Hike the Zirkel Circle (Gilpin Lake Loop)

11 miles 2390 ft gain  - Loop Trail

Added by Nick Esares

A 45-minute drive from Steamboat Springs, this loop hike offers some of the best views of jagged peaks in the area as well as two alpine lakes. The highlight of the hike is the stunningly blue Gilpin Lake which provides a magnificent photo opportunity from the top of the ridge and high point of the loop, sitting 450 below.

The Slavonia trailhead is easily accessible from Steamboat Springs. The drive up CR 129 passes through beautiful ranch land before turning on to Seedhouse Road. Follow Seedhouse Rd to the end. There are several turn offs and dispersed camping in this area, however, the main road goes to the trailhead.

From the parking lot, trail 1161 to Gilpin Lake quickly intersects with trail 1150 toward Gold Creek Lake. You can choose either direction for your loop. Turning right toward Gold Creek Lake completes the loop in a counter clockwise manner. The climb to Gilpin lake is longer and more gradual. You will first pass Gold Creek Lake before climbing to Gilpin lake. Your first view of Gilpin Lake will be stunning from the top of the ridge before you descend the switchbacks. If you stay straight toward Gilpin Lake to complete the loop clockwise you will get to the lake sooner however the last mile or so before the lake is steep. It's also possible to make the trip an out and back this way saving a few miles. If you make the trip an out and back you should still climb the clearly visible switchbacked trail to the saddle for a stunning view before turning around.

Allow ample time to take pictures and enjoy lunch / snacks at either lake. For much of the hike you are near creeks and water. There are a few water crossings where you can hop across rocks and one log crossing. Much of the hike is also shaded as you are walking through forest including aspens. There is great wildflower viewing on this hike as well.

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Tags

Hiking
Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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Explorer

🥇Top Contributor

25 days ago

Most Excellent

Day tripped from Summit County and got to the parking lot a little before 11 AM on a September, Wednesday. Encountered a total of about 10 people and a wonderful dog, which is not bad for such an epic hike that's a reasonable distance from Steamboat Springs. Beautiful clear and clean trails. The climb is definitely a good moderate-difficult and seeing that clear switchback coming from Trail 1161 was wild and will def get your heart going.

Best hike!

This is by far the best hike I have ever experienced in our beautiful state! My suggestion is to start early so you have plenty of time to enjoy the lakes. If you fly fish bring your pole as the lakes are stocked with trout. There are streams throughout the hike so no need to pack water for your pups.

Awesome Mountain Lake Hike

Zirkel Circle is my favorite hike! I live in Steamboat & have hiked all the trails. It’s best to arrive early as this is a popular hike. Since Zirkel Circle is a loop, you can go in either direction but I always hike towards Gold Lake first because I like the “wow factor” of looking down at Gilpin Lake from above for the 1st time. There are water crossings on this hike so don’t do this hike until after mid July. I hiked it on July 16th and still had to go through snow. It’s an absolutely beautiful hike that’s around 11 miles with 2400ft of elevation gain.

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