After hearing this 23.4-mile loop recommended so many times over the years, I finally had to go check out the Lost Creek Wilderness Loop for myself this summer. The Lost Creek Wilderness did not disappoint. The wildflowers were perfectly in bloom towards the end of July and at least during the week, the trail wasn’t too crowded.
The unique rock formations and landscape of the Lost Creek Wilderness offered a welcome change of scenery to our usually beetle-kill-infested landscape of Grand County, Colorado. It’s most known for its large rounded granite domes and knobs.
Lost Creek Wilderness Loop Trail Specs:
Length: 27.6 miles total from the Twin Eagles Trailhead (this is what we hiked and will be detailed in this post)
This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience, see my full disclosure for more info.
23.6 miles from the Goose Creek Trailhead
37 miles from the Goose Creek or Lost Park Trailhead, if you choose to expand the loop by including the East Lost Park segment/Wigwam Trail
Elevation: Highest point is 10,890 ft
Lowest point is 8,078 ft
Elevation change throughout the hike is about 6,150 ft
Difficulty: Mostly intermediate, with some very steep sections
Best time of year: Probably June, after the snow melts. Water sources will be plentiful early in the summer. We went in late July and the wildflowers were in bloom, but the water sources were already starting to dry up. Fall would be beautiful with all the aspens along the loop, but carry extra water and count on sources being totally dry and unreliable.
Lost Creek Wilderness Loop Itinerary and Planning
Be sure to get the detailed topo map of the Lost Creek Wilderness and carry it with you, along with a compass.
The Lost Creek Wilderness really is the perfect area to choose your own adventure based on your hiking pace and how much time you have to spend there. There are many options of accessible trailheads, trails, and shorter loops within longer loops. You can cover as many or as few miles as you want to.
Luckily, there were no permits required to camp in this wilderness area, other than self-registering at the trailhead. So you don’t have to worry about booking certain dates or certain availability.
We only had four days off work, plus a ~3-hour drive for us to get to the trailhead which ate up precious hiking time. We essentially had two full days and two partial days to hike and three nights to spend on the Lost Creek Wilderness Loop.
Due to our time constraints, we opted for the 27.6-mile lollipop loop. If I would have more days to spend, I would have hiked the full 37-mile loop including the Brookside-McCurdy Trail and Wigwam Trail, and taken the time to explore some of the side trails.
4 Days, 3 Nights on the Lost Creek Wilderness Loop
Day 1: Starting from the Twin Eagles Trailhead, we passed through the small campground then hiked 5.6 miles, clockwise on the loop, and camped near Hay Creek. This was by the far the steepest and most difficult hiking day, don’t let the short mileage fool you.
Day 2: We hiked ~9.5 miles and camped near Goose Creek and Watkins Gulch. We had foolishly passed one low water source in hopes of refilling and camping at the next one, only to find the next water source to also be a tiny trickle along the flat ground. Not wanting or able to hike any further that day, we used a leaf to try to funnel water into our bottles.
Day 3: We hiked ~8.5 miles and camped at a large campsite near Hankins Pass. We did pass a side trail this day that supposedly leads to some old buildings and ruins, but feeling crunched for time, we opted not to tack on the extra 1.2 miles. Again, we passed over a relatively low flowing water source in hopes of camping at the next one, but the next one was completely dry, just dirt and rocks. So we backtracked to the large campsite and dropped our overnight gear, then had to backtrack even more to the previous water source to get water for the night and the next day.
Day 4: This should have been 4.4 miles back to the trailhead, finishing our hike. However, my husband, who I love very much, dropped his cell phone while pooping in the wilderness on the first day of our hike. So we backtracked about 1.5 miles one-way on the loop on a treasure hunt for his cell phone – which we found by the way! AND it still worked after sitting on a rock for four days in the blazing sun. Then we hiked back to the car where I thoughtfully left a gallon of water, electrolytes, and a clean change of clothes for our dirty selves.
Be sure to buy the topo map of the Lost Creek Wilderness and carry it with you, in case your phone dies.
Lost Creek Wilderness Weather
In late July, 2021, it was very hot during the days spiking well above 80 degrees and cooled down to the 50’s at night. The forecast called for afternoon storms and showers every day but it didn’t rain on us once and several water sources were starting to dry up, were extremely low, or completely dry with no water at all.
