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Hiking Lake Nighthorse

Distance2.29 mi
Elevation Gain187 ft
My Time48 min
Closest townDurango
Food NearbyN/A

Hiking Lake Nighthorse

Lake Nighthorse is a larger lake near Durango, Colorado that can be enjoyed by most water enthusiasts. There is a swimming area, boat launch, and I saw a ton of paddle boards and some kayaks in the water as well as several boats. There really aren’t many options when it comes to hiking Lake Nighthorse but there is one nature walk that should be available to all skill levels.

Getting Started

Lake Nighthorse is managed by Durango Parks and Recreation and there is a $10 day pass required to get in. Season passes are also available. The path at the lake is located at the end of the main parking area near the boat launch. The dirt road has a road closed sign blocking the entrance to vehicles but there is a place to walk and gain entrance to the path.

The path is available to bikes, walkers and runners, anglers and dogs for the first mile. At the end of the path is another set of signs and past that there is no public access so please don’t cross that barrier at the end.

A gate blocks vehicle traffic that begins the hike at Lake Nighthorse.
Starting the hike at Lake Nighthorse.

The Trail

The trail while hiking Lake Nighthorse is really a mile long dirt service road. It is well maintained and very easy to follow. To one side is a series of tree covered hills and to the other is the lake. It is really a nice place to walk with some amazing views. I passed a few people walking their dogs or just out for a stroll but, for the most part, it wasn’t as busy as the other sections of the park.

The service road trail at Lake Nighthorse.
The service road trail at Lake Nighthorse.

There really isn’t much to the hike as it is more of a nature walk than anything. There were a lot of birds around the lake for the bird watching crowd. A couple of tables are available to sit and take in the water views. The return hike really showed off with views of the mountains peaking over the trees. For the most part it was just a nice relaxing walk with amazing views and a nice relaxing pace.

Mountains poking over the trees at Lake Nighthorse.
Mountains poking over the trees at Lake Nighthorse.

Lake Nighthorse

The real treasure of hiking Lake Nighthorse is the lake itself. Lake Nighthorse is a beautiful lake. When I went, it was a deep blue color that mirrored the sky above. Tree lined hills surround the lake and the hills aren’t stuffed with homes or buildings so it gives the feeling of a mountain lake. There were a lot of boats and people at the lake but it didn’t feel over crowded.

Lake Nighthorse
Lake Nighthorse

There was a section near the parking lot for swimmers. Boats sped along the lake and paddle boards were launching but there was still a quiet and calm to the lake. I was there sort of early on a weekend and it was busy but not crowded.

Walking around the lake was really peaceful and relaxing. The hike is easy and it provides some amazing views of the lake from. Just a really enjoyable hour walking around a short mile of the shore of Lake Nighthorse.

Lake Nighthorse
Lake Nighthorse

Video of Hiking Lake Nighthorse

I have put this time-lapse video together of hiking Lake Nighthorse so other hikers can get a feel of what the hike is like. If you enjoy this video make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel. It is free to subscribe and you will get the latest outdoor content.

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 2.29 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 187 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 6,935 feet. I was also moving for a total of 48 minutes.

I am a Pro member of AllTrails and love it. If you are interested in the platform, please consider using my affiliate link for AllTrails. It gives me a small commission with no extra cost to you.


The hike at Lake Nighthorse was really pretty easy. The trail is a wide dirt road and there are a couple of small spots of elevation gain but for the most part the hike is pretty flat. There are great views of the lake the entire time which makes this for a really enjoyable nature walk. I am going to set this one as an easy hike. Most skill levels should be able to handle this hike with little problems.


The terrain at the hike at Lake Nighthorse is a really easy to handle service road. The path is wide and graded for vehicles so it is flat and really easy to navigate. Any footwear should be fine for this easier hike.

Access to Lake Nighthorse

Lake Nighthorse is located on county road 210 in Durango and is managed by the Durango Parks and Recreation Department. There is a fee to enter. A day pass costs $10 per vehicle per day but season passes are available. The hours vary by season so check the website for the most up to date times.

Wrapping up Hiking at Lake Nighthorse

I really enjoyed my hike at Lake Nighthorse. There isn’t much to the nature walk. Its only about a mile and on a dirt service road. That is probably a great thing because my eyes were glued on the lake the entire time and didn’t spend much time looking at my feet! This was a really nice and enjoyable walk and was super peaceful walking next to the water. More people spend time on the water than walking around it so if you are looking to get away from the crowds for a few minutes this might be a nice break.

On a personal note, Lake Nighthorse is located in La Plata County, Colorado. La Plata county is the 38th out of 64 counties that I have hiked in on my quest to hike in every county of Colorado. A wonderful state to hike in all across the state!

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to the interactive map page you can find here. If you have any suggestions for hikes or comments feel free to email me at or you can follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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