Buckhorn Lakes Park
Type: Scenic/Picnic/Camping/Fishing/Multiple recreation
Access: High clearance/4wd
Bathroom: Nothing Permanent
GPS Coordinates: 38.335083, -107.651092
Buckhorn Lakes Park is a pair of lakes owned by the city of Montrose and is located high above the Uncompahgre Valley and just south/east of Montrose Colorado. The lakes sit among the pines and aspens on a large bench type area and in the shadow of the prominent Sawtooth Rocks to the east and the highest point in Montrose county, Castle Rock to the south/east.
To access the area from downtown Montrose you need to travel south on US Hwy 550 for approximately 11 miles until you come to Buckhorn road on your left which is right before the tiny town of Colona. Continue on Buckhorn road for about 1 mile until you come to the intersection of buckhorn Road and Uncompahgre Road. At this point remain on Buckhorn Road by turning right.
Continue following the road as it climbs higher through the oak brush, pinyon & junipers and eventually up to the aspens and pine trees. There are some fabulous views of the Uncompahgre Valley where you can even see Ridgeway State Park from some viewpoints. Higher up and across the valley are awesome views of the San Juan’s along with the Uncompahgre Plateau and the Grand Mesa. So far the road surface has been a fairly smooth well graveled road. A couple miles prior to the lakes the road turns from the nice gravel to dirt and rocks. In years past this last section of the road was known to be very rough and rocky requiring a higher clearance and possible 4wd vehicle. Lucky for us a month earlier to our trip the National Guard performed some community service work on the area which included smoothing the road, adding drainage and installing culverts along the way, so it was a relatively smooth ride. Although I would not recommend taking the family sedan or sports car into the area. I’m sure given time the road will deteriorate once again.
After approximately 11 miles or so you will come to the Buckhorn Lakes Park big red sign. Be sure to bear to the left as there is what looks like a road that goes to the right of the sign but appeared extremely rocky and steep.
Once past the sign the road drops down and meanders through the trees where it exits into a flower filled meadow area. The first lake will be directly on your right. There are various places to camp along the edge of the lake ranging from small tent size areas to slightly larger areas that could accommodate a smaller camp trailer.
Access to the closest side of the lake is very wide open as there is little to no brush around its edges. The far side has a lot more trees and is quite a bit more rocky. There’s a trail that looks like it goes all the way around the lake. I went a little ways on it but not the whole distance. There were two people fishing at this lake and they said they caught one fish all day. No one in our group even had a bite after over an hour so we decided to pack up and move to the second lake where they had far better luck. After only about an hour they ended up with four nice rainbow trout by about 2:30 in the afternoon.
You can access the second lake two ways. The first and what looked like the most popular route was bearing to the left shortly after exiting the trees. The road travels over a small hilly area, through some trees and exits out at the edge of the lake. the road then continues to travel along the shoreline with various areas to camp and fish.
This road appeared to travel around to the opposite end of the lake where there was a small open area with a couple picnic tables. We ended up turning around about halfway along the length of the lake because the road was becoming increasingly rough and narrow.
The second way to access the lake is from the opposite side. Instead of bearing left from the main road after exiting the trees you can keep going straight and follow the first lake. The road enters the trees at the end of the lake and gently gains elevation. In about a quarter mile there is a spur road that branches off to the left. If you bear right the road leads to the radio towers and a locked gate I believe so you want to take a left and follow the road through the trees until you come to another left turn. Take the turn and you’ll see the lake at the bottom of the hill.
At this point if you don’t have 4wd and high clearance you might consider parking at the top of the hill. If you’re feeling adventurous feel free to drive down to the lake but be forewarned it is very steep and rocky with tree roots and ruts so getting down might not be a problem but getting out might prove otherwise.
At the bottom of the hill there is a nice boat launch looking area that’s free of any weeds and grass. There’s also a nice campsite area as well. I didn’t get to explore this area a whole lot because there were some people fishing and camping nearby and in order to get farther around the lake you would have to walk right through their camp and I just didn’t want to disturb them.
This is a beautiful area that is relatively close to Montrose and that most any vehicle with a little clearance can get to barring any strong rains or snow. From what I’ve heard the area can get pretty busy on weekends and holidays so if you go you might try to do it during the week. We were up there on a Monday and only ran across maybe 6-7 groups and they were all respectful of the peace and tranquility of the area. This area is also used as the starting point for the trail up to the Sawtooth Rocks and over to the summit of Castle Rock, so there are some hiking opportunities as well. This is definitely an area to put on the to-do list.