More than Labor Day weekend, I went backpacking in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness close to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I spent 3 days on a 21-mile section of the Continental Divide Trail, and here’s my tips: if you are hunting for an alpine hike that feels like cheating, this is it.
There are two motives why this journey is so exclusive. Very first, it hugs a wide-open ridge for most of the distance, gently ascending and descending and normally operating level, with 360 views all the though. Second, if you hike northbound you will get started higher and finish low, so there’s actually no massive climbs in spite of so significantly high-quality time above tree line. More than the whole distance the route ascends about three,000 feet and drops pretty much five,000 feet. The only catch? The trailheads are each a schlep (about an hour from town in opposite directions), so managing a shuttle requires some time. But it is worth it.
From Buffalo Pass trailhead, the CDT climbs progressively by way of sparse trees and open meadows, which have been midsummer green even on Labor Day. Colorado’s massive snow year meant wildflowers have been nevertheless blooming even this late in the season. At about mile 7, the trail passes a cluster of lakes nestled on each sides of the divide. If you are not in a hurry, I suggest dropping down to 1 of these gems to camp. Luna Lake, 1 of the largest, has a close to-fantastic campsite close to the inlet, on the edge of a sprawling meadow and with a sunset view across the lake.
If you make a decision to hold going, an additional terrific camping solution is Pristine Lake at about mile 14. It is the highest of 3 lakes in Wolverine Basin, and the most effective selection since it is tucked into a beautiful, rocky cirque (the decrease two lakes are surrounded by dead trees). Acquiring to Pristine needs a quick but steep scramble down from the CDT, with no official trail, so only do this if you are comfy with the terrain.
When previous Lost Ranger Peak (the higher point at pretty much 12,000 feet), you are in for a extended cruise by way of a lot more meadows just before dropping back into forest for the descent to North Lake trailhead. The final handful of miles pass by way of an eerie forest of dead trees, and then a lush zone exactly where we located lots of late-summer season berries. Ambitious hikers could quickly do this entire section as 1 substantial day, but if you have a weekend, you will not regret spending it right here.