Macey & Horn Lakes

June 2020  |  Sangre de Cristos, Colorado

In mid-June we drove over to the Sangre de Cristo Range in south-central Colorado for four days of backpacking in some new (to us) valleys along the eastern side of the range. As usual in June, there was less snow in the Sangres compared to most other Colorado mountain ranges, and it was great to get out for our first real multi-day alpine lake type of backpack trip this summer. Our loop route took us to Macey Lakes (included a spare day at Macey Lakes to relax and explore the basin a bit), then over an off trail pass route to Horn Lakes.

Probably due to it's close proximity and easy access from the town of Westcliffe, Macey Lakes seem to be quite "loved" (or abused, as evidenced by old campfires on the rocks and grass right next to the lake). If you go backpacking to alpine lakes like this, please resist the urge to camp and/or have a fire right next to the lake. It's better to camp in the woods a short ways away from the lake, that way you can help keep the lake shore pristine.

Colorado, Macey Lakes, Sangre de Cristos, sunrise, photo

Foggy morning at Macey Lake.

After unsettled weather and a bit of rain the first night at Macey Lake, I woke up for sunrise only to see the entire basin covered in fog. I got up anyways and waited optimistically for the fog to clear a bit, with occasional glimpses of the peaks giving me some hope. Sure enough the fog lifted from time to time to show the sunrise light on mountains, providing some awesome moments to photograph.

Colorado, Macey Lakes, Sangre de Cristos, photo

Fog streams by Macey Lake.

For the entire first half of the day waves of fog streamed up from the valley below – quite unusual weather for Colorado; it almost felt like being in the Cascades!

Colorado, Macey Lakes, Sangre de Cristos, photo

Foggy reflection at upper Macey Lakes.

After the morning's battle between fog and sun, the fog won out and by the afternoon a sprinkling of rain had us retreating to the tent for nap time. That evening before sunset, though it was still totally cloudy, I detected a faint warm glow on the undersides of the clouds - a good sign for an imminent sunset show! I rushed down to the lake just as the sky exploded with fiery color, the orange and red clouds so bright that it cast the entire basin in a magenta glow light. I managed to take one calm reflection shot before getting blasted by a wave of wind and graupel. What a show!!!

Colorado, Macey Lakes, Sangre de Cristos, sunset, photo

An incredible fiery sunset light show at Macey Lake, moments before waves of wind and hail showered down upon the scene.

From Macey Lakes I led us over to Horn Lakes, via an off-trail pass which I had scoped out on Google Earth; the route was potentially tricky but fortunately I was able to guide us through alright. With a totally clear weather forecast, we decided to camp near the upper lake, high above treeline - a rare treat for us since we're usually too paranoid about lightning to camp in exposed places. I had ambitions to hike up Mount Adams for sunset, but gave up those plans once we got to the saddle 2/3 of the way up and I saw what the remaining ridgeline scramble would entail.

Colorado, Horn Lakes, Sangre de Cristos, sunrise, photo

Sunrise light at Horn Lake.

On the last morning I was treated to one last awesome light show before we packed up and headed back down to the car.

All in all, another great trip in the Sangres, and I hope to return for more this summer! You can see more of my trip reports from the Sangre de Cristos here.

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