Hiking Trails in Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County

Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County

Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County

Beaver Lake Trailhead

Berthoud Pass - Second Creek Trailhead

Berthoud Pass Trailhead

Booth Lake Trailhead

Buffalo Mountain - Lily Pad Lake Trailhead

Camp Rock Trailhead

Copper Mountain - Gore Range Trailhead

Eaglesmere Trailhead

Echo Lake Trailhead

Fraser Experimental Forest - St Louis Lake Trailhead

Fredonia Gulch Road Trailhead

French Gulch Road Trailhead

Gold Hill Trailhead

Gore Creek Trailhead

Grays Peak Trailhead

Grouse Creek Trailhead

Guanella Pass - Abyss Trailhead

Guanella Pass - Mount Bierstadt Trailhead

Guanella Pass - Silver Dollar Lake Trailhead

Half Moon - Fall Creek Trailhead

Hanging Lake Trailhead

Hells Hole Trailhead

Herman Gulch Trailhead

Lonesome Lake Trailhead

Lower Cataract Lake - Surprise Trailhead

Lower Cataract Lake Trailhead

McCullough Gulch Trailhead

Meadow Creek Trailhead

Mesa Cortina Trailhead

Missouri Lakes Trailhead - Fancy Creek Trailhead

Mt Evans Scenic Byway

Pitkin Lake Trailhead

Ptarmigan Trailhead

Quandary Peak Trailhead

Rock Creek Trailhead

Spruce Creek Trailhead

St Mary's Glacier Trailhead

Whitney Lake Trailhead - Homestake Road

Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County - Photos

Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County - Camping


These are general guidelines for wilderness areas and national forests in Summit County, Clear Creek County and Eagle County. Rules and regulations are subject to change based on trail and weather conditions. Always contact the applicable management agency when planning your trip for a complete set of rules and updated information.


  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Eagles Nest Wilderness. No permit is necessary. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.

  • Due to heavy use and beetle kill-induced deadfall, campfires are strictly prohibited at many locations - call ahead with your itinerary for applicable fire regulations.

  • Camp only in established (previously used) campsites to minimize impact. These sites are unmarked but intuitively located along trails, usually by a creek.

  • Campfires are otherwise permitted for dispersed camping in the backcountry, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any lake or stream in the Eagles Nest Wilderness.

  • Contact the Dillon Ranger District (970.468.5400) for the latest on weather, trail conditions and trail-specific usage guidelines when planning your trip. The office is open M - F from 8am - 4pm.

MT EVANS WILDERNESS - PIKE NATIONAL FOREST - 303.275.5610 or 303.567.3000

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Mt Evans Wilderness Area and Pike National Forest.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.

  • Campfires are permitted for dispersed backcountry camping, with potential seasonal and elevation restrictions.

  • Camp only in established (previously used) campsites to minimize impact. These sites are unmarked but intuitively located along trails, usually by a creek.

  • One member of each party is required to register at the Mt Evans Wilderness boundary board and carry a copy of the registration with them during their visit. There is no registration fee.

  • South Platte Ranger District: 303.275.5610 - Clear Creek Ranger District: 303.567.3000


  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Arapaho National Forest.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.

  • Campfires are permitted for dispersed backcountry camping, with potential seasonal and elevation restrictions.

  • Camp only in established (previously used) campsites to minimize impact. These sites are unmarked but intuitively located along trails, usually by a creek.

  • Camping is limited to 14 consecutive days in one location. After 14 days, the campsite must be moved a minimum of three miles.

  • Contact the Clear Creek Ranger District (303.567.3000) for the latest on weather, trail conditions and trail-specific usage guidelines when planning your trip.

  • The Clear Creek Ranger District maintains eight developed campgrounds. All are accessed from the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, Guanella Pass Scenic Byway, I-70 and Colorado Highways 40, 103, and 119. Operating seasons vary, however most range from mid-May through mid-October. Contact the Clear Creek Ranger District for availability and detailed information on each.


  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the White River National Forest. No permit is necessary. Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.