Despite the lack of rain, much of the Lost Creek Wilderness Loop was surrounded by wildflowers and some of the craziest mushrooms I’ve seen in Colorado.
Check the weather here for N Tarryall Colorado before your trip.
Lost Creek Wilderness Fire Ban
After being in a dry, crispy, brown state of drought and fire ban in Grand County for several months already, I was pleasantly surprised to see the lush, green landscape in Park and Jefferson County near the Lost Creek Wilderness. Fire danger signs along the roadways told us that the fire danger was LOW as well.
There are many campsites along the Lost Creek Wilderness Loop, almost all with fire rings that hikers have built and had fires in.
Obviously, conditions and regulations can change very rapidly. Keep a close eye on wildfire updates and fire bans before your trip. You can check for updates on the South Park Ranger district here and the South Platte Ranger district here.
If campfires are permitted, always keep fires small and limit them to evenings or early mornings. Avoid having fires above treeline. Dead wood removed from Krummholz (dwarf trees near timberline) affects their survival. Learn more about minimizing campfire impacts here.
Lost Creek Wilderness Bears
We did not see one bear or any sign of bears during our hike – but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be there! At least as of summer 2021, hard-sided bear canisters are not required on the Lost Creek Wilderness Loop. However, we did use a bear-proof Ursack and hang all of our smelly items, trash, and food in it each night, well away from our sleeping area.
I also purposefully tried to camp far away from other people, because you never know if they are keeping food in their tent and I didn’t want to be near that. Luckily, we were successful and were able to find empty campsites each night that we had to ourselves.
Similar to fire bans, bear and food storage regulations can change suddenly, especially if there have been recent or frequent bear and human interactions. Always check the current restrictions on food storage, bear canisters, and camping areas with the local ranger districts.
Getting To The Lost Creek Wilderness
From where I live in Grand County, we took US-40 E. Take Guanella Pass Rd, Geneva Rd, and US Hwy 285 S to Co Rd 77 in Lake George. It was a beautiful drive over Guanella Pass and took about 2 hours and 45 minutes total.
From Denver, it’s about 2 hours to get to the Twin Eagles Trailhead, taking US-6 W and US Hwy 285 S to Co Rd 77 in Park County, towards Tarryall.
From Colorado Springs, it’s only 1 hour and 15 minutes to the Twin Eagles Trailhead, taking 24 W, straight up to county road 77.
You’ll obviously have to do a bit of research here depending on where you’re coming from. It might be easier to get to the Goose Creek Trailhead if you’re coming from the Eastern Slope. If you’re coming from the north and have the time, consider starting from the Lost Park Trailhead.
Just a heads up, the Twin Eagles Trailhead is just a parking lot. There were no bathrooms, amenities, or even a trail register when we parked there. We didn’t have any issues or incidents but were both surprised that there wasn’t more.
Lost Creek Wilderness Trail Review
I would definitely recommend this trail to anyone looking to go backpacking close to the front range! Even though there were very challenging, steep sections, they were manageable as long as you take your time and take lots of breaks.
Be aware that while this trail is relatively close to Denver and Colorado Springs, it is at high elevation, floating between 8,000 and 10,000+ feet above sea level. If you’re coming from lower elevations, try to give your body as much time as possible to adjust to the higher elevations, stay super hydrated and take it easier than you would at home.
The rock formations and wildflowers were definitely highlights of the trip for me. I was nervous that since we were going in the middle of the summer, the trail would be super crowded, but it wasn’t bad at all. We did pass several other backpackers on the trail each day and even some scout troops, but we must have all been spread out enough on the loop that we ended up having each of our campsites to ourselves at night.
Despite the water shortages, the Lost Creek Wilderness Loop was a great backpacking getaway and I’d be excited to go back and explore more trails in the area.
For more of the best hiking trails in Colorado, check out:
- Backpacking the East Inlet Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park
- How To Hike The Manitou Incline
- Backpacking the Bowen Baker Loop Trail near Grand Lake
About the author, Mallory Moskowitz:
After studying Recreation, Park & Tourism Management, Mallory spent several years teaching environmental education, guiding hikes, and leading backcountry trips. Her life-changing trek from Georgia to New York on the Appalachian Trail is what sparked the creation of Your Adventure Coach, to share backpacking tips and resources with as many new hikers as possible.