Explore the most popular river trails near Boulder with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Beutiful easy hike lots of bugs at shadow lake and dads lakes
Great campsites did not see any animals

We did the out and back in a day, 4th of July week, last few miles back we were dragging ass but for us Floridians that get to the mountains twice a year it was an accomplishment, lol. the squitters, if working together, could've picked me up and taken me away but like I said we're from Florida so we've encountered these swarms before. Repellent repellent! Absolutely beautiful and we can't wait to come back and spend a few days, and nights, exploring the side trails!

WORD OF WARNING - hiked from Big Sandy to Dad's Lake on July 4th. There were CLOUDS of mosquitos, hundreds, thousands... more mozzies than I've ever seen. Even with face nets and clothes on head-to-toe it was unbearable.

hiking
16 days ago

Did the loop. Great and also brutal in one day. Took trail to right and over Jackass Ridge. Eventually passed over Texas Pass. Would recommend starting fro the Shadow lake side. Very steep down Texas ridge into next valley. Slid out of control with full backpack on snow. If you see streaks of blood, carnage and a broken pole that was me. Luckily it ended up ok but recommend bring a friend. Quite muddy on Shadow lake side, Dad's Lake area. Beware mosquitoes especially around 6 pm. Deadly. I saw a pack of them pick up a child and fly away. In any case so beautiful.

Stunning, well worth it

Beautiful but still covered in way too much snow as of June 10th. We made it to Shadow Lake but post-holed the last 2.5 miles and could not make the trek over the pass to the South side of the Towers

hiking
2 months ago

took my children into dads lake and out in one day. It was a very well maintained trail that was easy to walk with the kids. Beautiful views the entire way in and out.

Breathtaking. The best hike of my life.

Loved every moment of it

A favorite place to hike into, then take day hikes out each day to many spots. Although the trail is heavily used, it never seemed out of control. We would encounter 1-2 groups only on each trip and briefly.

backpacking
5 months ago

Great hike. Not technical other than a lot river crossing

Amazing place. But instead of out and back, consider doing a loop hike, traveling in though Shadow Lake and over Texas Pass sand out via Big Sandy Lake. While climbing Texas Pass is no picnic, we thought it was considerably easier than climbing Jackass Pass from Big Sandy.

An absolutely spectacular hike. The views are incredible.

Did an overnight out and back hike to Cirque of the Towers in August. The views and the hike was amazing, but also very strenuous. The trail is pretty level to Big Sandy Lake, but then rapidly climbs in elevation from there. It should be known though that once you pass Big Sandy, the trail can be very difficult to follow at times as it gets rockier. Some kind souls have set up rock cairns to mark a route, we tried to follow these but still managed to get off track a few times.
On the way to the Cirque we kept to the right of Arrowhead Lake and encountered a snow field. We crossed without harm, but I won't be doing it again unless I have proper equipment. On the way out however, the snowfield had frozen over and was much more slick than the previous day so we talked to some people who had went the opposite way around Arrowhead lake which involved a whole lot of scrambling over large boulders. We decided this would be the safer way and descended down to there. There is not trail so you have to navigate your own way over the large boulders, this was very time consuming.

Although the trail was very hard and demanding, it really required you to think and was quite a challenge, which I love. As I'm sure you have already heard, the mosquitos are terrible, bring a lot of bug spray and wear it even if your clothes cover your skin, as they bite through them. Get started early enough to give yourself enough time to explore your camp, next time I will be making this a 3 day trip because I would have liked to have spent more time doing so.
Truly breathtaking views and an amazing experience that made all of the challenges worth it!

backpacking
11 months ago

Amazing 3 day backpack loop in late July with overnight stops at Shadow Lake and Big Sandy Lake. Can't say enough about it - highly recommend! Plenty of snow, water crossings, and misquitos but nothing compared to the fantastic trails, views, waterfalls, lakes, mountains, peaks, wild flowers and adventure. We took yaktrax for snow, but didnt need them - hiking poles were enough for us. Took the wrong path around Arrowhead Lake - don't recommend the boulder side unless you enjoy that experience with backpacks :-(. Breathe it in and enjoy!

backpacking
11 months ago

Did a 3 day loop July 28-30 from the Big Sandy Trailhead to Shadow Lake over Texas Pass into the Cirque then out over Jackass Pass back to the car. Even late in July, snow made the passes pretty intense and the mosquitoes were bad. We agreed that doing the loop in reverse (Big Sandy up Jackass Pass) would have been much, much harder. I'd rather go up, than down, a very steep, snowy pass (Texas Pass). And, there was a pretty tough part going down Jackass pass to Big Sandy Lake that I was glad I was going down rather than up. The area is popular for a reason, but we found plenty of peace and quiet despite the many people we met on the trail. Overall, this was the most stunning and amazing hike and I loved it.

