Mount Zirkel Wilderness Trails
One of the five original Colorado wilderness areas designated by the 1964 Wilderness Act, Mount Zirkel was greatly enhanced by additions in 1980 and 1993. The 1980 enlargement added the Mad Creek watershed, among others, and the 1993 addition included 12 miles of the Encampment River near Davis Peak. In each case, Congress augmented the ecological integrity of the wilderness by combining vital low-elevation forests and rivers with the rocky alpine spine of the Park Range. Heavy glaciation left a legacy of sparkling alpine lakes, broad valleys, and graceful cirques throughout Mount Zirkel. Though the peaks here do not attain the lofty heights found elsewhere in the Colorado Rockies, they more than compensate with their rugged beauty. No more hauntingly beautiful mountain exists in all of Colorado than Big Agnes Mountain, part of the central Mount Zirkel massif. Flying buttresses, jagged spires, and craggy turrets define the many rising arms of this mountain. During one hike I paused again and again to drink in her forbidding outline. From my vantage point, she dwarfed nearby Mount Zirkel in grace, form, and beauty, but I had to chuckle at the thought of naming a wilderness “Big Agnes.” The Mount Zirkel Wilderness includes 36 miles of the Continental Divide as it runs atop the Park Range and into Wyoming. Like most Colorado mountain ranges, the Park Range is a faulted anticline; its now-exposed bedrock of granite, gneiss, and schist was thrust upward beneath sedimentary shales and limestones that have long since eroded from the peaks. Mount Zirkel and its countless lakes owe their current shape to Pleistocene glaciation 15,000 years ago. These glaciers left behind steep-walled valleys headed by bowl-like cirques and terminating in mounded glacial moraines. Like many other glacier-carved ranges in Colorado, travel along these valleys is easy but routes between them are more difficult. This trail guide includes descriptions of Gilpin Lake, Rainbow Lake, Mount Zirkel, Round Mountain Lake, Seven Lakes, Main and West Forks of the encampment river, Bear Lakes/Ute Pass, Hog Park to Buffalo Pass via the Continental Divide, and Seedhouse Campground to Mad Creek.
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Directions to: Mount Zirkel Wilderness Trailsprint directions
Trail Statistics & Information
|Nearby City||Steamboat Springs|
|Skill Level||Easy to Strenuous|
|Season||Best Spring through Fall|
|Trailhead Elevation||7,400 ft|
|Top Elevation||12,200 ft|
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