From the town of Westcliffe, drive 11 miles north on SH 69 to just south of a "township" called "Hillside." At a substantial curve in the highway, turn west onto CR 198. This is easy to miss. The road first heads SW, then turns west. Follow this road for three miles to the Lake Creek Campground and the turnoff for a Lutheran camp close by. The Lake Creek Road # 198, is dirt and in good condition for about the first 3 miles to the camps. Just after the campground and turnoff for the Lutheran camp, the road becomes steeper and rocky and is only passable with a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle. This road passes by Balman Reservoir and Rainbow Lake. Beyond Rainbow Lake, (if driving) extra caution should be taken as the road is narrow, rockier and becomes much more of a challenge to negotiate than the road to this point has been. We drove this road in 1995, then again in 2005. In that 10 year span, it only got a lot worse. In 1995, it was tolerable to Rainbow Lake. In 2005, we would describe it as though someone deliberately hauled in 2 - 6" cobble for a roadbed and dumped it all along the road. You can never go very fast. It is quite slow and tedious, though it is never very steep or offers large clearance problems, it is simply relentless. At one point above Rainbow Lake, the road crosses a boulder field with nothing to drive on but the moving rocks. There is one particularly tight switchback section to the right near some old cabins. In 2005, we were able to make the drive all the way to end of the road and the Silver Lake TH at 11,500 ft. in a Toyota T-100. It required a lot of careful driving. Silver Lake is about one mile from the trailhead. From the Lake Creek CG, it took us 1:45 to make the drive to the trailhead.
For a designated Forest Service campground, the closest is the Lake Creek CG, three miles in from SH 69 on CR 198. This is a fee campground with typical facilities, but no hookups. There are primitive camping sites at Balsam Reservoir. On the drive up to Rainbow Lake, there are primitive campsites that can be utilized and at Rainbow Lake, there is good camping close by. Above Rainbow Lake, the best camping opportunity will be near some old cabins at 11,260 ft. or farther up the road at the trailhead, across from some old beaver ponds.