Baker Gulch to Bowen Lake
ElevationAscent: 4,483' 1,366 m
Descent: -4,483' -1,366 m
High: 12,113' 3,692 m
Low: 8,844' 2,696 m
GradeAvg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 41% (23°)
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“A great loop over two passes and past two alpine lakes with stunning views.”— Brendan Tuchowski
The parking lot is rather small, so you'll want to get there early to get a spot. Several vehicles parked along the road on the closest pull off spot, but this may not be recommended for overnight trips. You'll need to pay the entry fee for Rocky Mountain National Park at the entrance.
The route was really well maintained. There were barely any downed trees and all river crossings were easy. Trekking poles were very nice to have for the two passes and for the climb up to Bowen Lake.
Once you reach Parika Lake, continue up the basin and over the pass. The trail up and over the pass above Parika Lake is long and takes some good effort. Take some time to enjoy the views of Parika Peak, Baker Gulch, and Parika Lake as you climb.
Once over the first pass, you'll descend on the other side of the mountain before climbing back up and over the Continental Divide. This section, until you reach Bowen Pass, is exposed so keep an eye on the clouds if you are running later in the day. The trail skirts above the treeline, and in season, the wildflowers along this stretch are outstanding. You'll pass two trail junctions, one unmarked and one marked (Ruby Mountain Trail/CDT). Keep left at both of these junctions.
The climbing continues up Bowen Pass. This climb is shorter, but just as strenuous with several steep switchbacks bringing you to a junction with the Bowen Gulch Trail and the Blue Ridge Trail. From here, you can see Bowen Mountain to your left and Ruby Lake and Ruby Mountain to your right. Continue on the Bowen Pass Trail, and from there it is downhill until you get to the Bowen Lake Trail.
The Bowen Lake Trail branches off to the southwest. This trail is a steady uphill climb for about a mile to get to Bowen Lake. The trail is a bit more narrow with some sections of short, steep climbing. Bowen Lake offers several spots for backcountry camping if you are doing the loop as an overnight.
From Bowen Lake, the run back to the trailhead is almost all downhill. The Bowen Gulch Trail/CDT is a wide and well-maintained trail with few small creek crossings. Once the trail turns back to the north, you'll have an easy two-mile run back to the trailhead.
This loop was done counter-clockwise. This trip was done in two days with an overnight at Bowen Lake, but it was a long, grueling run from the trailhead to Bowen Lake.
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