Backpack the Lost Creek Loop

Details

Distance

33.5 miles

Elevation Gain

6200 ft

Route Type

Loop

Added by Caleb Mooney

Amazing backpacking loop 2 hours from Denver in the Lost Creek Wilderness.  Lost Creek is one of the more underrated and unknown areas near Denver.

Lost Creek Wilderness may be my favorite part of Colorado.  It contains varied terrain and geography, and is less crowded than most places.  This loop will take you through everything the wilderness area has to offer.  You will get sweeping panoramas of mountain ranges to the south, as well has many red rock formations caused by the formation of Pikes Peak.  Make sure to bring your fishing rod as there are plenty of opportunities to fish.

You can start this loop from two different trailheads, the Lost Park Trailhead and the Lost Park Trailhead.  I chose the Goose Creek Trailhead. The drive in to the trailhead is one of the more beautiful drives you can go on.  The entire area was devastated by the Hayman Fire in 2002. This dramatic change in landscape offers views for miles of green rolling hills and red rock formations. The trailhead fills up quickly on the weekends, but once you start into the wilderness area, people are sparse.

Day 1: 

Take the trail north along Goose Creek Trail. The trail will quickly take you out of the destruction of the Hayman Fire and into a more wooded and tranquil area.  Approximately 4 miles from the trailhead, there will be a side trip to see some shaft houses from the early 1900s. These are what are left over from an attempt to create a reservoir by blocking the underground channel of Lost Creek. The hike is approximately 1.5 miles round trip. 

Continuing past this trail, Goose Creek trail will continue north steadily gaining more elevation.  Enjoy views of the valley and the red rock formations as you climb. You'll soon approach McCurdy Park trail, which would take you down into Refrigerator Gulch. This area of the wilderness displays really beautiful granite formations, but on this adventure we continue on Goose Creek Trail.  After this intersection, the trail gets steeper until you get over the pass.  Say goodbye to the granite formations, as they will be mostly absent for the next couple of days. 

As you descend down into a valley, you'll enjoy walking in wooded areas following Goose Creek for the next couple of miles.  There are plenty of moose signs along this part of the trail, so be on the lookout for them.  Every time I have gone to Lost Creek Wilderness, I have seen a moose.  After a couple of miles you will come to some beaver ponds. Get ready to take your shoes off, as you will have to cross some knee deep water to continue. There has never been a bridge at this crossing. Don't worry, the water that you will be crossing is in between two beaver ponds and is never flowing fast. 

Just past the crossing is the intersection of Goose Creek Trail and Wigwam Trail.  At this point, you have hiked 9.4 miles.  After you have finished drying off, continue west along Wigwam Trail.  There are plenty of campsites within the next couple of miles.  I like to stop at the third set of beaver ponds, there is a nice established campsite just off the trail.  Camp anywhere you like and if you brought your fishing rod, be sure to catch some of the eager brookies in the beaver ponds.  Any dry fly will do. I personally like Elk Hair Caddis on these ponds.

Day 2:

After you've broken camp, continue west along Wigwam Trail. This trail will take you through wide open meadows.  Lost creek meanders its way through these meadows.  It is approximately 7 miles from the intersection of Goose Creek Trail and Wigwam Trail to Lost Park Trailhead. As you're hiking, if you're looking across the meadows you may notice a structure on the other side of the meadow.  It's a shelter of some type, complete with a raised sleeping area and a fire pit.  I'm not sure what it is used for, perhaps the rangers use it.  Anyways, as you continue west, Lost Creek will get bigger and bigger.  There are plenty of eager brookies in the creek, so break out the fishing rod if you feel like it.  Eventually you'll reach Lost Park Trailhead.  You'll be able to see the campground from Wigwam Trail, and you can just continue on to Brookside-McCurdy trail if you don't want to stop.  Brookside-McCurdy will turn south and continue through more meadows for approximately 4 miles before intersecting with Ute Creek Trail.  Once the Brookside-McCurdy trail breaks away from Indian Creek (about .5 miles before the intersection with Ute Creek Trail) water is more scarce for the next 4 miles or so, so fill up if you plan on camping soon.

At the intersection of Brookside-McCurdy Trail and Ute Creek Trail there are several good campsites.  You can camp here, or ascend Bison Pass and camp once you get over the pass. However, there aren't any campsites for at least 2 miles so make determine how far you want to hike today and how far you want to hike out on the last day.

I chose to ascend Bison Pass and continue on for a few miles. The trail up to the top of Bison Pass is the steepest part of this adventure.  Once you get to the top, you will be rewarded with beautiful views of mountains as far as you can see.  There will be sweeping vistas as you continue East along Brookside-McCurdy trail towards McCurdy Park.

Day 3:

The final day.  Continue along Brookside-McCurdy trail.  Eventually you will round a corner and be have a magnificent view of Pikes Peak.  Heading east, you will start descending into McCurdy Park.  McCurdy park is about 5 miles from the intersection of Ute Creek Trail and Brookside-McCurdy trail.  At McCurdy Park, you will see McCurdy Park Tower, a rock formation that is popular with climbers.  Continuing through McCurdy park, you will head south on Brookside-McCurdy Trail.  Soon, you will get to the intersection of Lake Park Trail. This trail heads east and will gain elevation for a little over a mile.  Once you get to the top, be sure to explore a little and climb to the top of the rock formation.  There is a trail leading to the top.  This offers the most beautiful views of the hike in my opinion.  

You will eventually descend into lake park, an area similar to McCurdy Park.  Past the park, you will continue your descent through almost continuous aspen groves.  This area is absolutely stunning both in the summer and in the fall as the leaves reach their peak colors.  At the bottom, you will reach Hankins Pass Trail.  This is the last segment of the trail so head east towards Goose Creek Trailhead.  You will continue through some more aspen groves following Hankins Gulch.  More parts of this trail were destroyed by the Hayman Fire in 2002.  After about 4 miles, you will reach Goose Creek Trailhead and your car.

Getting to the Trailhead:

From 285 turn south on Pine Valley Road.  After 22 miles, turn right onto Forest Road 211.  It's just after a little parking area for a trail that goes up the South Platte.  Continue along this road and at about 2 miles take a right.  Continue straight for another 6 miles and take another right. There will be signs that show which direction Goose Creek Trailhead is along the way.  After about 5 miles take your final right and reach the trailhead.

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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