"The Lily Lake Trail begins at the end of the road in the Upper Huerfano Valley. At this point, everything except the road behind you and the pack trail leading through the lower valley ahead is part of the Sangre de Cristo National Wilderness Area. About a mile past the end of the road the trail goes west along the edge of a large meadow before a hairpin turn that heads south up the hillside into the forest. For the next several miles the trail follows a narrow shelf (perhaps an old bulldozer cut?) continually upwards until you come to an area where the landscape opens up a bit under big pines with the north rock face of Blanca and Ellingwood right in your face. The views just get better and better as you traverse that narrow shelf until you reach this bend under the pines and spruces.
"Here, there are several rough campsites under the trees and you can wander around a bit taking in the views of the huge granite wall. We were here in late July and there was still a lot of snow-melt running off the rock wall. Some of that snowpile is classed as North America's southernmost glacier. Later in the afternoon some of those cascades of water were falling several hundred feet to reach the bottom of the wall before rushing across the talus and forming the headwaters of Huerfano River.
"From this open area the trail continues northeast up the hill and follows old jeep trails part of the way. It's not too long before you come to the stream exiting Lily Lake as it cascades down the hill and into the larger valley. This is another of those cases when you think you are almost there and the trail just continues on. At one point there was a large snow cave with the stream flowing below and we found a couple from the Netherlands climbing around in there. In this area the trees opened up and we were right at treeline. It wasn't too far up the hill from here that we actually came to Lily Lake.
"There were trout jumping in the lake but in order to reach a large rock and sit to watch, we had to untangle a bunch of monofilament from our boots. Looking around we saw old fishing lures and empty bottles and cans just dumped along the shoreline. As soon as our eyes rose above the shoreline though, the true majesty of this place manifested itself: this is one of the greatest cathedrals on Earth. To the north was the slope leading up towards California Peak. To the west was the ridgeline connecting California Peak with Ellingwood Point (there's several saddles in between). To the south was that huge, vertical granite wall atop which is Ellingwood Point and Blanca Peak. Just east of Blanca Peak was Gash Ridge, descending to the ridgeline of the Sierra Blanca before traversing eastwards to the connecting ridges to the Iron Nipple and Mt. Lindsey. North of the Iron Nipple was the ridge topping Huerfano Peak before descending into the Upper Huerfano Valley. "Majestic, magnificent, incomparable," these words are too small...
"We had lunch, shot lots of photos, then started back out. Taking our time and enjoying the hike, the round-trip was about six hours. Except for search and rescue teams hunting a lost fisherman, there was almost no one in this whole valley (7/24/05)."