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Zirkel Circle



10.4 mile 16.8 kilometer loop
81% Runnable


Ascent: 2,360' 719 m
Descent: -2,363' -720 m
High: 10,765' 3,281 m
Low: 8,427' 2,569 m


Avg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 22% (12°)


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A beautiful loop that is relatively easy to access from the Steamboat area but can attract crowds on holidays/weekends.

Zander Göpfert

Features Commonly Backpacked · Lake · River/Creek · Wildlife


For runners, new backpackers, families, or anyone looking for a weekend backpacking adventure, this loop is an ideal option with access to water, views, and side scrambles to tack on more miles. The majority of visitors approach the loop from the west at the trailhead for the Gilpin Trail with ample parking and campgrounds along the road leading to the trailhead, but longer and more remote options lie to the east as well.

Need to Know

On the west side of town How Ya Doin' has delicious pizza and Storm Peak has great brews to enjoy after your hike! Taco Cabo has moved to 7th & Yampa downtown.

Runner Notes

This is a popular loop with runners because of the quality of trail, being a loop, and access to water.


The high point for this loop is almost exactly at the midway point, so it doesn't really matter which direction you choose to go. Generally speaking, going clockwise is a higher sustained grade overall but with fewer steep sections, while going counterclockwise is generally lower grade but with at least a couple steep sections. There is water on either side of the pass above Gilpin Lake.

Once in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness, there are a number of camping options along the loop as long as you observe Wilderness regulations. The Mica Basin Trail #1162 is an obvious spur up along a creek drainage that descends from Mica Lake at the base of the Agnes peaks with numerous dispersed camping spots.

Bring a fly rod to test your mettle at the lakes along the way.

Flora & Fauna

There are black bears in this area so be alert and make noise periodically so as to prevent surprising or scaring them. Make sure to hang anything scented or food away from your campsite or bring a bear canister.

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Sep 1, 2019
Raúl Gross
Aug 6, 2019
Amie Rawlings
10h 04m
Sep 16, 2018
Melanie Stoeckle
Great trail, not too hard, saw a few trail runners on Sunday morning but other than that, not very crowded. Beautiful views - go counterclockwise! 12mi — 6h 00m

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 13 votes


  4.8 from 13 votes
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in Colorado


128 Views Last Month
11,324 Since Jun 4, 2018



Looking down on Gilpin Lake from halfway up the pass.
Jun 26, 2018 near Walden, CO
Heading up to Gilpin Lake, late June.
Jun 26, 2018 near Walden, CO
The lush lower Gold Creek meadows.
Jul 10, 2017 near Walden, CO
Lower part of the falls at about 1.75 miles in.
Sep 16, 2018 near Walden, CO
Gold Creek Lake.
Jul 10, 2017 near Walden, CO
One of the easier log creek crossings going down on Gold Creek Lake Trail.
Jun 26, 2018 near Walden, CO


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