Mount Zirkel: Routt County High Point

After a busy week of moving, Sprocket and I were ready for some adventure. I had new teacher orientation last Thursday and when I got home, I did a quick workout and then we hit the road. Friday, I needed to take a final exam for a class so we spent the day exploring Steamboat Springs (and doing a little bit of studying). I treated myself to a fantastic dinner at Mahogany Ridge Brewery ($1 tapas! And a filet mignon!) before heading north to the trailhead for Mt. Zirkel.

First thing in the morning, the weather was looking a little bit dreary but I decided it didn’t look particularly threatening and I had several miles to hike before we’d start to climb out of the trees anyway. We headed up the Gilpin Creek trail which climbed very gently up into the basin.

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When we reached the creek crossing where I was supposed to leave the trail, I waded through the very wet brush and eventually ran back into a trail. Turned out, it was the Gilpin trail. I didn’t really figure that out until I got to the sign that proclaimed “No camping within 1/4 mile of Gilpin Lake.” We’d not gone exactly the right way but it just meant traversing across and up to Pt 12006′ instead of straight up to it.

The clouds were still blowing in and out but I hadn’t heard any thunder or felt any rain so we continued climbing.

Eventually, we reached the saddle right below Point 12006:

A quick scramble took me to the summit of 12006 where I got my first view of Mount Zirkel. The ridge from Point 12006 was a quick and easy scramble and soon we were walking along easy tundra towards Zirkel.

Looking back at Point 12006:

I don’t know what it is about the alpine tundra but it seems to make Sprocket¬†so happy:

It didn’t take long to climb the last bit to Zirkel’s summit. The clouds parted just enough to give us some pretty good views:

Looking northwest to Big Agnes:

Zirkel’s southern tundra covered ridge:

Sprocket really does hate summit selfies. He even appears to be scowling here:

Since I wasn’t entirely sure if the weather was going to hold out, we didn’t linger too long on the summit (besides it was pretty windy). We rambled south to Red Dirt Pass Trail. The route out via Red Dirt Pass Trail and Gold Creek Lake Trail was longer by a little bit but made our hike a nice loop.

The descent on the Gold Creek side was also really gradual and through some nice open forest.

By the time we were approaching Gold Creek Lake at about mile 13 (according to my vivofit…which has proved fairly accurate), I was definitely feeling it. My legs had been a little sore to start the day but had held up pretty well. Sprocket took a¬†quick swim break at this very pretty little lake while I shoved an Epic bar in my mouth and we headed back down the last couple of miles to the car.

I really really enjoyed this hike. It was just challenging enough to be rewarding and was absolutely gorgeous. I’m so glad I got to explore this new area but like all the best hikes, it added to my list of mountains to climb: I can’t wait to come back for Big Agnes Mountain.