Zirkel Circle - Gilpin and Gold Creek Lake Loop

 Gilpin Lake highlights this loop hike with cobalt blue waters surrounded by rugged mountains

Gilpin Lake highlights this loop hike with cobalt blue waters surrounded by rugged mountains

Overview. The Zirkel Circle is a gorgeous loop hike using the Gold Creek Lake Trail and Gilpin Lake Trail. Along the way, you'll enjoy the serene sounds of mountain streams, a 35-ft. waterfall, and take in a pair of beautiful alpine lakes. While Gilpin Lake gets a lot of credit for its cobalt blue waters and rugged surroundings, Gold Creek Lake was nothing short of picturesque. And, between the lakes, a gorgeous meadow looking out to Flat Top Mountain is a worthy destination in and of itself.

Route Type | Loop
Total Distance | 11 miles
Overall Difficulty | Moderate
USDA Forest Service Map - Gold Creek Lake
USDA Forest Service Map - Gilpin Lake

Trailhead. This hike starts at the Slavonia Trailhead that has a vault toilet and limited parking spaces. [map]

Trail navigation. This is an extremely well maintained trail with clear markings and almost zero unmarked side trails. We hiked it counterclockwise at the advice of a Forest Service employee we met at the trailhead.

Starting from the Slavonia Trailhead, move up the trail 0.25 miles and sign in at the registration box. Turn right at the fork to travel Gold Creek Trail. From here, you'll continue along the well-defined trail until mile 3.2 where you'll come up to Gold Creek Lake. Be sure to take in the views of this beautiful alpine lake.

Continue around the west and north sides of Gold Creek Lake using the widest, most well-trodden path. At mile 4.5, you'll reach a high alpine meadow that looks out to Flat Top Mountain. This is a spectacular area where we took some time to rest and make some Sound of Music videos.

From this point, you'll see the intersection with Gilpin Lake Trail that will take you up a steep ascent lasting nearly 1.25 miles. Fortunately, the trail is extremely well crafted and footing is excellent throughout. Once you reach the crest, there are views north and south to reward your effort.

Continue down Gilpin Lake Trail and take as much time as you like exploring the lake. When finished, continue down the mountain until you return to the trailhead.

CAUTION - Bears. There are plenty of bears in the area, so be sure to take appropriate safety precautions. [Be Bear Aware by US Forest Service]

 Map of Zirkel Circle Hike

Map of Zirkel Circle Hike

 Elevation Profile of Zirkel Circle Hike

Elevation Profile of Zirkel Circle Hike

 
 Slavonia Trialhead Sign

Slavonia Trialhead Sign

 
 Sign at Gilpin Trailhead

Sign at Gilpin Trailhead

 Trail sign at split of Gold Creek Lake Trail and Gilpin Lake Trail

Trail sign at split of Gold Creek Lake Trail and Gilpin Lake Trail

 Signing in at start of Zirkel Circle hike

Signing in at start of Zirkel Circle hike

 Mt. Zirkel Wilderness boundary marker in Routt National Forest

Mt. Zirkel Wilderness boundary marker in Routt National Forest

 Waterfall along Gold Creek Lake Trail

Waterfall along Gold Creek Lake Trail

 Gold Creek Lake panorama

Gold Creek Lake panorama

 Meadow at eastern intersection of Gold Creek Lake Trail and Gilpin Lake Trail

Meadow at eastern intersection of Gold Creek Lake Trail and Gilpin Lake Trail

 Starting up the east end of Gilpin Lake Trail

Starting up the east end of Gilpin Lake Trail

 A rocky final ascent to Gilpin Lake

A rocky final ascent to Gilpin Lake

 Views south of Gilpin Lake overlook

Views south of Gilpin Lake overlook

 Views north from the Gilpin Lake overlook

Views north from the Gilpin Lake overlook

 Gilpin Lake panorama in Zirkel Wilderness

Gilpin Lake panorama in Zirkel Wilderness

 One of many mule deer spotted on the descent from Gilpin Lake

One of many mule deer spotted on the descent from Gilpin Lake

 Trail sign at intersection of Gilpin Lake Trail and Mica Basin Trail

Trail sign at intersection of Gilpin Lake Trail and Mica Basin Trail

 Looking back through the Aspens from Gilpin Lake Trail

Looking back through the Aspens from Gilpin Lake Trail