The Rocky Mountains offer unbelievable scenery in the summertime. The high peaks and lush valleys are filled with cascading creeks, alpine lakes, wildflowers, and wildlife making hiking one of the most enjoyable activities. Check out a few of my favorite hikes located just a short drive from Steamboat.
Rabbit Ears Peak
Positioned on the Continental Divide and one of the most iconic landmarks near Steamboat, these famous rocks got their name from resembling the ears of a rabbit. This hike is the best in mid-July where you will be welcomed with an exquisite display of wildflowers. The 6-mile round trip trek takes you up 1,000 vertical feet of elevation gain and rewards you with a 100-mile radius panorama. Take Highway 40 east to the Dumont Lake Campground turn off. Follow the road past the campground and picnic area, turn left at Rabbit Ears Pass monument and follow signs to NFSR 291 on the right. Park and begin hiking on the road which bears to the right.
Another classic, this hike is located in the Flat Tops Wilderness offering unparalleled views of central Colorado and the surrounding mountain ranges. The Devils Causeway describes a narrow strip of land (roughly 100 feet long) that connects two mesas, stopping some dead in their tracks at its most narrow point of 4 feet wide. Head south of Steamboat on Highway 131 for approximately 30 minutes before hitting the quaint town of Yampa. From Yampa follow CR 7 for roughly 7 miles and then continue straight on Forest Service Road 900 to the trailhead at the end of the road. Hop on Trail 1119 where you will be immediately welcomed with a beautiful view of Stillwater Reservoir. Roughly ¾ mile from the trailhead you will reach a junction, take a right and continue on Trail 1119 until you are above the tree line. At this point there’s only another mile to go until you reach the causeway, however the hiking increases in difficulty. As you approach the ridgeline saddle, proceed left at the sign and make the steep 300 foot ascent. If you are comfortable and confident, crossing the Causeway won’t be an issue, but it will certainly make you think twice!
Gilpin Lake/ Zirkel Circle
Gilpin Lake is the most iconic hiking destination in the Steamboat area. Tucked in a high pocket of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness, Gilpin Lake is sure to take your breath away no matter how many times you’ve witnessed its beauty. At 10,338 feet, the deep blue water is encompassed by dramatic peaks rising over 12,000 feet, fields of wildflowers, and endless creeks and streams. Head west of downtown on Highway 40 and take a right onto CR 129, passing through Clark and taking a right on Seedhouse Road. After a few miles the road will quickly turn to dirt, eventually leading you to the Slavonia Trailhead. The drive is roughly an hour and the hike to Gilpin is a manageable 4 miles. If you are looking for a few more miles, continue past Gilpin Lake and over the pass where you will link up with the Gold Creek Trail passing Gold Creek Lake making it a 10-mile loop. Simply put, the Mount Zirkel Wilderness is sheer beauty defined, you will be surprised this area exists and is easily accessible from Steamboat.