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Hiking in Clark and North Routt

Mad Creek Trail

The best hikes are peppered with small wonders and end with big rewards. From a dip in a cool creek to exploring a 110-year-old barn, it’s no wonder the Mad Creek Trail and its endless rewards is popular with hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders looking for a cultural outdoor experience amongst the beautiful scenery of the Routt National Forest.

Nestled peacefully next to the Zirkel Wilderness Area, Mad Creek and its surrounding network of trails wind through aspen groves, wide open meadows filled with wildflowers, steep canyons and lush fern forests.

Mad Creek Barn SteamboatTwo miles up the Mad Creek Trail sits the Mad Barn, built in 1906 by homesteaders. Take in local history and take a photo in the doorway of the barn. Or, enjoy a peaceful picnic lunch up in the loft, accompanied by the sounds of chirping birds and the rushing Mad Creek.

Turn around and head back to the trailhead, or if you have the energy, continue up to the Zirkel Wilderness Area Boundary.

Make it a loop by turning left at the Mad Barn onto Red Dirt Trail which ends just down the road from the Mad Creek trailhead.

Getting There

The Mad Creek trailhead is the hub for the trail system that includes the Mad Creek Trail, the Hot Springs Trail, the Red Dirt Trail and more.

From downtown Steamboat Springs, head west and take a right onto Routt County Road 129/Elk River Road and follow it for about 5 miles.

Hot Springs Trail

To access the Hot Springs Trail from the Mad Creek trailhead, walk back down Routt County Road 129 approximately 400 yards on left (trailhead not marked) to NFSR 128. About ½ mile up, the hot springs trail cuts off to the right. Once you arrive at Strawberry Park Hot Springs, visit the front desk for access to the springs. Strawberry Park Hot Springs are private; admission is charged to access the springs.

More About Mad Creek

For more on the Mad Creek Trail and the history of the Mad Barn watch this FOX 31 Explore Colorado segment with Jennifer Broome.

More Trails

See below for hiking and backpacking trails, please note that many trails also offer biking and/or ATV.

See our biking trails for a complete list of biking options or view the City of Steamboat's interactive trail map for a more comprehensive list of trails.

There are more than 80 maintained trails on U.S. Forest Service land. See the local Forest Service office for more information and detailed trail maps.

U.S. Forest Service
925 Weiss Drive
(970) 870-2299
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday

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Hiking

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Mtn Biking

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Expert Only

South Fork Loop

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12 Miles Roundtrip | Staring Elevation 7,680 ft | Highest Point 8,400 ft | Views of Mountain Peaks

This trail can be accessed at the top of the gondola and is a short loop with views of town. It begins as a wide gravel road and becomes narrow singletrack about half way around the loop.

Can be done as a loop or one way. For the loop, start at Hinman Campground. Trail exits at NFSR #433; follow it west and north to NFSR 400 and then west back to Hinman. To go one way, park at trailhead #1100 off NFSR #443 and walk downhill to Hinman. Features spectacular views of mountain peaks. This trail follows south fork of Elk River.

Hahn's Peak

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3.6 Miles Roundtrip | Starting Elevation: 9,426 | Highest Point: 10,839

Hiking Hahns PeakThe steep, just under two-mile hike to the 10,839-foot summit of Hahn's Peak is one of the most rewarding treks in Northwest Colorado because of the stunning 360-degree views from the old fire watchtower at top. The last scramble up the scree field is a challenge, so be careful, and avoid the summit when bad weather threatens.

From Steamboat, head west on U.S. 40 and turn north on Routt County Road 129 (Elk River Road). Follow past Steamboat Lake State Park to Columbine, and make a right across from the Columbine General Store onto Forest Service Road 490. Veer left onto FSR 410 to the parking area.

Hinman Creek

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6.1 Miles Roundtrip | Creek crossings may be high during spring | Wear orange during hunting season

Take Hwy 40 west of Steamboat Springs two miles and turn right onto County Road 129. Travel north 18 miles to the Seedhouse Road (NFSR 400, also CR 64) and turn right. Continue for about 4.5 miles and turn left on to NFSR 430 and follow it to the trailhead.

Gilpin Lake

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11 Miles Roundtrip | 29 Acre, Blue Alpine Lake and views of the Sawtooth Range

Gilpin Lake Zirkel WildernessDrive west out of Steamboat Springs on Hwy. 40 approximately 2 miles and turn right on Elk River Road (County Road 129). Follow CR 129 about 18 miles to Seedhouse Road (NFSR 400; also CR 64) and turn right. Continue for 11 miles to the end at the Slavonia trailhead parking area, where the Gilpin Lake trailhead begins.

