Buckles Lake trail is an easy 3 1/2 mile back and out hike near Pagosa Springs, Colorado in the San Juan Mountains. The trail takes you to the alpine lakes of Buckles Lake and Harris Lake. The aspen trees in the fall put on a spectacular display at these lakes. This trail is also very quiet and you’re unlikely to encounter many, if any, other people on the trail.

The trail elevation starts at 9,485 feet so it is a nice cool respite in the summer months.

It is also an easy trail, so is good for families.

Buckles Lake Road

Buckles Lake Road (FR 663) is a beautiful, scenic drive, whether or not you are planning to hike to Buckles and Harris lakes.

Aspen trees along Buckles Lake Road
Aspen trees along FR 633

It is especially beautiful in the fall when the tree colors are changing.

The road provides beautiful views of V Rock along the way.

V Rock in the fall
V Rock
Fall colors in the mountains
Fall colors along Buckles Lake Road

The video below shows the view from FR 633 to V Rock and the stunning fall tree colors, including golden aspens and orange scrub oaks.

YouTube video
View of V Rock along FR 663

It is also a pretty view in the summer.

navajo peak in the summer
View toward Navajo Peak in the summer months

As you get closer to the Buckles Lake trailhead, there is a beautiful mix of aspen trees and evergreen pines.

Buckles Lake Road
Trees along FR 633

Dispersed Camping along Buckles Lake Road

There are many dispersed camping spots located along FR 633 all the way up to the trailhead parking lot. Some are large enough for several RVs or tent campers to camp together.

To find campsites along the road, use this tutorial to find dispersed camping locations on USFS land. The tutorial uses a location about 8 miles north of FR 633 as an example of how to find dispersed campsites along forest service roads.

Parking at Buckles Lake Trailhead

Once FR 633 dead-ends, you’ll be at the parking area for the Buckles Lake trailhead. There is ample parking in this area.

The V Rock trail starts from the some parking area, but both trailheads are well marked, so you will be able to find the Buckles Lake trailhead easily. (The V Rock trail is much more difficult than the Buckles Lake trail.)

There are vault toilets at the trailhead.

When we hiked this trail on a Saturday, the only other people we saw was the family below starting to ride the trail on horseback.

three people on horses riding a trail in the mountains
Horseback riders at trailhead

Hike to Buckles Lake

To get to Buckles Lake, use FS trail #688 (Buckles Lake trail) identified on the USFS interactive map below. Click on the map to go to the USFS interactive map for the trail.

USFS map to Buckles Lake and Harris Lake
USFS Interactive Visitor Map of Buckles Lake and Harris Lake

The trail is easy to follow. It meanders through pretty aspen groves.

dog on hiking trail with aspen trees
Start of hiking trail
tall aspen trees
Hike through aspen trees

After a short distance, you will start to see Buckles Lake through the aspen trees.

trail to buckles lake
Trail through aspen trees
aspen trees around mountain lake
First view of Buckles Lake through the aspen trees

The trail continues along Buckles Lake where you will be able to see some fabulous views of the golden aspen trees.

trail around buckles lake
Trail continues around Buckles Lake

Buckles Lake

Buckles is often considered to be the more scenic of the two lakes. But personal opinions vary, so check out both lakes!

Buckles Lake was named after John Buckles, a late 19th century settler who grazed sheep in the high meadows near the lake during summer months.

aspen trees reflecting off mountain lake
Buckles Lake in the fall

The lake is surrounded by aspen tree groves and pine trees. The contrast between the two tree types is stunning in the fall.

reflection of trees in lake
Reflection of trees on Buckles Lake

Aspen trees are deciduous trees known for their smooth, white bark and beautifully golden foliage in the fall.

aspen trees around buckles lake
Aspen groves around lake

Aspens are actually a species of poplar tree that grow in groves with the individual trees being part of a larger single organism connected by the same root system. So this means that a grove of golden aspen trees can all be from the same tree, rather than being individual trees.

The video below shows a panoramic view of Buckles Lake from the trail.

YouTube video
Buckles Lake in the fall

Hike to Harris Lake from Buckles Lake

To get to Harris Lake from Buckles Lake, follow the trail around Buckles Lake as far as you can. Then you will see the trail veer off to the left.

