Northwest of Steamboat Springs, deep in the Routt National Forest, more than 150,000 acres of pristine, untouched wilderness awaits.
One of the first areas protected by the 1964 Wilderness Act, the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area bridges the Continental Divide with jagged, rocky peaks, peaceful forests and glimmering creeks and lakes. A camping, backpacking and fishing mecca, the Zirkels are postcard views come to life.
A local favorite is the Zirkel Circle, a loop that encompasses Gilpin and Gold Creek lakes, both astonishingly bright blue. From the shores of Gilpin Lake, breathtaking views of Little Agnes and Big Agnes (after which the Steamboat-based camping company is named) may give way to dreams of summiting one of the peaks.
Because of its wilderness designation, no motorized vehicles or bicycles are allowed within the borders. Reaching beautiful vistas and iconic peaks is only possible by foot or on horseback, lending an authentic nature to the Zirkel experience.
Many hikes and loops can be done in day trips, but to get into the heart of the Zirkels, you may want to pack your tent.
Backpack in and spend a night or two under the stars serenaded by only crickets and the songs of birds. Observe the regulations for setting up your campsite, then be free to explore the pristine wilderness area, fish for your dinner and breathe in the fresh air and natural beauty.
Drive 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 continues to Gold Creek Lake and back to the Slavonia trailhead parking area – 11 miles roundtrip distance.