Hike-in Required
Open Year-round
ADA accessible
Guided tours
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Tragedy Spring is the site of an alpine freshwater spring which contributed to its historical significance.

As a year-round source of drinking water, the area has traditionally been a camp and stoppig point for those traveling through the area along the Kit Carson Emigrant Trail. During the Summer of 1848, a group of members of the Mormon Battalion who fought in the Mexican-American War were leaving California and traveling back to Utah Territory. Three scouts from the group had gone ahead to search for a route over the Sierra Nevada and never returned. They were later found by the group murdered at the site of the spring. From that point on, it was called Tragedy Spring.

More recently, the area has been a marked picnic ground within the Eldorado National Forest. However the Caldor wildfire of 2021 burned through the area, leaving the picnic grounds in a state of repair as the tables have all burned and trees killed by the fire have subsequently fallen throughout the grounds.

The spring itself still produces, and a .1 mile round trip walk with 30' of elevation gain from the parking area allows visitors to visit the source of the spring and fill their own drinking containers with the cold alpine water. The area below the spring is also often full of wildflowers owing to the constant water source.

Throughout the area, several monuments to the Mormon Battalion travelers remain, including the gravesite of the three scouts near the water source.

There is no fee to visit, however there are currently no amenities beyond the short path to the spring. It is however a peaceful site with an abundance of wildflowers. While the water is not tested and visitors drink at their own risk, Tragedy Spring has been a source of water for people for centuries.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass



Historically significant. Visitors can collect alpine freshwater.


Much of the area burned in 2021 fires.

Pets allowed

Allowed with Restrictions


Historically significant
Family friendly
Potable water


Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping


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