Gilpin Lake Hike

Fall is coming, folks! And although we hate to see summer go, we love football on tv, pumpkin spice lattes, and seeing the fall colors throughout the valley. From hiking to a gorgeous remote location in the Zirkel Wilderness or a soak in the Strawberry Park Hot Springs, there’s no bad place to enjoy the various shades of yellow. Over the next two weeks, your team at VisitSteamboat will share some of our fall hot spots. First up, Gilpin Lake (also known as The Zirkel Circle)!

Take the 45 minute drive out to gorgeous Clark, Colorado for this amazing hike! This 11-mile loop offers one of the best rewards… stunning views of the surrounding jagged peaks and two Alpine lakes—the second of which is the vibrantly blue Gilpin Lake. With 2,390 feet in elevation gain, it’s perfect for intermediate hikers. Here is everything you need to know.

Where to Go

As you are headed west out of downtown Steamboat, take a right onto Elk River Road or County Road 129. Shortly after the turn off for The Home Ranch is County Road 64 or Seedhouse Road—take that to the end. Park your car, and get ready for a wonderful hike!

The Trail

Take Trail 1161 to Gilpin Lake. About a quarter-mile from the trailhead, you will come across the junction for Gold Creek Lake Trail (trail 1150). This is the beginning of the Gilpin Lake loop. Along the way, you will pass a 35-foot waterfall, Gold Creek Lake, Ute Pass, and much more! At last, you will reach Gilpin Lake at an elevation of 10,800 feet!

What to Pack

Water– although it’s fall and the weather is milder, please don’t forget to pack your water… and to drink it religiously! If you want  to get real serious, pack yourself a filter and purifier so you can safely have a drink of that always fresh mountain water!

Food– as this hike is 11-miles total, remember to pack yourself some food to refuel! Honey Stinger, a local company, makes energy bars, chews, and waffles that are compact but give your body the energy it needs.

Rain Jacket, long pants, and appropriate footwear– Weather in the Rocky Mountains is always unpredictable! So please, be sure you are ready for any element that Mother Nature may present.

Sunscreen– It may be cooler out, but the Colorado sunshine is still just as strong as it is everyday! So lather up with the SPF50.

When preparing for this hike, please be sure to check the weather first and foremost! Also, be prepared to start early in the morning. As we said, the weather is always unpredictable. Heading out early in the morning gives you the opportunity to complete the Gilpin Lake Loop before those fall snowstorms roll in.

Please share your favorite photos from the hike with us on Facebook and Instagram at!


**Photo Credit for all photos goes to Duncan Lang