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backpacking
13 days ago

Stunning, but tough. My wife and I (both 56, from Atlanta) and our 20-something kids from Denver did the loop over Labor Day weekend. Thankfully, we had the chance to acclimate ahead of time with some long hikes at altitude. We did the 28-mile Lost Creek Loop in three days and went counter-clockwise, which I would highly recommend. First day includes a big climb, with a payoff of spectacular views. We camped a little more than 10 miles in at McCurdy Park, which offers beautiful campsites in a meadow setting with good access to water. Day two starts out pretty easy and includes the really unique and beautiful Refrigerator Gulch. Coming up and out of the gulch though is a butt-kicker, with a 1,000 foot climb in just over a mile. We did another roughly 10 miles day-two and camped in a great spot in the woods along a stream, just before the intersection of the Wigwam Trail. Day three was an easy, and much faster, 8-mile walk to complete the loop. Milkshakes at the Sonic in Conifer, on the way back to Denver, capped a really wonderful long weekend!

Great loop. We hiked counter clockwise and it is definitely easier. I agree with others that the loop is 30 miles according to GPS. Refrigerator gulch is a good place to camp. We saw a moose and other wildlife along the way. Next time I will do it clockwise for the bragging rights, I feel like I cheated going CC.

amazing view long hike and I hike it Counter clockwise is the best and easy way out

Second year in a row, what an amazing hike!! Navigation is a challenge, we missed a turn at the end of geneva and had to double back for several miles...

Did this loop back in June and it took us 5 days as we started really late on the first day. One of the toughest trails I experienced due to the elevation gains, however, the views are incredible. Like other reviews, bring a map and compass as it was needed in some sections. There were also 3 river crossings so bring sandals to help alleviate some pain walking on the rocks!

We parked our car at the parking lot that is a mile out from the trailhead. We didn't park at the trailhead as the road to it is not maintained. Our car was low clearance and we didn't think our car would be able to make it over some of the humps. However, we did see a few sedans at the trailhead so it's not impossible.

backpacking
21 days ago

completed this loop 8/26/2018. Garmin watch said about 30 miles. We did it clockwise but almost think we would have been better off counter clockwise. If you go clockwise it's pretty flat for first about 7 or 8 miles. There is cool cave that the river flows through a mile or 2 past refrigerator gulch. good camping in refrigerator gulch. pretty good water sources throughout except up above 10500(there are still water but not ideal). We completed the loop in 2 nights. Out of staters from lower elevations should plan for 3 nights. makes it more fun and can do some exploring.

backpacking
22 days ago

My hiking buddy and I did this loop in the clockwise direction over 4 days in late August, camping at Pinto Lake, Upper Big Five Lakes, and Columbine Lakes. Overall a challenging but rewarding experience!

Pros
- Scenery: the views from Black Rock Pass and Columbine Lake were 5 stars. The alpine territory of Big Five Lakes and Lost Canyon were also incredible. The rest of the hike was pretty, but not quite as memorable.
- Logistics and solitude: this hike has become a lot more popular (permit demand has doubled in the last year alone). Nevertheless, obtaining permits is relatively easy and trail congestion remains low. We passed by only ~12 hikers per day on the trails and felt like we had our campsites all to ourselves.
- Charm: one thing I liked about this loop is you revisit a lot of the same locations from different points of view. For example, you get to see Columbine Lake from far away, then up close and personal. Or walk up Black Rock Pass, then admire how much altitude you climbed from far away 2 days later!
- Easy to customize: there are many variations of this loop if you have extra time, such as a detour to Nine Lake Basin or going over different passes.

Cons
- Difficulty: this hike kicked my butt! Although it's only ~7-8 miles per day, in the clockwise direction the first two days involve a LOT of uphill. The last day involves scrambling up and sliding down Sawtooth Pass. The packs and altitude only add to the exhaustion. On the flip side, the hike generally gets easier with each day.
- Getting there: Mineral King is less accessible than some other parts of the Sierras, so you might need to add 1-2 days to your itinerary to account for travel time.

