Hiking Trails in Colorado | Heart Lake Trail

Trail Information

Trail Name: Heart Lake Trail (Latir Lakes to Latir Peak)Hiking Trails in New Mexico | Heart Lake Trail

Location: North of Red River, New Mexico

Date: July 18, 2016

Time at the Trail Head: 7:30 am

Trail Length: 3.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,385 feet

Elev. at Trail Head: 9,202 feet

# of Hikers Passed: 0

# of Mnt. Bikers Passed: 0

# of Horses Passed: 0

Trail Research

This trail was one that some friends told me about when I lived in Oklahoma. I have been to this area probably 4 times and we were not’t planning on going again but the weather was pretty bad throughout Colorado, so we headed there once again.

Hiking Trails in New Mexico | Heart Lake Trail

We actually didn’t hike to Heart Lake but stayed on the north side of the Latir Mountain range at several high altitude lakes, which are called the Latir Lakes. The Latir Lakes are located in the Rio Castilla Park & Campground. There is a cost to stay the night but it’s only around $19 and it’s well worth the price. You can drive right up to the two lower lakes and set camp, and then have more time to explore and enjoy the lakes, waterfalls and the incredible mountains.

Drive to the Trail

This trip started out with promise in Estes Park, Colorado but then the weather took a turn for the worse in Silverton, Colorado, which caused us to change our plans to drive to northern New Mexico, which turned out to be an awesome trip.

We left Molas Lake and drove through Durango and Pagoasa Springs, Colorado, then took US-64 into New Mexico. We drove by some incredible rock formations, I believe somewhere west of Chama, New Mexico.

Northern New Mexico

We decided to take a different route then we had ever taken before to get to the Red River area and found ourselves driving through the beautiful Carson National Forest.

US-64 in the Carson National Forest

We had nearly reached our destination at the Latir Lakes, but not before driving through the impressive Costilla Canyon.

Costilla Canyon

We reached the 2nd to the lowest Latir Lakes, which is the largest of them, and found a great place to set up camp. It is a gorgeous area to relax and enjoy the mountains, and you’re far enough off any main road that you won’t have a lot of company.

Latir Lake Campground

My Day on the Trail

The next day we decided to get up with the sun and head up the trail to Latir Peak. The great thing about getting up early is the rising sun casts some of the best light of the day and the lakes tend to be really calm as the wind hasn’t picked up yet.

Latir Lakes

Latir Lakes

Latir Lakes

Latir Lakes

We headed farther up the trail and had some incredible views along the way. I still think it’s funny that my daughter thought that New Mexico was all desert. Before we could get very far, we came across a local friend having breakfast.


Stopping for a Photo

Looking down at the Latir Lakes

Latir lakes

We hadn’t even reached the tree line and were already getting some magnificent photos.

Latir Peak

We had already hiked a long way, or so it seemed, but we still had this mountain to climb.

The next section of the trail, right before we broke out above the tree line, had a steep drop off and it was an area we really had to be careful in.

Latir Lakes

I think we took the next photo, just because we were glad to be alive.

Father and Daughter

We were near the top of Latir Peak now and my daughter just couldn’t wait to see it so she hiked on ahead, and I took my time, to enjoy the scenery of course. Not because I was exhausted.

The Steep Section

I think you can see that this was a steep section that can be more challenging for someone not use to the altitude.

Near the top of Latir Peak

We noticed a herd of elk on another ridgeline over from us. They like the higher altitudes in the warmer months.

Herd of elk

We finally reached the top of Latir Peak and had some incredible views of the area.

Latir Peak

Latir Peak

Latir Peak

The day was still early but it was time to head back to our campsite.


This is where our story becomes a little scary and sad at the same time.

There were two guys camped near us. They were younger guys that were shooting some guns, eating great food and drinking beer. The problem was, besides them shooting to close to us at one time so that we heard the bullet zing by, was that they had attracted a large black bear who also wanted to partake in their wonderful smelling meal.

The bear came back to their campsite about 8 times and was getting closer each time. They finally ended up shooting it. I’m a believer in protecting yourself, but there was another way to handle this that would have kept the bear alive.

Black Bear

First of all, we were carrying bear spray and another weapon. Personally, I would have backed away from the bear, but ready to protect ourselves, then I would have driven to the ranger station to let them know of the situation. They may have tranquilized it and relocated the bear, instead of killing it.

The guys were afraid they would get in trouble so they ended up breaking camp later that evening. The next morning, we stopped by the ranger station and let them know about the bear.

Bears can definitely be dangerous, but most of the time they will be fine, if you give them their space.

We built a big fire that night and relaxed by the calm mountain lake. We only had one or two other campers in the area that night so it was extremely quite.


We always do our best to have a nice campfire, especially when we’re camping out, as the logs are more plentiful and you don’t have to pack things in on a backpacking trip.

Usually we sit back in our chairs, or against a log, after our meal, and look up at the most incredible stars you can imagine. The milky way galaxy always looks like a real cloud in the night sky when you’re this far up in the mountains and away from the city lights.

Most of the time we sit quietly and just gaze up into the night sky for an hour or so, but then it’s time to turn in for the night. I love to hear the sound of the fire and see the fire light dancing against my tent as I fall asleep. It’s even better when you have the sound of a creek near by or the lapping water of a mountain lake.

It is so magical when you’re away from the big cities and enjoying the outdoors. It always give me a lot of time to reflect on life.

Breakfast in Red River, New Mexico

The next morning, we broke camp early and headed into Red River, New Mexico for a great breakfast. You know everything tastes great when you’ve been eating camp food for several days.

Red River New Mexico

We stopped in at a gas station and were told about an awesome place for breakfast down the street, called the Old Tymers Cafe.