  • Campfires are permitted for dispersed camping in the backcountry, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles of treeline.

  • Camp only in established (previously used) campsites to minimize impact. These sites are unmarked but intuitively located along trails, usually by a creek.

  • Contact the Dillon Ranger District (970.468.5400) for the latest on weather, trail conditions and trail-specific usage guidelines when planning your trip. The office is open M - F from 8am - 4pm.


Food Storage Tips

  • All food and scented items must be secured 24 hours a day. Bear canisters are the best way to protect your supplies and wildlife. Food must otherwise be hung.

  • Food must be hung at least 10' above the ground and 4' from a tree trunk. It takes at least 50' of rope to properly hang food.

  • Keep all scented items out of your tent, including personal items. Store them with your food.

  • Bears are not the only animals with great noses: deer, raccoons, jays, bighorn sheep and mountain goat may also be interested in your food, or salts from urine and sweat around your campsite. Keep a clean camp to avoid unwanted visitors.

Field Tips

  • You must treat, filter or boil any drinking water obtained from streams, lakes or snow in the backcountry. Though water may appear pristine, it's generally not safe to drink due to giardia and other harmful bacteria.

  • Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the Colorado mountains, especially July-August. Be mindful of changing weather and aim for treeline well before storms develop.

  • Insect repellent is advisable.

  • Where there are no maintained trails in the tundra, do not walk in single file - spread out to avoid wearing out concentrated areas. Minimize damage by walking over rocks as much as possible.

Planning Tips

  • Speak with a Ranger before heading into the backcountry. Ask specific questions about trail conditions, weather and terrain.

  • Use a good topo map to plan your itinerary. Distance, elevation gain, elevation at your destination and water availability are primary considerations when planning backcountry travel.

  • If you live at sea level, it will take several days to acclimate to higher elevations. Most trails begin above 8,000' and climb steeply.

  • Anticipate a wide range of weather conditions on your trip. Never assume that weather conditions early in the day or at lower elevations will be the same at your final destination.

  • Always leave a copy of your itinerary with someone at home.

Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County - Ecology

Clear Creek County, Summit County and Eagle County cover 2,685 square miles in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. National Forests and Wilderness Areas within span 5 ecosystems and sub-systems ranging from 8,000' to over 14,000'. These distinct but interconnected life zones support elk, moose, bear, mountain lion, bighorn sheep and mountain goat.

Pine Beetles

Bark beetles are native insects that under normal conditions help forests cull older trees and make room for new growth.

Pine beetles affect trees by laying eggs under the bark, introducing a fungus that reduces overall resistance and blocks water and nutrient transport. Periodic outbreaks have occurred throughout history, however none as severe as this recent epidemic.

Cold winters can kill beetle eggs and regulate populations. Unusually hot summers, warm winters and a prolonged dry spell over the region in the last 10 years have led to increased beetle activity while weakening trees natural resistance.

While there is no effective way to safely control an outbreak of this magnitude, recent surveys suggest a modest decline in infestations as the availability of healthy trees has declined.

MONTANE ECOSYSTEM: 5,600' - 9,500'

Ponderosa Pine inhabit dry, south-facing slopes in an open, park-like setting. Grasses and shrubs fill the gaps between widely spaced trees in ponderosa parks.

North-facing slopes of the Montane hold more moisture; here trees grow closer together and competition for sunlight produces a tall, slender growth form.

Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine and the occasional Engelmann spruce compete for resources on these colder slopes. A few shade-tolerant plants also grow on the forest floor.

Montane soil with high moisture content may support aspen, distinguished by their white bark and spectacular autumn colors. Willow, mountain alder and water birch can be found along riparian corridors.