Advice
- I recommend doing this in the clockwise direction from Timber Gap if possible. The first day is a slog and while pretty, it doesn't live up to the next 3 days. In the clockwise direction, the views improve with every day!
- Trail is well marked with a few exceptions. 1) If you're planning on camping at Pinto Lake, know that the lake is not signposted nor visible from the trail if you're coming from Timber Gap (i.e. from downhill). We initially missed and passed by it. Keep track of your location on the map and be on the lookout for a marshy area with trees in an otherwise completely sun-exposed area. 2) The detour to Upper Big Five Lakes fizzles out at one point, but you can keep on going deep into the canyon off the trail. 3) When going from Upper Big Five Lakes to Lost Canyon, when you reach the last lake, you will need to cross the creek to the other side. The trail not clearly marked, stay close to the edge of the lake on the opposite and look out for cairns. 4) The trail between Columbine and Monarch Lakes is not well established. At the top near Sawtooth Pass, there are use trails in the decomposed granite, but the trail lower down near the lakes requires scrambling over rocks and some pathfinding.
- The NPS rangers will recommend against camping at Columbine Lake as there are few campsites and the area has been "abused" by hikers (e.g. leaving trash, illegally camping next to the lake, etc). The will instead advise hikers to camp in Upper Lost Canyon, where there are some sun-exposed sites near the switchbacks leading to Columbine Lake, or covered sites in the forested area before the switchbacks. We ended up camping at Columbine Lake unintentionally and it was incredible. If you do too, please respect the space!

This is a difficult but extremely rewarding hike with some of the most amazing scenery and terrains I have experienced. My brother and I did it clockwise in 2.5 days. Big 13 mile day to Fravert Basin to start. Day 2 hike up to trail rider pass was brutal and the most difficult part of the entire loop by far. We camped at Snowmass Lake second night before hitting Buckskin pass and finishing. Next time I will go counterclockwise just to try it but from all I've read and talked with people there is no easy way around the loop. If you are doing a 3 day hike, no matter which way you go around you will likely need to do one long 12+ mile day hitting West Maroon Pass and Frigid Air Pass, and two shorter days. The most amazing thing we saw was the trail runners who do this loop in one day.....perhaps the most impressive feat of fitness I have ever seen.

The girlfriend and I did The 4 Pass Loop last year and I think this one is even better. 4-5 mountain passes, 4 lakes, almost 40 miles, and 5 days. Trail was pretty difficult to follow in a few sections. Make sure you are paying attention and know how to use a map and compass.

Have done this loop on previous trips with friends as a 3 day backpacking trip. During the last one I ran into two 60 year old women doing this as a single day hike. I was stunned, but it got me thinking, so I came back on August 9, 2018 and did the loop as a one day hike by myself. I did it clockwise with a light pack of about 10 pounds. It was a little warm and just a few sprinkles at sunset, but otherwise the weather and the trail were perfect. It did take me all day and I was pretty tired at the end, but felt good enough to drive the hour back to Glenwood Springs. I am in awe of the people who can run this loop. I will be 70 on my next birthday.

Agreed with the comment below, this was a difficult hike. First off, bring a paper map as there are multiple trail junctions that are not highlighted on this AllTrails screenshot. I actually downloaded a map from the Hiking Project titled 'Lost Creek Wilderness Loop', and it ended up being a completely different loop. I'd also recommend starting counterclockwise. We went clockwise and the hardest, steepest climbs were by far at the end of the hike. Aside from this being pretty dam difficult, the views and wildlife are second to none for being so close to the front range.

backpacking
29 days ago

Rated hard for a reason. Went counterclockwise starting at lost creek/Park trailhead. First 3-4 Miles are easy then you start a difficult ascent. Little or no water for Miles 5-10.5. Around 10.5 have good place to camp. 2nd day hike looks easier but the first ascent is quite steep. Once you make it to the top it is pretty easy the rest of the way. There are consistently great views, saw a moose and a elk.

Beautiful and worth the trek. Avid hikers, but 20lb+ of backpack adds a whole new element to it. Arrived at 730p Friday and Hiked 2 miles in the dark. The next day we hiked 16 miles (ended just before Frigid Pass). Last day we finished the remaining. Plowed through it based on time we had. Would have loved a leisurely 4 day backpack, but if can be done in 2 days. DEFINITELY recommend doing it counter clockwise. My guess is everyone wants to ease into it w a gradual climb on day 1, but it’s worth doing Buckskin pass 1st!Pays off later. Low 40s/high 30s at night. No bugs. Had a 1/2 day of relentless rain. Hand warmers were key! Hammock camped both nights, and even with some rain I was a happy camper! Was not overwhelmed by the amount of people on the trail. Surprised there wasn’t more actually. Very rewarding!! But bed feels good now.