Old Tymer's Cafe

You never know if the food is going to be good in an unfamiliar town, but on this day, the breakfast was off the charts incredible.

My daughter wanted three pancakes, which she was quickly warned would be too much for any lumberjack, so they recommend she have just one.

The Largest Pancake Ever

As you can see, one pancake was enough. You can actually eat the pancake for free if you can finish three of them. There is some challenge they have, just like the free 72 ounce steak in Amarillo, Texas.

You can see at the bottom of the photo that my meal was large also, and came with a mini pancake, which was still much larger than anything we have ever eaten at home.

Well, we waddled out of the Old Tymer’s Cafe and pulled our stuffed bodies into the truck and headed for Oklahoma, but we did have one more picture to add on the US-64 between Eagle Nest and Cimarron. It’s a gorgeous drive through this canyon with some towering rock walls just west of Ute Park, New Mexico.

Ute Park New Mexico

Lessons Learned

Always make sure you’re prepared to protect yourselves in the outdoors. One way is to take along some bear spray.

SABRE Frontiersman 9.2 fl oz. Bear Spray, Maximum Strength 2.0% Major Capsaicinoids, Powerful 35 ft. Range Bear Deterrent, Outdoor Camping & Hiking Protection
  • MAXIMUM STOPPING POWER: Strongest formula allowed by law (EPA Requires range of 1.0-2.0% Major Capsaicinoids), Frontiersman bear spray, made with 2.0% Major Capsaicinoids, is backed by our industry exclusive in-house HPLC lab, guaranteeing maximum strength in each canister
  • SPRAYS UP TO 50% FURTHER: With a 35-foot (11-meter) spray range reaching up to 10-feet further than the competition, Frontiersman Bear Spray gives you more time to react to a bear charging up to 35 mph & provide safer protection with a greater protective barrier per burst (up to 84% more than competitors)
  • IMMEDIATELY ACCESSIBLE BEAR SPRAY: Easy to access when seconds count, our bear sprays are available with quick draw belt or chest holsters; Strong elastic keeps bear spray secure while out on the trails
  • QUICK & QUIET ACCESS TO PROTECTION: Velcro sound could aggravate a threatening bear and potentially cause aggressive behavior - Frontiersman holsters eliminate the unnecessary Velcro straps allowing for quick & silent access to your spray during an emergency
  • RIGOROUSLY TESTED TO MAXIMIZE YOUR SAFETY: E.P.A. and Health Canada approved, our environmentally friendly bear spray is field-tested and proven effective against all types of bears by the Elmendorf Air Force Base and Brown Bear Resources

I would love to know if you have had any experience on this trail or have other trails you love to hike. Leave a Comment Below or send me an Email.

Return to Home Page

Latir Lakes to Latir Peak


Scenic Drive




Mountain Views


Lake or Stream Views


Well Maintained Trails



  • 8 Beautiful lakes
  • Remote Campground so It's Not Busy
  • Well Maintained Campground
  • Magnificent Drive
  • Red River New Mexico Close By


  • Difficult to Reach Campground

8 thoughts on “Hiking Trails in Colorado | Heart Lake Trail”

  1. The cost to stay at Rio Castilla is very reasonable. Those pictures look very beautiful. I knew Colorado had some spectacular views and sites but I believe New Mexico is very underrated. I am always impressed when I go through that state. How are the crowds? Is it pretty quiet and relaxing as the pictures suggest? Your story about the bear is very sad, maybe I missed it but were the campers reported to authorities? I don;t know the laws in New Mexico but I suspect they did something illegal. By the way, that is the biggest pancake I have ever seen someone try to eat.

    • Red River is a popular place but you have to go around the north side of Latir Peak to get to this campground and then you really should have a 4 x 4 to get to this campground, which keeps a lot of people away. We only had two or three other small groups at the campground in July, so it was very quiet.

      I’m sure there would have been no charges pressed against the campers as they could make a claim that they had to protect themselves. We did report the incident to the local authorities when we broke camp the next day. There is no cell service up at the Latir Lakes.

      That pancake was larger in person, and she could only eat about 1/4 of it. It was funny seeing here eyes light up when they brought it out.


  2. Sounds like an awesome adventure. My family loves the outdoors and hiking also. Colorado has been on our bucket list for a while now. Unfortunately our 2018 hiking adventure in New Mexico had to be cut short. I started having a difficult time physically and ultimately had a heart attack the next day. I am just a tad bit nervous of another mountain hiking trip. 

    We did it again last year last year in the Smoky Mountains. I survived, but lord knows I was nervous. We look forward to our winter vacations and we always choose somewhere mountainous and remote. Awesome to see families creating memories  out in the wilderness.

    • I am sorry to hear about your heart attack. 

      My thoughts for anyone who might struggle with the mountains and/or the altitude, is to drive to a beautiful location and then take an easy hike or even just camp at a great spot and don’t do anything to strenuous.

      I’m glad you still get out to the mountains.


  3. Wow I must say that was some beautiful pictures and I would imagine it would be even more breath-taken in person. I do remember that hiking with the change of altitude in Colorado was tough. I did that once and I was actually pregnant at the time, it was hard going for sure! Those pancakes were big enough for a giant! 

    It was sad that they shot the bear. I am like you and would prefer to use a spray to keep them away and not needlessly kill an animal. I would definitely get some of the bear spray before another hiking trip, it is so worth it!

    • You are so right that we need to have the proper gear and protection to keep ourselves safe, without harming the wildlife.

      You should try the pancake at the Old Tymer’s Cafe in Red River some day, but you may not need to eat for a few days after that.


  4. the colorado heart lake trail is somewhere i have never been to before and this is the first time i am learning about this vicinity. i did some other research and the information you have given here is really accurate and it is very well researched. thank you very much for this great post


Leave a Comment