Monarch Lake Loop Trail, Monarch Lake Trailhead, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado

Monarch Lake Loop Trail - 3.9 miles

Monarch Lake Trailhead

Monarch Lake is a versatile 4 season trail

Monarch Lake is a versatile 4 season trail

Round-Trip Length: 3.9 miles
Start-End Elevation: 8,345' - 8,345' (8,590' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +260' total roundtrip elevation gain
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Monarch Lake Loop Trail - 3.9 Miles Round-Trip

Monarch Lake is located east of Lake Granby, Colorado on the west side of the Continental Divide. Its versatility as a hiking, running, horseback riding and winter sport trail make it one of the Indian Peaks' most popular year-round destinations. Much of Monarch Lake's shoreline is accessible to anglers, who seek its brook, rainbow, cutthroat and brown trout stocks.

The following description travels clockwise:

The trail begins on a level path up the north shore of Monarch Lake. It travels quickly to the lake's inlet (.95 miles) and enters a mixed forest at the Indian Peaks Wilderness Boundary (1.25 miles : 8,358').

Look for moose is this marshy, food-rich habitat. The trail climbs to the Cascade Creek Trail - Arapaho Pass Trail split (1.6 miles : 8,367'), and bears right into a thick forest to continue the loop.

The trail is variously rugged and obstructed by deadfall over next 2 miles as it rises above the lake's south shore. Though views are fairly limited until reaching the far southwest shoreline, the forest itself is quite attractive, and good place to see deer, moose, bear, and elk.

You'll cross a bridge spanning the inlet to connections for the Arapaho Pass Trail (2.3 miles) and High Lonesome Trail (2.35 miles).

The trail edges back to the shoreline at 3.4 miles with good access and easterly views across the lake. It continues over Lake Monarch's outlet stream and dam to complete the loop.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 06.651 W105 44.781 — 0.0 miles : Monarch Lake Trailhead
  • N40 06.367 W105 44.108 — .75 miles : Level travel up north shore of Monarch Lake
  • N40 06.273 W105 43.314 — 1.6 miles : Arapaho Pass - Cascade Creek Trail split
  • N40 05.978 W105 43.807 — 2.3 miles : Arapaho Pass Spur Trail split
  • N40 05.980 W105 43.866 — 2.35 miles : High Lonesome Trail split
  • N40 06.278 W105 44.811 — 3.3 miles : Round lake's SW corner

Worth Noting

  • Monarch Lake's southside is slightly more rugged and challenging.

  • The Monarch Lake Loop is a terrific running and winter sport trail.

  • For those not accustomed to higher elevations, this is an ideal acclimation hike.

  • Check with the Ranger Station for seasonal fishing regulations and restrictions.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Permits are required for all overnight campers June 1 - September 15.

  • Permits are required year-round for day and overnight use by large groups (8+) or organizational groups such as scouts, churches, schools and hiking clubs.

  • Group size is limited to 12 people or people and packstock combined.

  • Campfires are prohibited in the Cascade Creek drainage above Cascade Falls.

  • Pets must be on a handheld leash at all times.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of lakes, streams and trails.

  • Packstock is prohibited in the Cascade Backcountry Zone above Cascade Falls.

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $5 entry fee to Monarch Lake, payable at a self service station on Arapaho Bay Road. The pay station is located on the right (north) side of the road, just past the turnoff from Highway 34.

  • Backcountry Camping is not permitted around Monarch Lake. Camping is only permitted in designated campgrounds at Monarch Lake.

Directions to Trailhead

The Monarch Lake Trailhead is located 61.9 miles north of I-70 on Arapaho Bay Road in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. The trailhead is located southeast of Lake Granby, on the northwest shore of Monarch Lake.

From I-70, take Exit #232 for Rocky Mountain National Park and Winter Park. Drive 46.9 miles over Berthoud Pass and through the towns of Winter Park, Fraser, and Tabernash to the split for Highway 34.

Veer right on Highway 34 and drive 5.4 miles to Arapaho Bay Road in Granby. Turn right (east) on Arapaho Bay Road, and don't forget to stop at the self-pay station just after this turn. Follow the graded dirt road 9.6 miles to the trailhead.

Contact Information

Boulder Ranger District
USDA Forest Service
2140 Yarmouth Ave.
Boulder, CO 80301
(303) 541-2500
Summer Hours:
Mon-Thur 8 - 4:30
Fri 8 - 5:30
Sat 9 - 3


Sulphur Ranger District
USDA Forest Service
9 Ten Mile Drive
P.O. Box 10
Granby, CO 80446
(970)887-4100 ; (970)887-4101
Mon-Fri 8-4:30

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"I used to go around the lake on horseback and enjoyed it very much. Is this still possible?"
Howard L Hillyer  -  PA  -  Date Posted: January 24, 2016


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