This is a beautiful loop! We went clockwise and I would certainly recommend that direction; first day camping spots are better and scree skiing down Sawtooth is much better than trying to scramble up it from Monarch Lakes. I agree with others that noted the All Trails distances are off. Red numbers on map are more accurate than the All Trails lines and better match the trail signs. Rangers were still recommending marmot precautions as of 8/1/18. Trail crews did a good job of addressing the washout west of Pinto Lake and were actively fixing the one east of Pinto. Water was available pretty much throughout the loop. The only real tough patch was from Pinto to Little 5 Lakes. There's a stream at about 10,200 feet right before some switchbacks. Next water is 3+ miles away, over Big Rock Pass and down at Little 5 (the last lake is the cleanest). Mosquitoes were out around both Little and Big 5 Lakes but weren't really a problem. Caught trout all around the loop, but they were small and only good for the story. Nymphs seemed to be key. Hope this helps! Have a great trip!

backpacking
1 month ago

Difficult backpacking trip taking you around the amazing lost creek wilderness and the amazing and awesome refrigerator gulch with its massive granite boulders.

This is brutal in the hot summer afternoon but the reward of beautiful views and Lakes were well worth it. Did this loop 8/8/18. I recommend (from Upper Deer Creek) going clockwise. Creeks still have some water. I did this in 2days; spent night one at Nellie Lake. The next day we hiked to the peak and around the other side of the loop to the car. After the peak the east side of the loop only has a little bit of water access from a creek after College Rock. Start early to avoid the heat.

Did this on gaited horses yesterday. Great loop awesome views of different types and all kinds of terrain. Tracked on 2 gps and it was more like 29 miles, not sure where 21 came from.

This trail was 100% unreal. Last year my buddy and I did the 4 pass loop and thought it was the best hike ever. Truth be told, this loop is longer, has better views and WAY LESS PEOPLE! Bring a map and a compass, cause you will need it on some sections/junctions. I have not one bad thing to say about this trail. It is very challenging, yet so rewarding!!! Enjoy this private loop until the word gets out. It’s phenomenal

definitely go counter clockwise.
took me and my friend 3 days 3 nights.
6 miles the first day, 7 miles the next and 12 miles & the last two passes the last day back to over flow parking lot.

Amazing trip. Went clockwise. Planned for 4 days, but did it in 3, mainly because we didn't want to stop in the valley between Frigid Air and Trailrider because there were so many flies and mosquitoes, so we pushed on and made that a 13 hour day. I think from the 4-day people we met, we were probably in a better place mentally than they were, so I was thankful to be out in 3. Just loved it tho. Can't think of a much better way to spend 3 days.

Fantastic hike. Hiked up the Baker Creek trail and spent the first night at Baker Lake. There was plenty of water along the way in the streams and springs. It had rained the night before so everything was cool and wet. The trail is very lush and green most of the way with water everywhere. You can definitely get by with only carrying a liter of water if you have a filter to make more. One small group joined us at Baker Lake and camped the night there. There was cloud cover that night so it did not get too cold. Probably around 40F. It rained a little.

Day two we went pyramid pass with the intent of climbing to the peak and spending the night somewhere around Johnson Lake. The hike up the pass is very steep and there is not really a trail. The way is marked well with caryns. At the top of the pass, we ditched our packs. The weather was way too sketchy (rain clouds and a little thunder) to get the peak so we hiked to the pass just west of pyramid pass and got a great view of the valley to the west. We headed down the pass and ate lunch at Johnson Lake. Johnson Lake is fed by a spring and the water is crystal clear. There are no fish in it. Plenty of historic cabins and buildings to see in the area. We continued down and made a left at the Timber Creek trail. This sucked. It was steep and hot in full exposure. After Snake Creek Divide, it was downhill again through a nice large meadow where we made a left on the South Fork Baker Creek trail. We camped just past the confluence of some springs and the south fork of Baker Creek. It rained a little again that night and then the cloud cover went away. It got cold. I would say just above freezing.

Day three we hiked out the last few miles along side the south fork of Baker Creek through a beautiful meadow. Great hike and we only saw one other group of people the first night.

