2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – May 2009

Rip & Go: Bowen-Baker Loop - Never Summer Wilderness, CO

Get national park scenery without the crowds on an alpine overnight with lakeside camping.

by: Adrienne Isaac

Fairview Mountain (Kim Phillips)
Fairview Mountain (Kim Phillips)

Take it With You
Download a printable PDF of this entire weekend.

GPS-Enabled Trip Report
See this trip on a map, download it to your phone, GPS, or computer, and more.

Do it
This 16.3-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 (1, see below), 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 heading northwest toward Baker Gulch (2). Climb 2,500 feet on the 5.4-mile hike to camp, passing under mixed conifers before reaching open glades (3). 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) (4). Bring a rod to cast for dinner.

The next morning, get moving by 8 a.m. to conquer the day's Continental Divide ridgewalk (5) 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 (6). You'll pass fields of knee-high wildflowers (July) for about a mile before reaching Bowen Pass (7). From here, drop 1,000 feet over 1.4 miles to a junction with Bowen Lake Trail (8). Got an extra day? Turn down the path and hike 1.4 miles to hit a secluded site (9) at Bowen Lake (11,019 feet). Otherwise, continue southeast down the gulch, through thick spruce and lodgepole, steering left at its end (10) to reach your car in 2.7 miles.


Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star Star


Jan 12, 2012

Hiked up Baker Gulch with 3 friends in Aug of 2011. An awesome trip. We set up base camp in the gulch between Parika Lake and Baker Mtn. In 2 afternoons of fishing we caught 12 beautiful brook trout out of Parika...tasty! Another morning we dayhiked to Baker Pass, then climbed Nimbus, following the ridge to Stratus and Baker Mtn. What a ridge walk (could see RMNP visitor center and Longs Peak in the distance)
We saw moose, pika, and even a wolf (hard to believe).
Incredible trip!
The trip ended on a bad note, a critter had chewed through our SUV's transmission and fuel lines at the trailhead...But the backpacking was superb!

Aug 05, 2010

Hiked this July 30, 31, and Aug 1 2010. A perfect trip, and the weather was kind. Indeed, we saw knee-high wildflowers at their best. We saw no moose, only a few pika and marmots, but descending Bowen Gulch trail we met a wolverine.
If you get the chance, take this hike! It's outstanding!

Jul 20, 2009

Jul 20, 2009

Jul 20, 2009


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

The Political Arena
Burger King moving headquarters to Canada
Posted On: Aug 27, 2014
Submitted By: Ben2World
Trailhead Register
Knee Defender Caused Airline to Divert Flight
Posted On: Aug 27, 2014
Submitted By: retired reddog
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions