Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
2,925.00 ft (891.54 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
9.75 mi (15.69 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Lost Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park offers a fantastic opportunity to backpack into the alpine country of the Colorado Rockies. At the end of a roughly 10-mile trail that begins in Comanche Peak Wilderness Area and traverses into the national park, you will find a serene alpine setting that includes campsites at Lost Lake and the opportunity to explore an alpine basin that includes no fewer than four easily accessible lakes.

The Dunraven Trailhead is near the small town of Glenhaven, which is a 20-minute drive from Estes Park via winding country roads. The North Fork Trail to Lost Lake starts off in Comanche Peak Wilderness Area, and of the total 9.75-mile, one-way distance to Lost Lake, the first 4.7 miles fall in the Comanche Peak Wilderness Area before crossing into RMNP. The trail descends first for about 100 feet and 0.3 mile to a creek bed and then follows the creek all the way to Lost Lake. The total elevation gain is about 2,925 feet over a distance of 10 miles. The distance will push you, but the gradient won't break you. The grade gets a little steep between miles 7 and 8, but other than that it is a gentle grade to negotiate with a heavy backpack.

Around 7.8 miles from Dunraven Trailhead, the trail splits, one fork leading to Lost Lake and the other going to Stormy Peaks. If you have more time, spend a couple of nights in this area exploring Icefield Pass, Stormy Peaks Pass, and others.

The 9.75-mile trail ends at the Lost Lake, and there are a few more alpine lakes (all above treeline), which are close by and can be explored by navigating off trail. While off-trail navigation is allowed in backcountry alpine areas in Rocky Mountain National Park, keep in mind that this is a very delicate ecosystem that can be indefinitely damaged due to impact.

Lake Husted, Lake Louise, Lake Dunraven, Scotch Lake, Whiskey Lake, and a few other unnamed ponds are all nearby. With more time and energy, you can go all the way to the Rowe Glacier. Lake Husted, Louise, and Dunraven are easiest to access and best in uncertain weather or when lacking time and energy. Lake Husted is about 0.6 mile and 400 feet up from Lost Lake. Lake Louise is an additional 0.6 mile and about same elevation as Lake Husted. Lake Dunraven is around 0.6 mile and 400 feet up from Lake Louise. The entire off-trail expedition to all three lakes should take around 3 to 4 mile and 800 feet from Lost Lake. It makes a good second-day exercise that can be (easily) done before noon.

There are a few campsites situated along the 9.75-mile distance, some in the Comanche Peak Wilderness and some in RMNP. The first RMNP campsite that one encounters is the Boundary Creek campsite right at the entrance to RMNP about 4.7 miles from Dunraven Trailhead. There are three more campsites after Boundary Creek: Aspen Meadow, Happily Lost, and Sugarloaf.

Additional campsites are at Lost Lake, where there are four sites. None of them is a group site. The four sites, two Upper Lake and two Lower Lake sites, are on two opposite sides of the lake, and each of these areas has a privy. Of the four, the lower lake campsite #2 is the closest to the lake and by far the more beautiful site. So start early and get that site if possible.

A consequence of being close to a lake is the number of mosquitoes and flies in the area. Highly recommend carrying a bug net and bug spray/repellant. The bug problem was the worst at the Lost Lake sites close to stationary water, whereas all the other campsites like Boundary Creek, Happily Lost, and Sugarloaf, which are near flowing water, were just fine. If you are bothered by bugs, consider staying at Sugarloaf campsite, which is just 1.6 miles and 400 feet elevation from Lost Lake.

The permit-issuing opens in March and fills up pretty quickly for the entire summer and fall. Plan well in advance to go to this area (or any backpacking site in RMNP, especially over the weekend). The permit needs to be picked up from the RMNP visitor center, where they give the parking tags for the car, permit papers, and area maps; Beaver Meadows is closest to the trailhead.

The exact directions to get to these lakes are available in Lisa Foster's book, Rocky Mountain National Park: The Complete Hiking Guide, or you can ask a park ranger when you pick up the permit. Although only mildly aggressive, the area may be active with black bears, so bear spray is recommended for those who prefer such a contingency. The trail is open to pack animals. Note also that RMNP does not offer refunds on the permits if you want to cancel because you cannot go.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Open Year-round

No

Open from

June 01 to November 01

Days

2

Pros

Less trafficked. Beautiful landscape.

Cons

Not many other attractions on a rather long trail.

Trailhead Elevation

8,000.00 ft (2,438.40 m)

Highest point

10,720.00 ft (3,267.46 m)

Net Elevation Gain

2,720.00 ft (829.06 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Wildflowers
Big Game Watching
Horseback riding
Wildlife
Fishing
Glacier

Typically multi-day

Yes

Suitable for

Horseback

Permit required

Yes

Permit self-issue on site

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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