Denver, CO: Lost Creek Wilderness Loop
Rounded granite knobs and sweeping valleys in the Lost Creek Wilderness set the stage for this spectacular 27.6-mile loop that rewards with rugged panoramas and killer riverside campsites.
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This route begins at the Lost Park trailhead and follows Lost Creek east crossing several meadow streams and cresting a saddle to a string of beaver ponds. You’ll turn south on the Goose Creek Trail and wind through aspen and pine to an overlook of a granite-filled valley. Steep switchbacks drop sharply toward Refrigerator Gulch and several valley campsites before the long climb begins near the loop’s halfway point.
The path switchbacks uphill before turning west on the Brookside-McCurdy trail below towering granite massifs—popular climbing destinations. The uphill slog eases at a treeline saddle and from there it’s 3.5 miles of easy-grade traversing below McCurdy Mountain to the route’s high point. The above treeline stretch offers spectacular views of the Continental Divide to the west, and glimpses of Pike’s Peak to the east. Below Bison Peak the trail turns downhill for the final meadow-skirting stretch that bee-lines north toward the trailhead.
Though this trip is possible as a one-nighter, campsites abound: consider spending extra time exploring, climbing, and enjoying views along the way. And, bring cash to pay overnight parking fees at the trailhead.
-Mapped by Kristy Holland
>> Order the USGS topo quads listed above at store.usgs.gov.
>> Order a custom map of this route by selecting the “Print MyTopo” option in the left-hand menu bar.
>> For more information on detailed USGS maps, contact the individual Ranger District office that covers the area that you are interested in visiting. The Lost Creek Wilderness is managed by two different Ranger Districts. South Platte Ranger District manages the east side and the South Park Ranger District manages the west side.
CONDITIONS: Check weather for Jefferson, CO (80456) Weather
PERMIT: No permit is required to access Lost Creek Wilderness. Sign in at the trailhead when entering and sign out upon departure.
INFO: For more information on the Lost Creek Wilderness, go to Pike and San Isabel National Forests website.
US Highway 285
1416 Platte St.
17171 South Golden Road # A
Golden, CO 80401
Cut Throat Cafe
157 Main St.
Bailey, Colorado 80421
Hog Heaven Pit Bar-B-Que
63658 US Highway 285
Bailey, CO 80421
- Distance: 44.4
Location: 39.284264, -105.508384
Park at the first lot in Lost Park, but walk east through the campground to begin the hike at the Wigwam Trailhead. The campground has a pit toilet and self-registration kiosk, but no water.
Location: 39.281891, -105.501999
Sign the log book at the wilderness boundary before proceeding alongside Lost Creek as the trail turns south.
Location: 39.26759, -105.466866
The trail crosses several creeks on small log bridges before and after this Y-junction at mile 3.5. Stop for a snack break on the rocky outcropping perched at the base of the valley, but continue left on the Wigwam Trail through to continue on this route.
Location: 39.277037, -105.434637
Atop the saddle small aspen grow around deadfall. Up ahead, you’ll come to the first of several beaver ponds alongside the trail.
Location: 39.274901, -105.421791
You’ll cross more than a dozen streams on this loop, but log and stone bridges will keep you from getting wet most of the time. In early summer, muddy paths are a more likely culprit for soaked boots. After this bridge at mile 6.7, there’s a picturesque riverside campsite.
Location: 39.271287, -105.411293
Bypass the Rolling Creek Trail at this 3-way junction at mile 7.3.
Location: 39.266523, -105.40139
Turn right at this 3-way junction onto the Goose Creek Trail. You’ll pass several campsites in the next quarter-mile and climb 2 miles beneath granite spires and balancing rocks to a viewpoint.
Location: 39.239772, -105.402553
From this overlook the trail switchbacks 1.5 miles downhill losing more than 1,000 feet.
Location: 39.232159, -105.407251
Bear right at this Y-junction to continue downhill on the McCurdy Trail.
Location: 39.234641, -105.416695
Several well-used trails meander through Refrigerator Gulch. The campsite here can accommodate several tents. To continue, bear right and follow the main trail uphill to the west.
Location: 39.239113, -105.425782
After this small creek crossing you’ll pass an established campsite about 50 yards off the trail to the left.
