Colorado is a backpackers paradise with its 58 fourteeners (Rocky Mountain peaks that rise over 14,000 feet above sea level), four incredible National Parks and some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Whether you’re a local repping favorite local brands like Horsetooth’d on your weekend hikes or coming from another country to experience as much of Colorado as you can in a week, you’re sure to be impressed.
We’ve put together this list of five of the most scenic mountain backpacking loop hikes ranging from about 11 miles to 40 miles long so you can explore Colorado by foot and really get the most of its magical alpine views.
Here they are, shortest to longest.
The Eaglesmere/Surprise Lake Loop – Eagles Nest Wilderness
This 10.7 mile loop (14.7 mi with the hike to Upper Cataract Lake) is the shortest of the loops on this list but it still takes you to three high altitude lakes, a variety of forests and provides unbeatable views of the Gore Range from a northern point.
Start at the Eaglesmere trail at the end of County Road 1725. A 3.6 mile ascension along the south side of the mountain takes you through aspen trees before summiting the mountain and entering a dense forest of spruce-fir to start your descent. Go about 3 more miles to the Gore Lake trail at a junction. Take a right at the junction it’s just under a mile to the Eaglesmere Lakes. When you’re done enjoying the lakes, head back to the junction and head south to head towards Surprise Lake. About 3 miles in you’ll find the junction for Upper Cataract Lake 2.15 miles away, or stay on the Surprise Lake trail to head back.
Continental Divide Loop – Rocky Mountain National Park
This popular 25 mile loop covers the park from east to west and takes you through lush meadows and high altitude viewing points while making a circuit of the Continental Divide.
Start at the Tonahutu/North Inlet trailhead and head east on the North Inlet trail. Lodgepole pine surrounds you as the switchback trail steeply climbs to 12,324 feet on Flattop Mountain. Head west on the Continental Divide Scenic Trail until the flat ridge top drops south into the forests of the Tonahutu drainage area. Stay on the Tonahutu Creek Trail to go south to lush meadows. Return via the Tonahutu Creek Trail.
Lost Creek Loop
Trail length: 34 mi/24.5 with McCurdy Park cutoff
Trailhead: Goose Creek
For a rugged 34 mile (24.5 mi if you take the McCurdy Park cutoff) trek with giant boulders and granite spires, take the Goose Creek trailhead towards Hankins Trail. Ascend through forests and head north on Lake Park Trail to McCurdy Park Trail. When you get to the McCurdy Brookside Trail junction, you can take a shortcut by continuing on McCurdy Park. Or, take the long way by heading west on the Brookside McCurdy trail to see stunning views from a high vantage point on the McCurdy – Bison ridge. The Wigwam Trail heads east to a drainage where Pikes Peak granite has been eroded into boulders and spire-like forms. Return back on Goose Creek Trail.
Weminuche Pass/Granite Lakes/Continental Divide Semi-Loop
For panoramic views of southern Colorado, this 36.1 mile high altitude hike is perfect. Start at the Thirtymile trailhead and take the Weminuche Pass. It’s 12.4 miles to beautiful Granite Lake. On the way back, follow the southern shoreline of the lake south and then head east and southeast into a meadow before connecting back to the trail. Head north to the junction where the Weminuche, Pine River and Rincon La Osa trails meet. Take the Weminuche Trail back, or take the Rincon La Osa to head to higher ground and eventually reach the top of the Continental Divide for impressive views of the Rio Grande Pyramid and Needle Mountains.
Maroon Snowmass/Capitol Creek Circuit
The longest of our loops, this 40 mile loop circles the rugged Snowmass – Capitol Peak and traverses four mountain passes and four alpine lakes. Start at the Capitol Creek trailhead and head south. Connect to the Lead King Basin Jeep Trail and the Geneva Lake trailhead to see the turquoise water of Geneva Lake. Head to Snowmass Lake via Trail Rider Pass. Head north on Maroon Snowmass Trail, switching to the West Snowmass trail to navigate over Haystack Mountain and connect back to Capitol Creek Trail to finish the loop.