This epic journey takes you through the heart of Lost Creek Wilderness. The scenery changes greatly from wide open valleys, to scenic ridge tops, and even a rocky canyon, all featuring the granite rock formations characteristic of this area. Although this is a popular backpacking route, the area feels vast and remote considering it is just a couple hours from the front range.
Counterclockwise is recommended because you can cross the run's high point earlier in the day and avoid storms. This direction also breaks up the big climbs of the run.
Although you can access this loop from many directions, parking at the campground is the only trailhead where you start right on the loop and at around 10,000ft. There are also pit toilets at the campground. Keep in mind this parking area is about 19 miles from Highway #285 on dirt roads; though the road is washboarded, a 2-wheel drive vehicle can make it.
Most of the trails are well maintained and signed, although rocky. There is plenty of water throughout the run if you bring a filter for the numerous streams and creeks.
Start at Lost Park Campground and plan to take a left at each marked trail junction on the circuit. You can pick up the main trail from a smaller path on the west side of the day-hiker parking lot, which snakes down the hill and crosses Lost Creek. You'll follow the Brookside McCurdy Trail #607
south for the first 10 miles of the run.
The first 4 miles following a creek provide a nice warm-up of smooth trail as you gradually gain ~800ft. Then the grade increases as you reach the junction with Ute Creek Trail #629
. Turn left to keep following the trail and the grade increases again as you begin to gain elevation and stunning views more quickly. The climb tops out after another mile or two with stunning views to the south and west.
From here the trail weaves below the ridgeline past Bison Peak and McCurdy Mountain with great views spotty trees and rock formations for several more miles, crossing the run's high point. Watch your footing as you begin to descend steeply down a tight, rocky, but short section to the junction with the McCurdy Park Trail #628
where you'll head left.
There is water access and camping for most of this long descent into the canyon. (As you make your way north, you can appreciate that you didn't have to do this climb all at once from the bottom of the canyon to Bison Pass!) More numerous switchbacks and eventually a couple of very brief uphills let you know you are nearing the low point and the halfway mark of the run. Crossing Lost Creek (along some logs) for the second time makes a great halfway point for lunch with some nice shade.
Enjoy a few miles winding through this spectacular canyon and crossing Refrigerator Gulch, before the tone of the run changes once again. You'll hit your first set of switchbacks as you begin a steep 1200ft climb over just 2 miles. When you hit Goose Creek Trail #612
, head left and keep on climbing. Finally reaching the saddle, you are rewarded with a fairly smooth descent down the valley to a junction with Wigwam Trail #609
. The junction area can be a bit confusing: watch for a bunch of logs blocking the trail to make a quick right into the open area where you'll cross a bridge over the creek and then T with Wigwam Trail #609
. You'll follow this trail (left again) for the remaining 8 miles of the run and there is water access almost the entire way.
Heading west on Wigwam takes you along the river and past many campsites, then on a gradual climb up and over a saddle. After the quick descent from the saddle, the trail mellows out and weaves among trees along the southern edge of a Lost Park, an iconic wide open valley. You'll cross Lost Creek (3rd time) via a bridge and continue along Wigwam.
Be warned: there is a rocky uphill section at the very end of the run that is thankfully quite short; don't be discouraged as it means the parking lot is not far! When you emerge finally from the woods, keep an eye out for a right that will take you up to parking area via the campground's east end. Alternatively, you can run a few hundred feet farther and follow the same spur you started on. Either way, you might consider a celebratory splash in the bone-chilling Lost Creek as you cross for the 4th and final time.
Like most mountain wildness in Colorado, you can cross paths with anything from moose to marmots. The run pretty much remains below treeline so expect the typical mix of evergreens and some Aspens. If the time is right, wildflowers abound in the more open areas. Birds of prey also ride the thermals around the ridgeline.
Lost Creek is the Wilderness Area's namesake and weaves throughout disappearing underground and reappearing latter. This circuit crosses the creek 4 times.