Parika Lake, Bowen-Baker Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Parika Lake - 11.2 miles
|Round-Trip Length:||11.2 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||8,864' - 11,360' (11,371' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+2,496' net elevation gain (+2,736' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Parika Lake - 11.2 Miles Round-Trip
Parika Lake (11,360') is located 5.6 miles from Bowen-Baker Trailhead in the Never Summer Wilderness. This small but scenic lake is ringed by alpine meadows and terraces under Parika Peak (12,394') and Fairview Mt (12,246') just east of the Divide.
The Baker Gulch Trail runs 4.35 miles to the Baker Pass - Parika Lake split, where the Parika Lake Trail veers west and steepens through treeline to the open basin.
The trail continues over the lake to a saddle between Parika and Fairview and joins the CDT, which can be taken south to Bowen Lake and back to Bowen Baker Trailhead for a ~20 mile loop across the Never Summer.
Note: The trail begins in Rocky Mountain National Park and entrance fees apply. No fee or permit is required to camp in the Never Summer Wilderness. Dogs are not permitted in RMNP, but it's generally accepted that those heading into the NSW can walk the short distance with their leashed pets across the Park - Wilderness boundary.
A service road heads west from Bowen-Baker Trailhead across Kawuneeche Valley to the Bowen Gulch - Baker Gulch split (.3 miles); turn right on Baker Gulch to the Never Summer Wilderness Boundary (.7 miles). Dispersed camping is permitted beyond this point and you'll find several good sites along the creek.
The trail moves quickly through a beetle-marred forest with many small, verdant glades (1.5 miles : 9,240'). Grades steepen briefly through 2.45 miles, then ease across open talus with upper valley views (2.9 miles : 9,790').
It re-enters the forest and makes a short, steep push up the north valley wall into the lower subalpine (3.5 miles : 10,160'). Travel steepens again to Grand Ditch Road (3.8 miles : 10,310'); turn left then immediately right over a log bridge to regain the trail (3.82 miles). This bridge has some flex to it - backpackers should cross one at a time.
The trail rises steadily through an open subalpine forest with large meadows and crosses a creek to the Parika Lake - Baker Pass Trail split (4.35 miles : 10,470').
The Parika Lake Trail splits left across an avalanche-swept area and can be difficult to follow for a short distance. Pick through debris and cross a creek to regain the trail.
It steepens in a thinning forest to a grassy bench and the perimeter of a large pond (5.1 miles : 11,025'), a good place to find flowers, wildlife and places to camp.
A final steep push twists through treeline and moderates along the outlet to Parika Lake (5.6 miles : 11,360'). Though relatively small, open, gentle terrain rings the lake with ample room for crowds and campers to disperse.
Look for goats and sheep on the slopes and ridges above. Views back east into Rocky Mountain National Park are exceptional, especially with afternoon light.
Extend travel by continuing over the lake to the saddle between Fairview and Parika, from which you can summit either peak or drop down the west side of the Divide and join the CDT.
Another great option for extended travel follows the unmarked Baker Pass Trail on a sparingly marked alpine traverse to Baker Pass.
This trail / route splits off the Parika Lake Trail just .2 miles before reaching the lake, and is (currently) only marked by a large anonymous cairn (GPS Point #17). From Baker Pass you can return via the Baker Gulch Trail to the Parika Lake - Baker Pass Trail split to form a 14.9 lollipop loop (described here | see map route).
The Baker Pass Trail is scheduled for 2017 - 2018 maintenance, which should help clarify the route. Only experienced hikers should attempt the route in its current state. Contact the Sulphur Ranger District for status (970.887.4100).
