Hancock Lakes


Upper and Lower Hancock lakes are located south of the historic townsite of St. Elmo. The route to the lakes follows the Denver, South Park and Pacific railroad grade to the site of Hancock. Hancock was a boom town that boasts a population of 1,500 in the 1880's. The railroad and nearby mines employed rough and ready miners and railroaders who plied the line between St. Elmo and Gunnison via the Alpine Tunnel.

Access to the Hancock Lakes is closed due to snow until late June.

At a Glance

Fees No fee is required for this site.
Permit Info: Special use permits are required for all commercial activities including outfitting and guiding. For more information, please contact the Salida Ranger District at 719-539-3591.
Usage: Medium-Heavy
Best Season: Summer
Busiest Season: Summer
Restrictions: Camping is not permitted along the lakeshore at either lake.
Closest Towns: St. Elmo and Buena Vista, Colorado
Water: No potable water
Restroom: No
Operated By: Salida Ranger District

General Information


This is not a universally accessible site.


From Buena Vista, travel south on Highway 285 for 7 miles to County Road 162. Turn west at Nathrop on CR 162 and travel west for 15.5 miles to the junction of Forest Road 295 and County Road 162 just outside of the historic townsite of St. Elmo.  Turn left onto FR 295 and travel south for 5 miles to the townsite of Hancock. Nothing is left of the town but a small Forest Service sign marks the location. Stay on Forest Road 295, passing a parking area for the Alpine Tunnel trail. The road continues for approximately one mile and terminates just before the lake.

General Notes:

Visitors can walk the short distance between lower Hancock lake to the upper smaller lake. Both are fishable and stocked with brook trout.


Parking is restricted to a small parking area located above the lakes. Do not drive motor vehicles beyond the parking area!


Camping & Cabins

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Dispersed Camping

Camping is permitted at least 100 feet away from the lakeshore. Both lakes are above timberline so campers should plan to bring a sturdy tent and appropriate gear for cool, high altitude camping.

Hancock lakes are some of the most beautiful high elevation lakes in the upper Arkansas valley. They are nestled in an alpine basins just below Shewanee Peak. Alpine wildflowers are best viewing during July and a trip to the lakes is a must in the cool fall months.


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OHV Riding & Camping

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Related Information

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