The Marvine Loop trail is nearly snow free and passable around the entire loop, as of a June 13-15, 2018 trip.

Amazing wildflowers and mountain views! Fantastic trip that was well worth the climbs to the top of each pass. Those are no joke for a flatlander like myself coming straight from Missouri!!

Did the trip in 3 short days and 2 nights. If you’re fit and willing 1 night is possible with an early start.

Plenty of water so never carried more then 1.5L between stops.

No sign of bears or much wildlife other then the marmots, birds, and ground squirrels. Saw a couple of deer run by camp one night but nothing else.

Trail is very easy to follow except around popular camping areas like Snowmass lake. Lots of side trails and crisscrossing so it took a bit to get back on the main loop. Not dangerous, just a little frustrating even with a GPS and topo map.

We stayed near Snowmass Lake at the group/campfire sites the first night going counter clockwise. Sites at the lake would have been better and avoided a long descent and climb back up to the main trail.

Second night was on the approach to Frigid Air pass just above the waterfall. Camping between Frigid Air and West Maroon pass would be possible but not ideal unless you really want to split the miles more evenly.

Bear canisters are required and they checked when we got there so be prepared.

The weather was mostly typical for Colorado summers. Cool nights, warm if the suns out and afternoon thunderstorms. We did have hail the first evening for about 20-30 minutes straight. Completely covered the ground!

A must do hike all in all!

I did this today as a solo dayhike in 8.5 hrs. It was among the best of many gorgeous hikes I've done in California. Awesome views much of the way, lots of lakes and creeks. Only 5 other hikers on the trail all day. I also made a detour to Nellie lake where I went for a quick swim to cool down.

backpacking
2 months ago

This hike was gorgeous. I will say if you plan on just hiking to Disaster Creek and then heading back, then this if a relatively easier hike. However, you will need to be prepared with sunscreen and plenty of bug spray.

If you plan on doing the entire loop, this is not advised for beginning hikers or backpackers as this does require some off trail and very good preparation. Do not bring anything you absolutely do not need. This hike is totally worth it and I would recommend doing it over a 3 day period so you are not pushing yourself too hard any one day. This is important to consider as the altitude gets to you very quickly.

Quick tips:
1. Bring shoes you don't mind getting muddy
2. Bring strong bug spray
3. Start at disaster creek and end at Boulder Lake
4. Pack smart

Have fun!

backpacking
2 months ago

Did the loop ccw, camped in refrigerator gulch first night and hiked out the next day. Most of the raging streams in the past were dwindled down to a trickle if nothing flowing at all. Many bridge crossings were done walking over the dry creek bed. Still plenty of options to refill on water just not as many in previous years.

Saw pronghorn, and a couple moose.

Spectacular. Went late June. Saw 12 people in four days (including a kind ranger). Did the loop counterclockwise, which is recommended unless you are otherwise itching to crawl/scramble/struggle up the skree of Sawtooth Pass. Camped Cliff Creek, Middle Lower Five Lakes, and Upper-Middle Lost Canyon. Mosquitos were out and about, but with the year’s lighter snowpack, we may have faced the worst of it. To be safe, bring ample Deet and invest in mosquito resistant clothing (including face netting). With some long stretches out of tree-cover, also bring ample sunscreen (though 3oz was more than enough for two of us).

If you’re young and/or in tip-top shape (and, more importantly, very prepared and carrying a light pack), you could do this in two days, though take caution with altitude sickness over some of these passes. Otherwise, take your time and enjoy this underappreciated escape.

Hard, but not overly painfully so. I have asthma and had to stop many times for air, but there was no need for a fast pace. Even with my slowness, we planned for four days but did it in there. Aside from normal backcountry gear, bring A LOT of sunscreen and zinc and GOOD mosquito repellant. Our GPS recorder logged significantly more miles than as posted on this and other trail sites. This map has the trail going in straight lines that do not exist. Expect closer to 35 miles maybe.