Location: 39.237465, -105.431384
This campsite at mile 13.3 is a favorite. It’s placed badly for a 2-night trip (perfect for a 1-nighter), but even if you continue hiking, stop to enjoy the winding creek that flows out of the rocky hillside. There are a few more campsites in the next valley to the west.
Location: 39.2394, -105.435619
After this bridge, the trail turns uphill and begins a long climb toward the route’s high point just before mile 22.
Location: 39.235212, -105.441971
You’ll pass another campsite before at the base of this small ravine. There’s a beaver pond up ahead before the trail turns uphill again.
Location: 39.217891, -105.448494
The climbing continues, but mellows as the trail enters a valley meadow. You’ll pass a couple of grassy campsites on your right and cruise below rugged granite-covered hills on both sides of the valley.
Location: 39.204857, -105.452871
Turn right at this 3-way junction nestled between the Terryall and McCurdy Tower massifs. The Brookside-McCurdy Trail climbs a saddle to the west and then levels out for an above-treeline traverse below McCurdy Mountain.
Location: 39.230457, -105.50446
Continue the gentle climb through this alpine meadow to a panoramic view of the Continental Divide from the route’s high point just below 11,900 feet. The trail heads south from the saddle down several switchbacks toward treeline.
Location: 39.226996, -105.51475
Turn right to stay on the Brookside-McCurdy Trail at this T-junction at mile 22.8. The trail ahead descends gently toward Indian Creek. There are several rock-hop crossings, but the trail sticks mostly to the valley’s east side.
Location: 39.269869, -105.521099
At this gate, you’re less than 1.5 miles from the trailhead. Continue north and look for signs of civilization–the road, more hikers, and a wilderness registration kiosk–between here and loop end.
Location: 39.281982, -105.509944
You’ll be able to see the trailhead parking area on your right, but to access it, turn left at this T-junction and cross a small creek, the trail loops eastward on it’s other side.
Location: 39.227865, -105.500851
A large alpine meadow leading up to picnic-perfect outcroppings and the route’s high point.
Location: 39.281915, -105.502106
Sign in, listing the people in your party and your anticipated destination, at the wilderness boundary.
Location: 39.267647, -105.466669
These small outcroppings are a good place to rest near the trail junction at mile 3.5.
Location: 39.276982, -105.43386
Near the summit of a small saddle, the young aspen forest grows around deadfall from a massive blow-down.
Location: 39.274989, -105.427101
Looking east over the beaver ponds on the Wigwam Trail. You’ll pass three distinct beaver-pond areas before the Goose Creek junction.
Location: 39.274889, -105.421865
Most of the bridges on this loop’s northern side are made of haphazard side-by-side logs. Watch your step!
Location: 39.271534, -105.412488
Winding downhill from a rocky outcropping (a great spot for lunch) before the Rolling Creek trail junction.
Location: 39.234613, -105.416822
The aspen-shrouded meadow in Refrigerator Gulch is a prime campsite or rest spot just before mile 12.
Location: 39.238469, -105.420299
There are large rocks alongside and overhanging the trail heading south and west.
Location: 39.237372, -105.431457
This wilderness area’s name comes from the disappearing nature of it’s major waterway. Here, the creek flows out of a cave. It’s not lost, afterall.
Location: 39.237372, -105.431371
This riverside campsite is well-established and perhaps the loop’s most appealing, but it is near the route’s half-way point making it a 13-14-mile trek from the trailhead to get here.
Location: 39.233849, -105.442657
The trail switchbacks through aspen on the northern reaches of McCurdy Mountain’s north slope.
Location: 39.204857, -105.452957
All of this route’s major junctions are signed, including this one on the saddle at McCurdy Park.
Location: 39.206586, -105.461712
Wind and exposure to storms are major threats near treeline, be prepared for changing weather and try to start early to avoid potentially plan-changing conditions.
Location: 39.210709, -105.474243
Damaged trees and sparse treeline vegetation line much of the route above 11,000 feet.
Location: 39.220019, -105.484714
In early summer the above-treeline stretch of trail may also be wet. Be prepared for a little mud and occasional small creek crossings.
Location: 39.244485, -105.516644
This hand-hewn blaze marks the trail, but the well-worn path is easy to follow when there’s no snow.
Location: 39.250467, -105.516987
Indian Creek flows through a large meadow, but the trail stays mostly on its eastern side.