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Never Summer Wilderness: Baker Gulch to Bowen Gulch

co

Star Star Star Star Star

Distance: 19.0 miles


Moose, knee-high flowers, two alpine lakes, and infinite views are just a few reasons to hike this 19-mile loop in the Never Summer Wilderness.
  • Parika Lake
  • Alpine Landscape
  • Below the Continental Divide
  • The Continental Divide
  • Climb to the Continental Divide
  • Descending Fairview Mountain
  • Relaxing on the Continental Divide Trail
  • Bowen Lake Trail
  • Campsite at Bowen Lake
  • Bowen Lake
  • Bowen Lake

This 19-mile loop two hours northwest of Denver delivers national park caliber scenery—clutches of 13,000-foot peaks amid trout-laden alpine lakes—with a dose of wilderness-grade solitude. From the Bowen-Baker trailhead, set off through a mile of Rocky Mountain National Park forest before crossing into the 21,090-acre Never Summer Wilderness.

Bear right at the Y-junction heading northwest toward Baker Gulch. Climb 2,500 feet on the 5.4-mile hike to camp, passing under mixed conifers before reaching open glades. Look left for moose (they hang here), then cross Baker Gulch at mile 4.2. From here, it's 1.3 switchbacking miles through Indian paintbrush and columbine to your camp at Parika Lake (11,380 feet). Bring a rod to cast for dinner.

The next morning, get moving by 8 a.m. to conquer the day's Continental Divide ridgewalk before afternoon storms move in (usually 2 p.m. in summer months). You'll reach the ridge in .6 mile, gaining 600 feet. Turn southwest onto the Divide for 360-degree views of the three "cloud mountains" of the Never Summer Range: Mts. Cumulus (12,725 feet), Nimbus (12,706 feet), and Stratus (12,461 feet). In 1.4 miles, turn left at the T-junction to link to the Continental Divide Trail. You'll pass fields of knee-high wildflowers (July) for about a mile before reaching Bowen Pass.

From here, drop 1,000 feet over 1.4 miles to a junction with Bowen Lake Trail. Got an extra day? Turn down the path and hike 1.4 miles to hit a secluded site at Bowen Lake (11,019 feet). See route on map. Otherwise, continue southeast down the gulch, through thick spruce and lodgepole, steering left at its end to reach your car in 2.7 miles.

-Mapped by Kim Phillips, Kris Wagner, and Scott Gates

PLAN IT

CONDITIONS: Trail Ridge Road is closed from November to April. Check conditions at (970) 586-1206. Check weather at Grand Lake, CO (80447) Weather

PERMIT: $20 for entry to Rocky Mountain National Park; (970) 586-1242, nps.gov/romo

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK INFO:
Visitor Information: (970) 586-1206 (daily, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mountain Time; recorded information after hours)

Trail Ridge Road Information: Recorded Message 970-586-1222 (available 24 hours a day, updated when conditions and/or road status change)

Visitor Information for the Hearing Impaired (TTY): 970-586-1319 (daily, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Time)

Backcountry Office: (970) 586-1242

NEVER SUMMER WILDERNESS INFO:

Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests

OTHER RESOURCES


GAS
Shell‎
860 Moraine Ave.
Estes Park, CO
(970) 586-7867

GEAR
Grab supplies or gear rentals (packs, bags, pads, and fishing gear) at Estes Park Mountain Shop, 2050 Big Thompson Ave., Estes Park, CO; (866) 303-6548.

GROCERIES
The Country Market
National Park Village
900 Moraine Ave.
Estes Park, Colorado
(970) 586-2702

RESTAURANTS
Try a Mountain Mai Tai and the buffalo-and-bacon meatloaf at Peak-to-Peak American Grille, 451 South Saint Vrain Ave., Estes Park, CO; (970) 577-0577

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Trail Reviews & Comments

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Brenda Schoenherr
Feb 19, 2013

Grand Lake is where one would want to go for supplies, fuel, restaurants and lodging. Our village has everything needed for an outdoor expierence on the west side of Rocky Mtn National Park. Please, in future editions mention us....we are alot closer than Estes Park. Thank you

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