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.
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]