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Top Backpacking Trails in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area

If you like alpine lakes, high peaks, and breathtaking views while you are backpacking, look no further. The Indian Peaks Wilderness Area is a beautiful area, about an hour drive from Boulder. It is also near the towns of Granby, Nederland, and Grand Lake. It is a popular hiking and backpacking area with amazing scenery. During the summer, permits are required for overnight trips, as well as a fee of 11 dollars if you enter in through the Brainard Lake recreation area. Permits can be attained either through the office or through mail. The permit is 5 dollars per group, whether it is a one night or a week long trip. You can access the government site here to get more information on the wilderness area. 

Top backpacking trails in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area in Colorado.

Lone Eagle Peak and Crater Lake

With a view of the most iconic peaks in Colorado, this trail in the Indian Peaks Wilderness can be a long hike or an overnight one. It can be accessed from many different trailheads, the most popular being from Monarch Lake. This trail is 15 miles long and with an elevation gain of 2,000 feet. This is one of the most popular backcountry sites and goes through the Cascade Creek zone. The Crater Lake zone is a small area at the end of the trail. Both zones have permits for overnight backpacking. If you want to have a sunrise view of the peak when you wake up, the Crater Lake permits go fast, so make sure to get it as far in advance as possible.   

Junco Lake Loop

Diamond Lake

This loop can be broken into a one to three day backpacking loop. It goes though a small section of the Arapaho Pass and goes through part of Devil’s Thumb pass and provides fantastic views of the Devil’s Thumb. It also goes by Diamond Lake. This trail, which is 22 miles, can be made longer by going through King Lake Trail. The elevation gain is about 5,100 feet. It goes through quite a few backcountry zones, which includes Columbine, Devil’s Thumb, Neva, and Arapaho. There are small zones you can stay in as well, which includes  Jasper Lake, Diamond Lake, and Caribou Lake. The permits for the smaller zones go faster, so make sure to get these far in advance as well. If you would like to hike only small portions, this hike in the Indian Peaks Wilderness has many different access points. 

Pawnee-Buchanan Loop

Lake Isabelle At Dusk

One of the prettiest sites in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, the Pawnee-Buchanan takes you through some of the better known sites. This is a gorgeous loop that is 26.4 miles long and ascends 6,673 feet during that time. It’s highest point reaches 12,529 feet and can have Crater Lake and Lone Eagle Peak as a stopping point. It also goes by Lake Isabelle and can have Isabelle Glacier added on as well.  It goes through four backcountry zones which included Four Lakes, Cascade Creek, Buchanan, and Coney Creek. Each of these requires permits depending where you are camping, with the exception of the Four Lakes Zone which does not allow camping.

Other Trails

There are many trails in the Indian Peaks Wilderness and many of them can be combined to make an overnight trip into a week long trip. Click here for a map of the trails in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. If you plan on going during the summer, it does get quite crowded so be sure to get there early to get a parking spot and avoid the crowds. They taper off as you hike further back if you do get there later in the day. Also be sure to check that you are in a designated campsite if you are camping in an area that requires them. 

Is this your first backpacking trip? Be sure to check out my post on the best resources for beginner backpackers to help you get started! 

Make sure to also practice Leave No Trace while hiking. This is a wild area and we like to keep it that way so everyone can enjoy it. If you aren’t sure what Leave No Trace means, or need a refresher, click here to read REI’s article on Leave No Trace so you practice it while outside. 

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