Plants and Animals of the Montane Ecosystem

  • Trees: Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, Aspen, Lodgepole Pine

  • Shrubs: Antelope Bitterbrush, Wax Current, Kinnikinnick Big Sage, Common Juniper, Rocky Mountain Juniper, Holly Grape

  • Herbaceous Plants: Needle and Thread Grass, Daisy, Locoweed, Blue Grama Pasque Flower, Gumweed Penstemon, June Grass Sedge, Mariposa Lily Spike Fescue, Miner's Candle Sulphur Flower, Dwarf Mistletoe Wallflower, Mountain Muhly Blue Columbine

  • Birds: Black-Billed Magpie, Mountain Chickadee, Red Crossbill, Pygmy Nuthatch, Great Horned Owl, Cassin's Finch, Pine Siskin, Townsend's Solitaire, Yellow-Rump Warbler, Tree Swallow, Woodpecker (Downy and Hairy)
    Western Tanager, Western Wood Pee Wee

  • Mammals: Black Bear, Bobcat, Porcupine, Coyote, Mule Deer, Albert's Squirrel, Elk, Skunk, Mountain Lion

SUBALPINE ECOSYSTEM: 9,500' - 11,000'

The Subalpine Ecosystem runs 9,500' - 11,000' and changes dramatically over this span. Primary constituents include lodgepole pine, subalpine fir, aspen and Engelmann spruce.

Lodgepole pine is particularly abundant at the lower range, and in burned or logged areas where they respond well to sun. Once the forest is re-established, lodgepole will be succeeded by spruce and fir.

Limber pine is found in the subalpine's highest, most exposed elevations. They're specifically adapted to adverse conditions with flexible limbs and a short, gnarled trunk to stabilize the tree.

Bristlecone pine is the oldest living tree species on earth, and arguably the hardiest subalpine resident. The bristlecone's short, twisted trunk facilitates nutrient flow and stabilizes the tree in strong winds. They can survive with minimal bark, and produce a resin that resists disease and infestation. Bristlecone may take a century to add just 1 inch in diameter, and can become nearly dormant during a drought.

Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir become shorter and stunted at the top of their range. Poor soil, thin air, strong wind, extreme weather and a shorter growing season limit growth at higher elevations.

Exposure limits new growth on the windward side of spruce and fir, leaving new growth to the lee side. Trees with branches on only one side are called banner trees or flag trees. Near treeline, seedlings may germinate on the lee side of rocks and grow only as tall as the rock's protection.

Krummholz - a German word meaning twisted wood - describes the stunted, irregular growth patterns of trees in the ecological transition zone between subalpine forests and alpine tundra.

Snow cover may protect krummholz trees during the winter, but exposed limbs do not always survive. Well-established krummholz trees may be several hundred to a thousand years old.

Plants and Animals of the Subalpine Ecosystem

  • Trees: Lodgepole Pine, Subalpine Fir, White Fir, Engelmann Spruce, Blue Spruce, Limber Pine, Bristlecone Pine

  • Shrubs: Blueberry (Vaccinium), Elder, Cinquefoil, Wood's Rose, Wax Current

  • Herbaceous Plants: Arnica, Needle Grass, Fairy Slipper, Colorado Blue Columbine, Gentian, Sneezeweed, Lousewort, Twinflower, Pipsissewa, Sedge, Senecio

  • Birds: Brown Creeper, Ruby Crowned Kinglet, Pine Grosbeak, Clark's Nutcracker, Mountain Chickadee, White Breasted Nuthatch, Red Crossbill, Williamson's Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush, Pine Siskin, Blue Grouse, Raven, Dark-Eyed Junco, Gray Jay, Townsend's Solitaire, Stellar's Jay, Yellow-Rump Warbler, Woodpecker (Downy and Hairy)

  • Mammals:Mule Deer, Elk, Moose, Pine Marten, Yellow-Bellied Marmot, Black Bear, Snowshoe Hare, Long-Tailed Weasel, Mountain Lion


The alpine tundra ecosystem ranges from 11,000' up to the highest peaks in Colorado. There's approximately 60% less oxygen above treeline than at sea level.

Strong wind, cold temperatures, poor soil, extended snow cover and a short growing season limit what plants can grow here.

