Alpine Gulch Trail is a 9.3 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Lake City, Colorado that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from March until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
Trail is a strenuous hike with many scenic views. Lots of waterfalls on the start of the trail. One big water fall on top the first climb, then can go further to the top of the mountain. On top of the first upper section there are herds of elk and deer. Also a few old log cabins.
I returned to this trail recently after a botched attempt at a thru-hike from Williams Creek in 2014. Last year we came up Williams Creek and found snow on the Alpine Gulch side that completely obscured the trail down from the ridge line. My wife and our dogs went down a false trail and ended-up bushwacking off the mountain.
On this successful attempt we started our Alpine Gulch hike early in the morning. The sun was not yet shining into the gulch and there was ice on the trail. There were numerous water crossings, but we managed to cross all of them with little difficulty. Some were crossed via logs, while others were made via stepping stones or just carefully stepping across via shallow-water pools.
The trail was initially well-worn and easily identified. Only one sign at the trail head and another after a few miles and water crossings. As we entered a large gulch we had to search carefully for the trail due to thick brush. It appeared that we should head off to the right up one gulch, but we found more tracks and signs leading to left up a different (and correct) gulch.
Entering the forest again we began climbing through a forest filled with flowers and fallen trees. This eventually put us onto a ridge and ultimately onward toward a descent via Williams Creek. The trail was easy to identify through this area. Look for large (5 foot tall!) cairns along a treeless trail once you are above the treeline.
We then reached a point where the trail ran-off into the grass and simply stopped. Looking behind us, and to the right, we could then see another well-worn trail leading up a steep ridgeline. Retracing our steps we found stones in the trail in an attempt to "point" us into this direction through the tall grass.
It was a strenuous climb to the ridge marked cairns. Sometimes the trail wasn't evident, but the cairns marked the way.
The views were spectacular. Strenuous, but well worth the effort.
This was one of the first trails that we hiked when we first moved to Lake City. The trail head is easy to find along County Road 20, and very close to the Hard Tack Mine. On our first trip the water level was rather high, so this made the numerous water crossings difficult. Our dogs were with us on this trip, and the current made it difficult and dangerous for them -- we had to help them across several crossings.
This is a beautiful tree-lined trail that connects to the Williams Creek trail. We have not completed a through-hike from this direction -- only out-and-back hikes and runs.
Would not recommend this hike for children or folks who have unsure footing. The water crossings an be difficult of the water flow is high and fast.
Great scenery and a lot of waterfalls and mountains. 2001 Sept. 17-27