Summer rolled in quickly this year, bringing with it the heat and itch to get hiking. This calls for early morning and early season trips. We’ve got a bundle of trails surrounding Steamboat that you can enjoy. Bonus: these summer hikes also have water! As you plan your adventure, keep in mind these tips for choosing a hiking trail.
1. King Solomon Falls
There’s nothing quite as classic as a summer hike to a waterfall. These falls can be tough to find but are well worth the search. Tucked away an hour north of Steamboat, the journey keeps this gem hidden and only accessible to those willing to make the trek. While this hike is on the shorter end, it is not for the faint of heart. There are guard rails, ropes and rungs to assist along steep sections. After about an hour of hiking, you’ll come to an oasis with people jumping off rocky cliffs and into the ice cold water below. The falls will echo about the rocky walls…jump if you dare …and if the water level is safe! Note that—as with a lot of hikes—this is a remote area without cell service, so plan accordingly.
2. Mount Zirkel Loop
Also called “The Zirkel Circle”: this classic summer hike rounds out at 10.4 miles and has water along a good portion of the way. Since the route is a loop, either direction will get you back to where you started, but hiking counter clockwise gives you a stunning first view of Gilpin Lake as you crest the ridge. This hike features a variety of meadows, alpine forests, streams, wetlands, and two lakes. Conditions vary by season but, due to the higher elevation, this trail typically has snowy sections throughout June.
3. Fishhook Lake, Lost Lake, and Lake Elmo
A 6.1 mile out and back hike to view three lakes within Routt National Forest. Don’t miss the detour to the second lake—it’s arguably the most beautiful of the three! The hike is a fairly easy trail, and rated as moderate, but be warned that the way back is primarily steep uphill. Additionally, the road to the trailhead can be tough on cars and 4WD high clearance vehicles are highly recommended.
4. Fish Creek to Long Lake
12.3 miles from the Fish Creek Falls parking lot. This hike starts out strenuous for the first three miles, but levels out and quiets down past the popular Upper Falls. Meandering meadows, wildflowers, and fewer visitors create a serene trail in the summer that’s also great for trail running. Pack a picnic for this summer hike to enjoy the water before you turn around and make the trek back.
5. Buffalo Pass Lakes Loop
This 2.9 mile loop takes you beside beautiful lake views without the crowds. Yes, quiet hiking is a dream, but be sure to know where you are going on this hike beforehand. It can be hard to stay on trail after the first two lakes because the remaining trail is not well marked or maintained. Before embarking, bring a map, download more maps, and do your research to be confident in your navigational skills. Well worth the adventure if you are a seasoned hiker and well prepared!