Many flowering plants of the tundra have dense hairs on stems and leaves for wind protection, or red-colored pigments that convert sunlight into heat.

Some plants take two or more years to form flower buds, which survive winter below the surface. These buds will open and produce fruit with seeds all within just a few weeks of summer.

Lichens are comprised of two organisms: a fungus that provides structure, and an algae within the fungus that stores water and gives it color. Lichens need only a rock, sunlight, and some water every few years to survive.

Enclosed algal cells can photosynthesize above 32 F, and the outer fungal layers can absorb more than their own weight in water.

A 1” diameter lichen may be hundreds of years old; some lichens can live for thousands of years. Lichens help turn rock into soil by secreting acids that dissolve it into minerals.

Cushion and mat plants help build soil by capturing organic debris in their foliage, plots in which grasses and taller plants can eventually root. This turns fellfield into alpine turf, a process that can take centuries.

Alpine vegetation is very fragile, and can take centuries to recover from a disturbance.

Plants and Animals of the Alpine Ecosystem

  • Shrubs: Willow

  • Grasses and Grass-like Plants: Alpine Blue Grass, Alpine Timothy, Skyline Blue Grass, Spike Trisetum, Tufted Hair Grass, Spreading Wheatgrass, Kobresia, Spike Wood-Rush and Pyrennian Sedge

  • Forbs and Flowers: Alpine Avens, Queen's Crown, Alpine Bistort, Marsh Marigold, American Bistort, Mertensia, Pygmy Bitterroot, Rydbergia, Snow Buttercup, Alpine Paintbrush, Dwarf Clover, Alpine Phlox, Parry's Clover, Moss Pink, One-Headed Daisy Alpine Sandwort, Black-Headed Daisy, Saxifrage, Elephantella, Sky Pilot, Alpine Forget-Me-Not, Alpine Sorrel, Arctic Gentian, Alpine Wallflower, King's Crown and Blue Columbine

  • Birds: White-Tailed Ptarmigan, Rosy Finch, Horned Lark, White-Crowned Sparrrow and Water Pipit

  • Mammals:Snowshoe Hare, Pika, Yellow-Bellied Marmot, Pika, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat

Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County - Wildlife

Wildlife of the central and northern Rocky Mountains


Rocky Mountain Elk have the largest antlers of all subspecies. Much of the year, a bull's giant antlers are encased in a velvet skin laced with thousands of blood vessels to deliver blood and nutrients. As they finish growing, and in anticipation of the fall mating rut, bulls thrash and rub their antlers to remove the velvet.

Mature males (bulls) can stand well over 5' at the shoulder and reach 600 - 1,000 lbs. Adult females (cows) typically measure 4' at the shoulder and weigh 300 - 400 lbs.

Elk descend from the high country in autumn for the annual mating rut. Cows form large herds and bulls linger anxiously on the periphery while battling for dominance. Though violent clashes occur, mature bulls prefer bugling and displaying their antlers, necks and bodies to fighting.

Mature males emit strong, musky odors and bugle loudly to attract mates. The eerie, echoing call is intended to intimidate rivals and possibly release tension. Fittingly, rut is derived from the Latin word meaning roar.

Cows and younger bulls may also bugle, but can't match the strength of the older bulls' calls.

Prime bulls (8-9 years old) stand the best chance of mating, a taxing process that severely weakens the animal. Some of the most successful males from a breeding standpoint fail to survive the following winter.

Though predation has been reduced with the extirpation of grizzlies and wolves, elk face habitat fragmentation and limited access to winter feeding grounds due to accelerated development on adjacent lands.


Adult males (bulls) can weigh 1,500 pounds and stand over 6' at the shoulder. Males are distinguished from other Cervidaes by their palmated antlers, which can reach 6' wide and weigh 90 pounds.

Adult females (cows) are smaller, averaging 700 - 800 pounds and 5-6' at the shoulder. They do not grow antlers.

Both sexes have a distinct flap of skin that dangles from their neck called a bell. It's more pronounced in males than females, and its purpose for each is debated. Some believe that its size may indicate a male's fitness to a female, serving as secondary sexual criteria to antlers.

