This trail's dificult rating is due to places where the trail disappears, so route finding skills are needed. Otherwise, it is intermediate.
Europe Pass at 11,459 ft., on the Continental Divide, is where this description ends. The trail does continue a short ways down the other/eastern side of the Divide into the Wind River Indian Reservation that requires permits for those continuing on.
Europe Canyon Trail starts about halfway around Valley Lake Trail
, at a small, unmarked cairn on the north side of Valley Lake Trail
. Head northeast here into the thin forest to hike Europe Canyon Trail. The trail goes through a rooty, muddy section at first before climbing out of it and meeting up with Europe Canyon Alternate Trail Start
that avoids the rooty, muddy section.
The trail continues to climb gradually for the next three miles, and then climbs steeply to attain Europe Pass, but we're getting ahead of ourselves. After Europe Canyon Alternate Trail Start
, still in thin forest, nearby peaks are seen above the trees in places, including Mt. Victor. The trail bends right/southeast at the 0.65 mile mark to circle around the first of five lakes, a cute, tiny lake in the trees.
Crossing the first lake's inlet creek, still climbing, the trail breaks out of the forest into rocky, grassy meadows, and arrives at the southwest end of the second lake, Lake 10,542, set in the valley with rugged mountains rising nearby. The trail continues up the pretty valley on the northwest side of Lake 10542 with what looks like the pass in the distance ahead, but it's not the pass, the pass is hidden behind the rugged mountains to the left/north.
Reaching the northwest corner of Lake 10542, the trail continues up the valley, crosses Lake 10542's inlet creek, and soon reaches the third lake on the way to Europe Pass, Lake 10741. Here the trail follows the southeast side of Lake 10741, as the other side of the lake is right up against the steep, rocky slopes of a shoulder of Europe Peak, the peak forming the west side of the pass. The trail is faint in places (a preview of what's to come) along Lake 10741
At the northeast end of Lake 10741, the trail is faint and disappears as the route bends left/north to cross the broad, shallow outlet creek of the next/fourth lake, Lake 10813. After crossing the outlet creek, veer right/northeast to follow the northwest shore of Lake 10813. There are places with trail and places otherwise. Near the north end of Lake 10813, look left/north up the hill to see Europe Pass, and turn left to head towards it.
Now steeply climbing on the rocky, grassy slopes without trail, a small lake is seen below to the right, and then beautiful Lake 11023, the fifth lake, is seen on the left/west below Europe Peak. Good trail shows up again and goes all the way to the rocky, barren pass. At the pass, the Milky Lakes chain is seen on the other side.
Thin fir forest near the trail start. After the first lake, the trail breaks out into rocky, grassy, high alpine meadows as it climbs higher.