Backpack the Gorge Lakes

Rate this Adventure Colorado Rock Cut Parking Area

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This trip will take just over 3 days, since Cross country hiking means no trails and no people! The trek ultimate for a solitude seeker in a normally crowded but ever-awesome National Park with Numerous alpine lakes and a summit of Mt. Ida.

Start at the Rock Cut Parking Area. Head east on Trail Ridge Road 0.25 miles to a more gradual and bald western slope leading down into Forest Canyon. This bald is located between two creeks which merge before joining the Big Thompson River (a small creek in mid September). Use the creeks to navigate down to the river. Routefinding skills may be necessary as you dodge downed trees and steep terrain. Keep your eyes open for herds of elk during mating season at the end of summer. Cross the Big Thompson and follow along its western bank until you find the tributary creek for Little Rock Lake. Follow this tributary up through the woods and into a meadow. The creek will wind through the marshy meadow and back into the woods before the campsite. Camp at Little Rock Campsite.

Start your next day early as you edge around Little Rock and Rock Lake to continue upstream. Follow the creek up until it splits. Take the left branch and edge through a small rocky pass requiring some scrambling. Then climb over the saddle between Doughnut and Arrowhead Lakes. Cross over to the west side of Arrowhead Lake and climb the tiered basins of Inkwell and Azure Lakes respectively. Then climb the steep slope of Mount Ida's saddle in the upper drainage basin. From here you can go for Ida's summit or continue down off the ridge and into the valley between Ida's face and the Jackstraw mountains to camp at Snowbird, Rockslide, or Jackstraw campsites. The next morning, take the trail out to the Timber Lake trailhead and parking area and catch a ride back to your car at Rock Cut.

Backcountry permits are $26 and must be purchased through the National Park Service.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping bag
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Warm layers
  • Bear canisters (bear hangs are not allowed)
  • Backpack
  • Rain gear
  • Food
  • Stove
  • Water purification
  • Topographical map
  • Compass
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Activities:

Backpacking, Chillin, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Advanced

Season:

Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

11.5 Miles

Elev. Gain:

3200 Feet

Features:

Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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How to Get There

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Added by Ian Carey

Student, Varsity Swimmer at Colorado College. Amateur Triathlete, and outdoor enthusiast. Allentown, PA is home.

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