The map below shows how you must hike around Buckles Lake to find the trail to Harris Lake. Buckles Lake is #1 and Harris Lake is #2. The blue dot shows the location of the trail leading to Harris Lake.

map of hiking trail to buckles lake and harris lake
Map of hike from trailhead to Buckles Lake (#1) and Harris Lake (#2)

Follow this trail through the aspen trees.

trail through golden aspen trees
Trail to Harris Lake

You will pass this large tree root and stump with unique features.

tree stump and roots
Unique tree roots and stump along the trail

Continue along the trail and you will enter another grove of aspen trees.

trail through aspen grove
Aspen trees on way to Harris Lake
well worn trail through trees
Trail continues to Harris Lake
golden aspen grove
Aspen groves on trail to Harris Lake

Continue following the trail on an easy hike towards Harris Lake.

aspen trees and pine trees with a trail
Meandering trail to Harris Lake
easy trail to follow through aspen trees
Easy trail to Harris Lake

Harris Lake

Harris Lake’s name comes from A.B. Harris, one of the earliest homesteaders in the Pagosa Springs area in the 1870s.

Harris lake
Harris Lake

In the dry summer months, both Buckles Lake and Harris Lake can dry up. Harris Lake typically dries up first.

The frogs do not seem to notice that the lakes may have dried up. They make an enchanting chorus of hundreds of frogs singing out with their unique croaks. It’s weirdly peaceful.

aspen trees around harris lake
Aspen trees around Harris Lake
trail to harris lake
Tall aspens around lake
trees around harris lake in the fall
View around Harris Lake

The video below shows a panoramic view of Harris Lake in the fall. Most of the water is dried up, but the scenery is still spectacular.

YouTube video

Hiking Notes


The trail is through the forest. There is a lot of tree cover, so you will be mostly in the shade.

trail shaded by aspen trees
Shaded trail to Buckles Lake and Harris Lake

The lakes are both in more open areas, but the trail sections are heavily shaded.

Bug Spray

There can be a lot of flies and mosquitoes along this hike. Be sure to bring bug spray.

Free-Range Cattle

This is an area where there are a lot of free-range cattle. Watch out for cow paddies. You’ll likely see some cattle around Buckles Lake.

cattle at buckles lake
Cattle at Buckles Lake in the summer

If you bring a dog that will be off-leash, make sure your dog will be okay around cattle.

Unless, of course, yours is terrified of cattle like ours is. She runs from curious cattle in the video below. (And her breed just happens to be Australian Cattle Dog!)

YouTube video

Best Time to Hike

The Buckles Lake trail is pretty any time of year, but when the aspen trees change colors in the fall, the view is spectacular.

golden aspen trees with leaves on the ground
Gorgeous fall colors of aspen trees along the trail

The peak times for viewing the gold of the aspen trees in the Pagosa Springs area is typically around the beginning of October, which just happens to coincide with hunting season (see below).

The video below shows the quaking sounds and rustling leaves of aspen trees around Harris Lake at the beginning of October.

YouTube video
Quaking aspen trees near Harris Lake

Hunting Season

The hunting season in Colorado generally runs from September to mid-November. The Buckles Lake area can be popular with hunters, so you should be prepared if you’re hiking during this time period.

Wear a blaze orange vest or similar attire. Wearing blaze orange during hunting season is a safety measure designed to make people more visible to hunters. The bright, vivid color stands out, while being inconspicuous to animals who do not see the blaze orange color.

Aspen Tree Carvings from Sheep Herders

One of the unique aspects of the Buckles Lake trail is that many of the surrounding Aspen trees feature carvings created by Basque and Hispanic sheep herders from the early 1900s to the 1950s. Researchers have documented thousands of these arborglyphs in the region.

These tree carvings around Buckles Lake, known as arborglyphs, were created by sheep herders who would herd their sheep through the region. The herders would carve their names, hometowns, dates, and other messages into the pale bark of the aspen trees.

It’s worth it to explore a bit off trail to see if you can find any of the shepherds’ carvings.

Directions to Buckles Lake Trail from Pagosa Springs

Google maps lists the location as being in Durango, but this is not correct. The trailhead is south of Pagosa Springs.

From the intersection of US-160 and US-84, head south on US-84 for 19.8 miles. Turn left on Forest Road (FR) 663. Stay on FR 663 for 7 1/2 miles until the road dead-ends at the Buckles Lake trailhead.

You can click on the Google map below to get directions from your specific location.

FR 663 (Buckles Lake Road) is a well-maintained gravel road that is suitable for all passenger cars.

The Buckles Lake trail is the same general area as Opal Lake, but is much less crowded. Do the V Rock trail for a more challenging route.

Final Thoughts

aspen trees and trail
Aspen trees shedding leaves

Buckles Lake and Harris Lake are spectacular any time of the year, but particularly in the fall when the aspen trees turn a golden color.

This is a quiet and easy trail, and you may have the entire trail to yourself (and the cattle). Enjoy the scenery!