Gilpin Lake // Mount Zirkel Wilderness

Like many 18-year-olds, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I graduated from high-school. I wasn’t ready to pack up and move away to college, I didn’t know what I wanted to study and I didn’t know where I wanted to go. I took my first semester of college off and stayed in Burlington, Vermont, where my parents lived and where I graduated from high school. I loved the outdoors and I loved snowboarding, so after doing some research and learning that there was a college in Steamboat Springs that offered a Ski and Snowboard Business Degree, I knew I had found a perfect fit. It sounded like a dream!

I had never been to Steamboat before I moved there, but my parents knew that I would love it because, once upon a time, they lived there as ski-bums. I flew into the Hayden airport, and a taxi dropped me off in front of CMC’s dorm – there is only one so I knew I was in the right place. I have so many fun stories from my days living in Steamboat so this story will be continued…

Fast forward 10+ years later and I’m lucky I now live only 5 hours from some of the best champagne powder, an awesome bike park and the little town that I was so lucky to call home for a couple of years. My only regret then was not exploring more of the area around Steamboat while I lived there.

I’ve visited Steamboat a lot since I went to school there and every time I visit I get to explore more and more of the beautiful area. This past Labor Day weekend, my boyfriend and I decided to hike in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness, which is through the town of Clark and only about 40 minutes away from Steamboat.

The Mount Zirkel Wilderness is home to many stunning hikes in the area including the Little and Big Agnes peaks. It is also well-known for epic backpacking trips, the Zirkel Circle and Gilpin Lake.

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We decided to hike to Gilpin Lake and not do the whole Zirkel Circle. The circle is approximately 2.5 miles further then just hiking to Gilpin Lake as an out and back . The trail climbs up the bowl that’s behind Gilpin toward Gold Creek Lake and then back to the same trail head where you start from. I definitely want to do the whole loop next time! But, since I didn’t fully disclose the length of the hike to my boyfriend I didn’t want to add any more mileage.

It took us almost 2 hours to get to Gilpin Lake, where we debated whether or not we should jump in to cool down. Usually, I fully submerge myself in ice-cold bodies of water like Delta Lake, but we decided to just take our shoes off and put our feet in. Even if you are not planning on hiking the Zirkel Circle. Make your way clockwise around the lake to take in a better view of the lake and the peaks behind the lake. Hiking back to the trailhead is easy and is all downhill, it only takes about an 1.5 hours to get back to the trailhead.

On your way home from the trailhead, make sure to stop at the Clark Store. A cute convenient store, post office, ice cream shop and brunch spot. A scoop of ice cream on the back deck is the perfect way to relax and reflect on your hike to Gilpin Lake!


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