Overland’s Best Day Hikes: The American Lakes Trail to Lulu Mountain Colorado State Forest State Park

If you’re looking for a great day hike that’s good—if challenging—for an active family, read on to learn more about the American Lakes Trail to Lulu Mountain Colorado State Forest State Park.

PART ONE: BASICS

  • Trailhead: American Lakes Trailhead
  • Type of Trail: Out and back
  • Difficulty Level: Hard 
  • Roundtrip Miles: 9.4 miles 
  • Elevation Gain: 2,400 

PART TWO: FIRST-PERSON ACCOUNT BY VETERAN OVERLAND LEADER LILLIAN GIBSON

What It’s Like: The hike passes by a variety of small lakes including American Lakes and the Never Summer Mountains which is home to the Never Summer 100k every summer. The hike is an out-and-back. If you have extra time coming down from the top of Lulu you should stop by Snow Lake—you’ll see it in the distance if you look past what you’ve hiked as you ascend Lulu. 

Why I Love It: It gives you a great view of the Rockies and on a clear day you can see Rocky Mountain National Park far in the distance. 

Anything else that is memorable: The hike up Lulu is quite challenging but the views are spectacular. There are also some good places to stop and take in the scenery as you make your way. We had lunch on the top one day with our kids. The first time we did it was on the first day of the Never Summer 100k; on previous trips we had run into people training for the race on our hike so it was a full circle moment cheering on the runners as we hiked by the lakes. 

Other details of what it’s like: As you hike up Lulu you can’t always see the peak which makes the hike challenging at the time because when you think you’re almost at the top you see that there’s more to go. It is a great hike to wrap up your time in the Rocky Mountains because you are truly able to see their vast expanse. On this hike you will probably encounter snow even in the summer that’s why they’re called the Never Summer mountains. It is important to have long socks and layers prepared on this hike because it can get super windy. The ascent up Lulu has a quick elevation increase so it is important to be prepared for this and take as many breaks as needed. 

Veteran Overland leader Lillian Gibson led Overland’s Rocky Mountain Explorer in 2023. Lillian led three groups of teens (the students were 13 and 14 years old) for two weeks at a time.

Overland Leader Lillian Gibson At-A-Glance

What One of Her Co-Leaders Had to Say

“Lillian was always on top of things, supportive, and fun. Our leading went smoothly with her help and her strengths are communicating with the kids and managing logistics. Even when things didn’t go as planned, she stayed calm and collected. Lillian is a great Overland leader and anyone would be better off with her as their co-leader.” – Lizzy Godden

PART THREE: ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Storm Warning:

Weather in Colorado can turn in an instant. Be prepared for changing weather conditions. Check the forecast before heading out. Lightning can strike anywhere in RMNP. Watch for building storm clouds and return to the trailhead immediately if you hear thunder. As a general rule, try to be back at the trailhead by noon.

Online Resources:

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