Day 1: Timber Gap Trail to Timber Gap. The trail is moderately steep out of the parking lot and continues so for some time. Reaching the top of Timber Gap has nice views with plenty of shade. Descend fast to the junction with Cliff Creek. This is the most psychologically challenging parts of the trip—to descend to below where you started and then have to climb for miles with a tall pass at the end of it. At the junction with Cliff Creek there is the most beautiful creek passing with several little pools. I wish it wouldn’t have been a waste to camp there, otherwise we would have. Have lunch. Walk along the creek and through the dry bed (which can be confusing—some cairns arranged; alternatively look for mule poop) as you pass epic waterfalls as you approach the switchbacks to climb to the Pinto Lake Area. At Pinto Lake, full water in stream that is clearly audible. Several campsites in front of and across the path from the bear box area. Choose a site on the rocks above the bear box—the breeze up there keeps the mosquitos away and the sunset is incredible.

Day 2: Fill your water. Then have fun figuring out how to get across the marsh and connect with the trail. Once you find it, begin the 3000 vertical feet in 3 miles to the top of Blackrock Pass. You’ll pass a steam going down the side of the mountain near the beginning of the climb up the switchbacks. Fill water here as it is the last water on this side and there won’t be mosquito free water for a bit on the other side. Then get ready—if you look straight up the mountain, slightly behind the stream, you can see the pass. It looks forever away. It sucked. I had to stop often (every 20-30 steps) to catch my breath. The grade is steep most of the way. But the views are the best views of the trip, as you see Columbine Lake and Spring Lake and the other lake across the valley. Take your time getting to the top and then enjoy the pass. The views are also quite good, as you look down on Little 5 lakes below. As you descend, turn around and look at the pass and you’ll understand why it’s called Blackrock—all of the rock to the right off the pass is sand colored. Get down, enjoy the view of the first couple of Little 5 lakes from above, but then put on your turbo boosters and get past them as fast as possible—horrible mosquitos. There is a creek draining from one of the lakes at the trail junction that takes you to the ranger station. Bugs were slightly less horrible there if you need water. Continue onto Big 5. You’ll hit a junction for Lower or Upper Big 5. Just know that if you choose Lower Big 5, you likely won’t come back to see Upper Big 5–there are quite a few switchbacks on the one mile trail to lower Big 5 and elevation to get back up to Upper Big 5 would suck. Lower Big 5 has some nice camping spots near the bear box and other spots across the lake on a small shoulder above where we were told there was a nice pond. AND YOU CAN HAVE FIRES HERE! Remember—no wood larger than you’re forearm.

Day 3: We had a leisurely morning of breakfast, a couple of swims, cards, and snacks. We slowly packed up, departed at 1230, and began the moderate climb to start, then mostly easy going hike to the end of Upper Lost Canyon. The creek and valley are absolutely stunning with Sawtooth and a couple other peaks in the background. We camped at a small, cleared area just a few switchbacks up the trail at the start of the climb to Columbine. We were directly next to one stream with another up the side of the mountain. Take your time along here—you’re in no rush and the valley is picturesque.

Day 4: after sleep, the hike up to Columbine from the base of the switchbacks wasn’t too bad—took maybe 45 minutes. The views are incredible; you can see the switchbacks up Blackrock Pass Trail. Contrary to what the rangers say, there are plenty of camping spots up there. When you reach the lake, follow the trail to the right, over the stream and you’ll find over a dozen great spots. The hike up to the pass is steep and challenging in sections, but the views are top notch and scree skiing down the mountain is so, so fun. Gaters and poles are a must for the descent. There isn’t really a trail for a while, so just choose a good skiing spot and keep your eyes open for the use trail toward the bottom on the way to monarch lake.

An extraordinary, beautiful, world-class hike with every feature. Recommend 2 nights, 3 days to enjoy fully.

backpacking
2 months ago

This is rated as extremely difficult, and let me tell you- they ain’t lying. This is basically a challenge of man vs God. The majority of the loop is an uphill leg rape and the downhill part offers so little shade even my Mexican friend turned red. However, the trip was good, mostly cause of the company I was around. We met some PCT hikers which was-interesting- to say the least. There’s a beautiful lake next to the most perfect shaded camping spot around the 12 mile mark next to a gorgeous open green field that b**** a** Jerm didn’t want us to camp at. There are also some other nice spots to stop and pitch a tent at, if you know what I mean. Bring plenty of water or make sure the guy with the purifying pump doesn’t have bionic legs and treating this hike like a race to find the cure for cancer. Overall, between the blisters on my feet, the constant leg cramps and the overall feeling of misery- I had enough of this trail by the time I made it back to the truck. Would recommend you do this ONCE and pick bowling as your next outing.

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