Oh, also there is a sign posted at the trail head that there are habituated black bears near many of the lakes where camping is popular (e.g., Marm's, Shadow, Cirque, etc.) It says that bears can cut down the ropes of bags hanging from trees, so bear cans are highly recommended. What were we to do? We were already 2 hours into the sticks so we were stuck with our bear bag. It all worked out, but we wish we had known in advance.

backpacking
11 months ago

Did the loop big sandy to jack ass ( shortcut over arrowhead.. not so short as we were heading to texas) over texas pass and around by marms dads etc. great hike liked this route as easier trail when tired but as of july 22 be aware lots o snow arrowhead on and texas pass to texas lake yikes steep and snowy bring your micro spikes wish we had. bugs were ok not great but lots of river crossings from shadow lake to parking lot bring extra socks :) we went to bug sandy then texas lake then out long last day but honestly easier then big sandy to texas. Cirque was awesome highly recommend

backpacking
Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Did this over 4th of July weekend, we started from the Dad's lake side, following the shadow lake trail to form a backpacking loop. Hardest things:
1. Very wet trail with a lot of stream crossings (lost one trekking pole cuz the water is too fast)
2. Sooo much snow over Texas pass, we were the first group to pass and a lot of backpackers turned around. It's doable with microspikes
3. Crazy amount of mosquitos near big sandy lake and anywhere lower, I'd suggest camping at Dee lake, shadow lake to avoid them
But! Still a gorgeous hike.

hiking
Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Partially hiked this on June 27. The mosquitoes and stream crossings were miserable this early in the year, and there was way too much snow to safely finish the hike.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

AWESOME

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Beautiful hike. Still covered in snow though, and theres no tree markers so it takes some effort and awareness to hike it right now. But the views are to die for.

backpacking
Friday, April 28, 2017

Loved this trail! We took about 10 llamas, 5 people and 2 dogs with us and it was an incredible getaway. The trail is pretty easy (made easier with pack animals to carry our heavy stuff) and the views were incredible. The icy refreshing lake made for a great reward after about 2 days in. Perfect for a 5 day trip.

backpacking
Thursday, September 22, 2016

This trail takes you to the Shadow Lake and the North Side of the Cirque of the Towers and the views are stunning. Can climb up the very steep Texas Pass and see the Cirque of the Towers from the south, even more amazing and return back to the Big Sandy trail-head

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

An amazingly beautiful place. There are many trails that branch off from the big sandy trail after 6 miles. We did a 2 night 3 day loop. We hiked passed big sandy lake and clear lake the first day, camping near clear lake on the giant rock slabs. The next day we passed deep lake and temple lake, looping around we camped near rapid creek the second night. This is a loop that connects back to big sandy lake. I think most people don't realize u can loop around as many of the people we met had gone on the same path to deep lake and back. We passed many hikers on the way to deep lake but saw no one the second day hiking near rapid creek. The different scenery of mountains, lakes, meadows, and creeks were amazing. The total loop was around 24 miles.

hiking
Friday, August 26, 2016

We hiked into the Cirque coming from Texas pass and Shadow lake. Texas pass is a hard climb but relatively short coming from Texas lake. From the pass it's a long decent to Lonesome lake an incredible jewel surrounded by colossal diamond peaks. Mere words do not describe the feeling of being there. The peaks rise over 2000 ft above Lonesome Lake. Hiking out over Jackass Pass was relatively easy as most of the time we were descending although it is steep and would be difficult to come in from Big Sandy Lake to Jackass pass. Put this trail on your Life list! We did meet quite a few people on the trail and TH parking was beyond full. It is a vast area and you should be able to find a quiet place. @backpackerneil

hiking
Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Shadow lake trail is a moderate hiking trail that leads past several lakes before coming to Shadow Lake. Meeks Lake, Mirror Lake, Dads Lake and Marms Lake. Well marked trail with some nice views of meadows, lakes, streams and mountains. @backpackerneil

Thursday, August 18, 2016

First 6 miles are relatively easy following along the Big Sandy River. You reach Big Sandy Lake and begin your ascent at the trailhead above the lake. Big Sandy Lake is a beautiful destination in itself. We camped there and hiked to the Cirque the next day. After your first ascent up from the lake you cross a meadow then descend to North Creek where you cross the creek. Then you follow a sketchy trail through a boulder field also marked by cairns. It runs along the east side of North Creek and North Lake. I understand there may also be a trail that goes high up over the boulder field.
You come out at the head of North Lake, beautiful, and on the west side of the lake make your second ascent. There is a fork in the trail as you hike along above North Lake. Definitely take the right or east fork up and around Arrowhead Lake. We did both trails and the left or west fork takes you around the lake thru a talus field and some difficult bouldering on the upper west side of Arrowhead. From the head of the lake you ascend 100 yards up to the rim of the Cirque. Amazing, jaw dropping views!

on Lowline Trail

hiking
Monday, September 07, 2015

Great hike, do this hike on a cooler day. Be prepared for weather. This is not an easy trail by no means, most people take horses up.

hiking
Sunday, August 24, 2014

Easy well maintained trail to a nice lake with great views

hiking
Sunday, August 24, 2014

Easy well maintained trail that rises and climbs through 5 drainage's passing multiple lakes. As you get to the washakie creek area you can view the north size of the cirque of the towers. I rate the trail as moderate difficulty only because of the altitude. The lake is at timberline but has a few pockets of trees that provide some shelter from wind.

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