The Afield Rocky Mountain app gives on-the-trail information on plants, geology, turn-by-turn-directions, and more. Install it for your next hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Interactive GPS Topo MapKey GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84
- N40 21.290 W105 51.471 — 0.0 miles : Bowen - Baker Trailhead
- N40 21.368 W105 51.754 — .3 miles : Bowen - Baker Gulch Trail split
- N40 21.553 W105 52.115 — .7 miles : Never Summer Wilderness Boundary
- N40 21.659 W105 52.406 — 1.0 miles : Fast, level travel
- N40 21.925 W105 52.792 — 1.5 miles : Moderate climb in forest with glades
- N40 21.925 W105 53.206 — 2.0 miles : Moderate climb in forest with glades
- N40 22.065 W105 53.669 — 2.5 miles : Steep segment up to 2.5 miles
- N40 22.234 W105 54.158 — 3.0 miles : Cross open talus and re-enter forest
- N40 22.283 W105 54.609 — 3.5 miles : Steep push into subalpine forest
- N40 22.394 W105 54.873 — 3.8 miles : Turn left on road
- N40 22.416 W105 54.890 — 3.82 miles : Cross bridge to trail
- N40 22.538 W105 54.962 — 4.0 miles : Moderate travel in open subalpine
- N40 22.643 W105 55.233 — 4.35 miles : Parika Lake - Baker Pass split
- N40 22.719 W105 55.361 — 4.6 miles : Steep climb in open subalpine forest
- N40 22.804 W105 55.781 — 5.1 miles : Level near large pond
- N40 22.838 W105 55.841 — 5.2 miles : Begin steep climb to lake
- N40 22.912 W105 55.993 — 5.4 miles : Baker Pass Trail split (unmarked)
- N40 22.900 W105 56.207 — 5.6 miles : Parika Lake
- Despite its inhospitable name, the Never Summer Wilderness features exceptional bio-diversity and some of the best alpine scenery accessible within or from Rocky Mountain National Park. The range's position and prominence captures above-average moisture, which supports some of the largest and oldest spruce-fir forests in the area.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Backcountry Camping in the Never Summer Wilderness
- Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Never Summer Wilderness. No fee or permit is required.
- Camping is prohibited within 100' of any trail, lake, stream or road. Group size is limited to 15 individuals (people + dogs and stock combined).
- Campfires are permitted in the Never Summer Wilderness below 10,800'. Campfires are not permitted within 1/2 mile of Parika Lake.
- Use established sites whenever possible to minimize impact. Practice strict Leave No Trace camping.
- Contact the Sulphur Ranger District (970.887.4100) or Rocky Mountain National Park (970.586.1242) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip.
Backcountry Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park
- A permit is required for all backcountry camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. Permits may be obtained from the Beaver Meadows Visitors Center Backcountry Office, or the Kawuneeche Visitor Center at Grand Lake. Day-of-trip permits may be obtained in-person, year round.
- There's a $26 fee to backcountry camp in Rocky Mountain National Park (May 1 - October 31). This administrative fee covers each party (defined as an individual or group) for the duration of the trip. Note that park entrance fees are applied separately and in full.
- Fishing is permitted in Parika Lake, Bowen Lake, Baker Gulch and Bowen Gulch with a valid Colorado fishing license. Contact the Colorado Division of Wildlife or Rocky Mountain National Park to learn more about fishing the Colorado River within RMNP, and special restrictions that apply to greenback cutthroat trout.
Rules and Regulations
- A $20 Day Use Fee is required to enter Rocky Mountain National Park (or $30 for a 7 Day Pass).
- Dogs are not permitted on hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, however they are allowed on all trails in the Never Summer Wilderness. Dogs must be under control at all times in the NSW.
- Fires are not permitted within 1/2 mile of Parika Lake.
Directions to Trailhead
The Bowen - Baker Trailhead is located 6.7 miles north of the Kawuneeche Entrance Station on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The trailhead is on the west side of the road.
Coming from Estes Park, the Bowen Baker trailhead is approx 10.6 miles south of Milner Pass.
Limited roadside parking is available when the lot is full.
Sulphur Ranger District
9 Ten Mile Drive
P.O. Box 10
Granby, Colorado 80446
Rocky Mountain National Park