|Elev Gain||276 ft|
|My Time||1 hr 1 min|
|Food Nearby||Gray’s Coors Tavern|
Lake Pueblo State Park Canyon Loop
The Canyon loop in Lake Pueblo State Park is an easier hike that is popular with hikers and mountain bikers. The loop has some lake views, mesa views, and takes you into a canyon. A nice hike that easier but still takes some skill because of some narrow hiking.
On a personal note, Pueblo County adds another county to my goal of hiking in every county in Colorado. Pueblo brings me to 32 of 63 counties in the state and I have finally passed half way!
The Skull Canyon to Roller Coaster Loop stars on the Water Tower Trail . The Water Tower Trail can be found just outside of the Arkansas Point Campground. There is a small parking area just before you get to the campground with access to some restroom facilities.
The Water Tower Trail takes you the first third of a mile on your journey and is wide dirt and gravel path that looks to double as a fire or service road. The trail gives you some of the first views of the lake…
And also give a very early view of the mesa cliffs that you will get closer to later on the hike.
At around a third of a mile you will come to a trail junction. Water Tower will intersect with the South Shore trail. I took the South Shore trail from here but you can continue on Water Tower and do the loop from the other direction just as easily.
The South Shore trail covers the entire south shore of the lake and ends up at HWY 96 but for this loop I was only on it for about two-tenths of a mile until reaching the Skull Canyon loop.
The Skull Canyon takes over from the South Shore trail and heads directly into the canyon. The trail is significantly more narrow from the start and proceeds in a single file style. The further you get into the canyon the closer you get to a bit of cover but most of the trail is exposed.
As you get deeper into the canyon the trail bounces a bit across a dry creek bed. There is a return loop trail if you want to head back, otherwise you will continue up the hill to the top of the canyon. This is the longest and most challenging portion of the hike. The trail to the top of the canyon takes about eight-tenths of a mile and just over 100 feet in elevation gain. At the top of the canyon will come to flat area covered in desert scrub. There you will also find the junction to the Roller Coaster trail which you can take to complete the loop.
The Roller Coaster trail is true to its name. A rolling up and down hill that resembles a bit of a roller coaster. (Luckily without any loops or corkscrews!) The trail is a half mile long with the gentle rolling of the hills. The topside views are completely different from the canyon. More of a plains or high desert feel to them. There are a couple of opportunities to hike back into the canyon during the half mile and one of the best views is from this spot above the canyon itself called Skull Ridge.
The half mile on the Roller Coaster is actually pretty fun. As you continue up and down short hills it definitely keeps it interesting instead of just a flat boring stretch. There are a couple of options to get back from here but I took the Hooters Canyon. You can find Hooters Canyon by going straight at the Skull Ridge as Roller Coaster will take a turn to the right (east).
The Hooters Canyon is a bit steeper and narrower than Skull Canyon. There are some tight switchbacks down into the canyon. This includes the steepest section of the trail that has a 16% grade that gets a little tricky and slippery on the way down so be careful.
There are some nice views looking down into canyon and down to the lake from the Hooters Canyon. The tighter switchbacks release you into the bottom of the valley where you get another nice set of views of the surrounding cliffs.
After the walk through the center of the canyon you will intersect again the the Water Tower trail which will get you back to the trailhead.
The hike through the Lake Pueblo State Park Canyon Loop is an enjoyable hike with several different terrain styles and plenty to look at. It is very exposed to the elements so the sun and heat can get a little tough. There is also a series of trails inside the park so you can really make the hike your own depending on what type of adventure you are looking for.
Video of Lake Pueblo State Park Canyon Loop
I have put together a time-lapse video of the hike to give you a feel for what the hike is like. If you enjoy the video make sure to hit that subscribe button on my YouTube Channel. It is free and will give you updates as soon as there is new video available.
Distance and Elevation
If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 2.57 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 276 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 5,125 feet. I was also moving for a total of 1 hours and 1 minute.
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This loop isn’t too bad. It is on the shorter side but there are some steep sections but only in short distances. One of the biggest challenges at Lake Pueblo State Park is that there isn’t really any shade. The exposure gets pretty hot especially if you are like me and hike in the middle of the day. I am going to rate this as moderate due to some of the elevation and the possible elements to deal with.
The loop to Skull Canyon to Roller Coaster is mostly hard packed dirt. The trail starts on wide dirt road that has bit of gravel on it. As you get deeper into the trail system the trails narrow down to a single file. The trail can get a little rocky at times as you are getting deeper into the canyon. Depending on which direction you take there can be some steep parts that can get a little slick due to the hard packed dirt. I would suggest a pair of hiking shoes or trail runners that have some good grip to them.
Lake Pueblo State Park is located on Pueblo Reservoir Road in Pueblo County. The park does require a $10 day pass for all vehicles. Yearly park passes are available as well. There is a pretty good sized parking area and several restrooms with pit toilets at the park. There are also several picnic areas available in different areas.
Wrapping up Lake Pueblo State Park Canyon Loop
The Pueblo State Park Canyon Loops was a really enjoyable hike that snaked its way through some of the small canyons on the outskirts of the park. there are some lake views and just enough of a challenge to make the hike exciting. There isn’t much for shade so make sure you protect yourself from the weather.
There are a lot of different trails around the park so many options to hike but this is a shorter loop that can be done in a half of a day or less.
I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!