Peak(s):  Lone Eagle Cirque - 10320
Date Posted:  07/23/2009
Date Climbed:   07/22/2009
Author:  Tory Wells
 Lone Eagle Cirque from Monarch Lake TH   

Lone Eagle Cirque from the Monarch Lake TH
Starting elevation: 8,440'
Crater Lake elevation: 10,320'
Roundtrip distance: 14.5 mi

I had been meaning to hike up to Lone Eagle Cirque for about a year now and finally made it. It is one of the most spectacular hikes in Colorado so I thought I'd share it with you.

The cirque is located in the Indian Peaks Wilderness and can be reached from either the east or west side of the Divide. I hiked in from the west side at the Monarch Lake TH which is on the southeast side of Lake Grandby. The turnoff from HW 34 is FR 125 (Arapaho Bay), about 5 miles after the junction of HW 40 and 34. Follow an excellent dirt road about 10 miles to the Monarch Lake TH.
Monarch Lake in the predawn glow:

From the east side of the Divide you would hike in from the Long Lake TH near Brainard Lake. From the east it is about a 20 mile roundtrip hike, from the west about 15 miles. I chose the west side because I had read of the spectacular waterfalls along Cascade Creek.

After leaving the Monarch Lake TH, follow the well-signed trail around the lake and enter the Indian Peaks Wilderness. There are many trail junctions along the way but the desired path is clearly marked.

I had read of three superb waterfalls along Cascade Creek, but I counted five photo-worthy falls, plus another nearer the cirque.

To get good photos of the falls, start early as once the sun hits them it becomes much more difficult to take long exposures.


There are two lakes in the basin of the cirque...Mirror Lake and Crater Lake. Mirror is the first reached and the smaller of the two. Crater is the larger and seemed to have excellent fishing opportunities. Lone Eagle Peak is simply spectacular. I didn't climb it (my dog does NOT like class 4!) but hope to return for the Solo Flight route someday soon.
Lone Eagle Peak:



For the runners out there, this trail is entirely runnable on excellent singletrack the whole way. It gets a little rocky toward the top but not too bad. And the 2200' of gain over 7 miles makes for a nice gradual ascent. Also, the wildflowers are spectacular at the moment.

On the hike out we saw this cow moose near the trail. I was not able to get a good picture before she wandered off.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Comments or Questions

Very nice ...
07/23/2009 18:29
I can‘t even tell you how long I‘ve been wanting to go to this area. You‘re feeding my need to schedule it. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


Great place...
07/23/2009 18:55
I love that cirque. Lone Eagle Peak is iconic - and certainly earns it‘s namesake. I made that long hike to Crater Lake twice last summer just to stand/sleep/eat/wonder beneath that peak. The first time on a weekend in early July the designated tentsites (I think there are eight or nine of them) were half empty. The second time, over Labor Day weekend, there were still a few empty sites available. Not sure why that is considering the area is speckf‘ntacular gorgeous! Maybe the hike distance?

I literally ran into two moose on the trail in. I was hiking with the headphones on, not really paying attention, and I came across four little legs standing in the middle of the trail. I looked up and saw baby moose. I looked further up and saw momma moose. She looked at me like I was a dead man. I have never ever jumped so far and so fast. When I peered back over the big boulder beside the trail there was nothing. Momma and kid disappeared with the grace of a ballerina.


Great photos!
07/23/2009 19:09
If you have a DSLR, look into getting a neutral density filter. It will allow you to take long exposure shots with sun. I have a graduated ND filter, which helps with bright sky and dark surroundings.

Great trip agreed!
07/23/2009 20:19
The place is awesome-I recommend lots of mosquito repellant. We went 3 weeks ago in the afternoon- started at 3:30 and were up at the cirque about 1 hour before sunset (amazing light). Hiked back for 2 hrs in darkness which also was fun. The shadows are long there so plan to be at the final 2 lakes at least 1.5 hrs before sunset for best light.

Snow Conditions?
07/26/2009 19:40
Awsome pics. Went up there last year and tried to ski Fair glacier which is the one on the lookers left of lone eagle. Too much blue ice and a huge crevase at the bottom so we opted out. Just wondering if you got a good look at the condition of Fair, me and a buddy are planning to hike up there in the next month and try to ski Fair or Peck glacier.

Ridge runner

Heaven on Earth
02/01/2011 00:24
I was just up there last weekend and I totally agree with you in how spectacular that area is. I also had my dog so I couldn‘t do anything technical, but simply seeing the waterfalls and chilling out by the lake was enough to satisfy me and my dog. Let me know if or when you plan on climbing Lone Eagle and need a partner or two.

Tory Wells

Couple more photos....
09/03/2011 14:45

Tory Wells

I forgot to mention.....
09/03/2011 14:45
the abundance of campsites with a view near the cirque. Go during the week of course, as I imagine a weekend sees lots of visitors.

Tory Wells

Thanks for the tip.....
09/03/2011 14:45
I‘ll have to look into a ND filter, after putting it off for so long. Thanks!

Tory Wells

09/03/2011 14:45
from my vantage down by the lakes, the glaciers looked tiny.

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