This hike can turn into the Zirkel Circle hike, which continues to Gold Creek Lake and back to the Slavonia trailhead parking area – 11 miles roundtrip distance.

Gold Creek Lake

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8 Miles Roundtrip | 8 Acre Lake Forested by fir and lodgepole pines

Gold Creek LakeDrive west out of Steamboat Springs on Hwy. 40 approximately 2 miles and turn right on Elk River Road (County Road 129). Follow CR 129 about 18 miles to Seedhouse Road (NFSR 400; also CR 64) and turn right. Continue for 11 miles to the end at the Slavonia Trailhead parking area where the Gold Creek Lake trailhead begins.

This hike can turn into the Zirkel Circle hike, which continues to Gilpin Lake and back to the Slavonia trailhead parking area – 11 miles roundtrip distance.

Red Dirt

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12.6 Miles Roundtrip | Popular Hunting Trail during Fall

Drive west of Steamboat on U.S. 40 approximately 2 miles. Turn north on County Road 129, Elk River Road. Travel about 7 miles to Red Dirt on right side of the road (just past the Mad Creek trailhead). The trail is a steady up hill climb until it drops into the Mad Creek drainage.

Three Island Lake

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7 Miles Roundtrip | Staring Elevation 8,380 ft | Highest Point 9,878 ft | Mount Zirkel Wilderness

The Three Island Lake trail is the perfect Zirkel Wilderness hike. The climb through aspen groves next to the Elk River makes the journey alone worth the effort, but the view from the top spanning a pristine lake and the meandering streams that flow from it make this hike one of the most stunning in the area.

Turn right past Seedhouse Campground on NFSR 443 and continue approximately 3 miles to trailhead on left side of road. Turn right at intersection of trail #1163 and follow to lake in Mount Zirkel Wilderness. No bikes Allowed. This trail follows the south fork of the Elk River.

Coulton Creek Loop

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13 Miles Roundtrip | Starting Elevation 7,640 ft | Highest Point 8,600 ft | Single Track

Take Routt County Road 129 to Routt County Road 64 and continue east for about 4 miles to NFSR 429 on left. Take Coulton Creek Trail #1188 about 5 miles north to Cutover Trail #1188A. Follow trail #1188A east for about 1 mile to Scott Run Trail #1177. Take trail #1177 south for 1 mile to NFSR 430, then follow this road south about 2 miles to Routt County Road 64 about 2 miles west back to trailhead #1188.

Hare Loop

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26 Miles Rountrip | Starting Elevation 8,680 ft | Highest Point 10,038 ft

Take Routt County Road 129 to NFSR 550, then north 4 miles to NFSR 500, then east 2 miles to NFSR 402, then south 1 mile to trailhead #1203. Take Farwell Mountain Trail #1203 (single track, no ATVs) southeast about 5 miles to NFSR 409, then follow the road about 3 miles to Wyoming Trail #1101. Take Trail #1101 north about 10 miles to Hare Trail #1199, then follow the trail west about 3 miles to NFSR 520. Take 520 west 3 miles to NFSR 500, south on 500 about 1 mile to NFSR 402 and back to trailhead #1203.

Manzanares Trail Loop

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27.5 Miles Roundtrip | Starting Elevation 8,680 ft | Highest Point 10,038 ft | Wildlife viewing

Take CR 129 to FS Road 550, then north 4 miles to NFSR 500, then east 2 miles to NFSR 402, then south 1 mile to trailhead #1203. Take Farwell Mountain Trail #1203 (single track, no ATVs) southeast about 5 miles to NFSR 409, then follow the road about 3 miles to Wyoming Trail #1101. Take Trail #1101 north about 13 miles to Manzanares Trail #1204, follow the trail west about 5 miles back to trailhead 1203. Hilly, rocky sections and steep grades make this a challenging trail.

Nipple Peak Loop

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30 Miles Roundtrip | Starting Elevation 9,500 ft | Highest Point 10,200 ft

Take CR 129 north to Forest Road 047. Turn left and continue about 10 miles to trailhead #1127. Left on trail #1156 about 10 miles. Left on CR 129 back to the car. Hills, rocks and trees add to the difficulty of this loop.

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