This is a nice, varied hike just off highway 40 that works well for intermediate hikers wanting a shorter jaunt in the mountains. This isn’t long or technical hike, but there is one short, gruelling uphill pitch that will require the use of your hands.
To access the hike, park at the Lantern Creek day use area on Highway 40 just south of the Highwood Pass gates. Note that gates are closed Dec 1 to June 14, so make sure to check before heading out. From the day use area, cross the highway and take the obvious path that ascends into the forest.
The trail will climb gently through gorgeous Spruce forest and across grassy, wildflower-speckled slopes before arriving at the steepest part of the trail. The nearly 45-degree incline is covered in loose rock, with a few bolted logs for stability. This section will be a leg burner, but it’s short, non-technical and you will be rewarded for your effort.
Once you arrive at the top, the high mountain views are incredible, and only a little ways further down the trail gives you a first glimpse of the lakes. Crossing through a rock pile, you arrive at the first of four stunning, crystal blue Picklejar Lakes scattered throughout the picturesque valley. Each one is lovely and unique, so I recommend enjoying lunch on the shore of one, and then taking the time to explore the others. This is a popular spot for fishing, camping and linking to other hiking trails as well.