Despite their bulky build moose are exceptionally fast runners; they can reach 35 mph in short bursts and maintain a steady 20 mph trot. Moose spend a significant time in water and are proficient swimmers.

They can swim for several miles across lakes, and hold their breath up to 30 seconds. Moose have poor eyesight and are believed color blind, but make up for this with strong smell and hearing. Poor eyesight contributes to dangerous human encounters.

Moose are more common on the Indian Peaks' west side, where marsh and aquatic plants are more abundant. They will venture east in late summer and through fall once mountain passes have cleared.


Bighorn Sheep live on high mountainsides, alpine valleys and steep cliffs.

Males are called Rams and weigh 175 - 300 lbs (desert subspecies are on the smaller end of this range). Males reach full maturity by age 8 and live 9-12 years

Only rams grow the large, distinctly spiral-shaped horns that curl behind their ears and back up towards the face. Ewes sport mush shorter and straighter horns. A mature male's horns can weigh over 30 pounds can measure over 30” in length and 15”in diameter.

Horns help determine rank within the herd, though males will deliberately shorten them by scraping rocks if the horns impede vision.

Females are called Ewes and weigh 75 - 175 lbs. They have an average lifespan of 10 - 14 years.

Ewes live in groups of 5-15 but form larger bands in the winter. Males will travel in smaller groups of 2-7 until joining the female herds for the autumn rut.

Big Horn Sheep have extremely acute eyesight. They can spot and track predators and people from over 1 mile away during the day. Impossible terrain dissuades many would-be predators, though mountain lions are very capable of reaching them in their lower range. Golden eagles are proficient at knocking younger, less sure-footed animals off cliffs.


Mountain Goats range across North America's northern mountains, with large populations in Idaho, Montana and British Columbia . They were introduced to Colorado in 1947 to bolster the state's hunting allure, though debate continues regarding their indigenous status.

Mountain goats live in small groups at the highest elevations, feeding on alpine tundra grasses, mosses, lichens and sedges.

Males (Billyies) can weigh up to 300 lbs, and Females (Nannies) are somewhat smaller. Both have sharp black horns that can reach 12 inches. Heavily cushioned, skid-proof hooves give them exceptional balance and traction, and double-layered wool coats can withstand extreme weather conditions.

Since they rarely venture below treeline, mountain goats have few natural predators. Avalanches and rocks slides are their primary concern, though eagles are known to knock smaller animals off cliffs, and mountain lion have some success hunting in their lower range.


Those who venture through treeline in the northern and central Rockies are virtually certain to see marmots. Marmots are ground-living rodents closely related to the ground squirrel and prairie dog.

Marmots are alpine specialists who pass the winter in deep burrows (September - May, with some variation) and feed voraciously on alpine plants and grasses during short summers.

Marmots have stout bodies and powerful claws that can dig winter hibernation burrows 20' deep (summer burrows are substantially shallower).

Once marmots emerge from hibernation, mating begins in earnest. Marmots gestate for roughly one month, and most pups are born by June. Pups emerge from protective burrows after 3 weeks, and are weened 2-3 weeks later. They reach sexual maturity after 2-3 years, a range shaped in part by elevation.

Marmots are territorial, with males maintaining a harem of mating females. Males will eventually be driven off by mothers, but related females often remain connected for life and help raise future generations together.

Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County - Contact

Dillon Ranger District
680 Blue River Parkway
Silverthorne, CO 80498
Email: [email protected]

Eagle Ranger District
125 West 5th Street
Eagle, CO 81631
Email: [email protected]

Holy Cross Ranger District (Vail area)
24747 US Highway 24
Minturn, CO 81645
Email: [email protected]

Sopris Ranger District(Carbondale area)
620 Main Street
Carbondale, CO 81623
Email: [email protected]

Rifle Ranger District
0094 County Road 244
Rifle, CO 81650
Email: [email protected]