Carter Lake’s Sundance Trail

Difficulty
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Easy
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
2-2.5h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
9.5 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
81 m
User Ratings
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Directions to Trailhead

Carter Lake’s Sundance Trail is a crowd-favorite in Larimer County Park. Hike along the shores of the reservoir and bask in the grandeur of the lake and the surrounding Colorado wilderness. Whether you are a seasoned adventurer or a novice hiker, you will appreciate this stunning trail. Next time you find yourself in the Loveland area make sure to stop by the Carter Lake Reservoir.

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Route Description for Carter Lake’s Sundance Trail

Carter Lake’s Sundance Trail is a scenic hike through various quintessential Colorado terrains. This stimulating hike will guide adventurers through dense pine forests, along the shore's edge, and through open plains. The hike is a perfect stimulating adventure for the whole family. Note the trail undulates as it progresses along the lake’s shore and there are rocky segments. Though there are steep sections, the terrain is fairly undemanding and should be easy to navigate for novice hikers and kids alike. Situated within the Larimer County Park, visitors will have to pay a $9USD entrance fee to use the trails.

How could you not enjoy a relaxing hike around a serene lake? You can’t, that’s the point. Admire the beauty of the shimmering Carter Lake as you travel along the rocky shoreline. Appreciate the meditative ambiance of the waves crashing against the shore and the sound of wind whistling through the trees. We love this chill walk through the woods, and we know you will too. Hike it, run it, snowshoe it, bike it, or horseback ride the Carter Lake’s Sundance Trail. Although the water looks super inviting, note that you cannot swim in Carter Lake. The exception to this rule is swimming at the designated beach past Dam #2.

When you are ready to begin your adventure around Carter Lake, depart from Carter Lake’s Sundance Trailhead. The trailhead is located past the North Pine Campground, and is situated on the northwest side of the lake. From the trailhead, track south on the Sundance Trail. Hike along the path as it curves you west and ascends up a small hill. Climb the hill and the path will reposition itself south.

Follow along the route as you hike along the shore's edge and navigate some steep undulations. Maintain the well-marked trail and keep an eye out for wildlife! Hike the rocky path up and down the small ridges before the route levels out. Hike along the semi-shaded trail and enjoy the expansive views over Carter Lake and the mountainous backdrop that encompasses it. Looking in the east you will often see sailors, fisherman, water skiers and the odd scuba diver.

Continue trekking along the rocky path until you meet the trail’s end at the South Shore Campground. Take advantage of the water station and washroom facilities at this end of the path before commencing your return. When you are ready, simply retrace your steps all the way back to the parking lot.

Trail Highlights

Carter Lake Reservoir

Carter Lake Reservoir is an integral part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. This project uses reservoirs in the Loveland area to divert water from the west side of the Continental Divide to the east. The water is then used as drinking water, for irrigation purposes and for power generation. The picturesque reservoir is not only an important part of the surrounding area's infrastructure, but it is a popular boating and fishing destination. Fish for trout and largemouth bass from one of the lake’s piers. Additionally, with a maximum depth of 55 m, the Carter Lake Reservoir is also a great scuba diving lake. Many divers explore the lake's depths and train in the wakeless areas of the lake’s waters. With several outdoors activity options and an encompassing National Forest, the Carter Lake Reservoir is a popular summer destination for adventurers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you swim in Carter Lake Colorado?

Swimming is prohibited in Carter Lake except at the Carter Lake Dam #2 swim area.

Can you fish in Carter Lake?

Yes, you can fish in Carter Lake if you have a Colorado fishing license.

Can you bring your kayak to Carter Lake?

Yes, you can bring your own Kayak to Carter Lake, but you will have to pay an additional fee.

Insider Hints for Carter Lake’s Sundance Trail

  • If you love the Carter Lake area and live close, consider buying an annual pass!
  • Bring your swimsuit on warm summer days and swim at the designated beach past Dam #2.
  • Bring your paddle boards and kayaks along and stay at one of the park's campgrounds. Be the first ones on the water in the morning and enjoy the quiet water and the sunrise over the mountain ranges.
  • There are several picnic areas around the lake with wood grills. Pack some provisions and enjoy lunch on the lake’s shore.

Getting to the Carter Lake’s Sundance Trail Trailhead

Find the Carter Lake’s Sundance Trailhead off of North County Road 31. The trail is within a County Park so visitors will have to purchase a permit.

Route Information

  • Backcountry Campground

    Carter Lake Campgrounds

  • When to do

    Year-round

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly

    Yes

  • Route Signage

    Good

  • Crowd Levels

    High

  • Route Type

    Out and back

Carter Lake’s Sundance Trail Elevation Graph

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