Vista (you can’t miss it-there’s only one stop light in the entire town), drive west on HWY 24 and turn left onto Crossman Avenue. Drive 2.1 miles and turn right onto Chafee County Road 361 (Crossman Ave. “T’s” at CCR 361, so there’s no missing your turn). On CCR 361, drive .9 miles, and turn left onto Chafee County Road 365.
Follow CCR 365 for 5.2 miles, and the road terminates at the North Cottonwood Creek trailhead. For a couple miles, CCR 365 runs through a residential area, and then enters the national forest. For the most part, the road is easily negotiable with any vehicle, although, there are some spots where you’ll want to be cautious if you’re driving a low-clearance vehicle.
Planning to take Fido or Mr. Ed? This is a dog friendly/horse trail, so take your four-legged friends along so they can enjoy as well. Be aware that this trail moves you through a designated wilderness area, so you won’t be able to take bicycles, or anything motorized into this area. I’d be willing to wager this
IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING DISTANCE: When researching this trail, information consistently referenced the round-trip at approximately 8 miles and the signage at the trailhead indicates the trip to Kroenke Lake is 4 miles. Based on our GPS unit, and what seemed like the longest 4 miles I’ve ever put on my boots, we discovered the actual round-trip mileage to be a little better than 12 miles. Could our GPS have been incorrect? Sure, but I recommend you plan on 12 miles, in order to ensure you are in and out within the time frame you plan. If you do this hike I’d like to know what you come up with for distance.
I’m going to rate this hike moderate-difficult due to distance. This is a beautiful alpine lake that is well worth the effort to get to. As always, pack out what you packed in. Happy trekking!