“A beautiful loop that is relatively easy to access from the Steamboat area but can attract crowds on holidays/weekends.”
— Zander Göpfert
Lake · River/Creek · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked
For runners, new backpackers, families, or anyone looking for a weekend backpacking adventure, this loop is an ideal option with access to water, views, and side scrambles to tack on more miles. The majority of visitors approach the loop from the west at the trailhead for the Gilpin Trail
with ample parking and campgrounds along the road leading to the trailhead, but longer and more remote options lie to the east as well.
Need to Know
Taco Cabo makes some delicious Mexican food on the way north out of Steamboat.
The high point for this loop is almost exactly at the midway point, so it doesn't really matter which direction you choose to go. Generally speaking, going clockwise is a higher sustained grade overall but with fewer steep sections, while going counterclockwise is generally lower grade but with at least a couple steep sections. There is water on either side of the pass above Gilpin Lake.
Once in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness
, there are a number of camping options along the loop as long as you observe Wilderness regulations. The Mica Basin Trail #1162
is an obvious spur up along a creek drainage that descends from Mica Lake at the base of the Agnes peaks with numerous dispersed camping spots.
Bring a fly rod to test your mettle at the lakes along the way.
Flora & Fauna
There are black bears in this area so be alert and make noise periodically so as to prevent surprising or scaring them. Make sure to hang anything scented or food away from your campsite or bring a bear canister.