Enjoying Amazing Trails and Soaking up the Stunning Views at Five Routt County Trails
Enjoying amazing trails in and around Steamboat Springs is no doubt easy to do. Maybe you’ve checked out some of the most popular options, like the family-friendly Fish Creek Falls, which is just 3 miles from downtown and features a gorgeous 280-foot waterfall. Or perhaps you’ve conquered Rabbit Ears Peak, a 6-mile round-trip hike that takes you through fields of beautiful wildflowers and includes views of the famous — albeit crumbly — Rabbit Ears, comprised of rock and ash.
These tried-and-true trails are popular for good reason, though there are many equally enticing trails less traveled scattered throughout the area. Expect less traffic, more alone time and the likely company of some four-legged friends. Here are five of our favorites:
Elk Run Trail, Stagecoach State Park
This 10-mile round-trip trail at Stagecoach State Park — located between Yampa and Steamboat Springs — skirts the shoreline of the gleaming Stagecoach Reservoir. With its wide, flat trail, it’s perfect to enjoy via foot or fat tires in the summer or snowshoes or skis come winter. Best of all, your visit is likely to be fairly solitary considering the park gets just 150,000 visitors per year. Enjoy views of the Flat Top mountains and keep your eyes open for elk, mule deer and rabbits, especially in the late afternoon. The area is also ripe for bird watching, with more than 200 species having been spotted in the area, including American white pelicans and white-faced ibis.
Hahns Peak in North Routt County
If you’re looking for a more challenging trail, visit a local favorite – and extinct volcano – Hahn’s Peak. The steep hike is just less than 2 miles to the summit and widely considered one of the most rewarding hikes around because of the stunning 360-degree views from the top. The trail is a wide Jeep road for the first three-quarters of a mile and then morphs into a singletrack trail that has a lot of loose rock on the final stretch to the summit. This scree scramble is worth it, though, as uninterrupted views await. From the top you’ll see the ski trails at Steamboat Resort to the south, the towering peaks in the Zirkel Wilderness Area to the east and Wyoming to the north.
Thunderhead Hiking Trail, Steamboat Resort
This hiking-only trail on Mount Werner offers stunning views of downtown Steamboat Springs, the ski area’s base and the south valley. The trail is 3.81 miles one way and begins at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area. Many people opt to take the gondola to the top and then hike down, though some will do it as an out-and-back from the base, or even hike up and take the gondola down — our favorite option. The trail takes you through open ski trail to wooded singletrack that makes you feel as if you’re in the backcountry. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen for this trail. If you hike up, head to the Oasis Sundeck after your hike for lunch or a cold beverage. If you’re hiking in the afternoon, time it to end with a cold one at Sunset Happy Hour at Thunderhead (Thursday and Sunday evenings through Sept. 23 with some exceptions; visit www.steamboat.com for the full schedule) and take in the sunset as you listen to live music and toast your excursion. Following the festivities, you can take the easy way down — the gondola — for free.
Mad Creek Trail/Hot Springs Trail
Take a dip in the cool creek or take in the beauty of the 112-year old barn; this trail is chock full of natural wonder and local color. Its no surprise the Mad Creek Trail is popular with trail users of all sorts — hikers, bikers and horseback riders.
For an off-the-beaten-path alternative take the nearby access for the Hot Springs Trail – our favorite approach to the Strawberry Park Hot Springs. From the Mad Creek trailhead walk west (toward Steamboat Springs) on Routt County Road 129 approximately 400 yards on the left side of the road (trailhead not marked) to NFSR 128. After about ½ mile southerly walk, the Hot Springs Trail cuts off to the right. The trail itself winds through evergreen trees, aspen groves and scrub brush, all the while following a gentle creek. This moderate 3-mile hike (each way) includes a 1,100-ft. elevation gain, and the feeling of “a walk in the woods.” A quaint wooden sign heralds your arrival at Strawberry Park Hot Springs; remember to visit the front desk for access to the private springs (admission is charged to access the springs). We recommend doing this hike early in the day — aim to arrive at the hot springs when they open at 10 a.m. to appreciate the beauty and serenity of the springs sans crowds.
Allen Basin Trail, Flat Tops Wilderness
If you’re hoping to experience a moderate hike with lovely views and plenty of solitude, and you’re willing to take a bit of a drive from Steamboat (roughly 35 miles) check out the Allen Basin Trail. This short hike — less than 2 miles round trip —provides the only public access to Allen Basin Reservoir. Named after a pioneer homesteader, the trail is located just south of beautiful Crosho Lake — also worth a visit. The hike itself begins on a narrow footpath that winds into an aspen grove before meeting a wider, old jeep road. After spending time in the woods for a bit, the trail will bring you down to the water’s edge. Because the hike is short and has just a few steep sections, it’s a good one for families with young children who might not be ready for longer excursions, though it’s good to note the return hike might take a bit longer as it’s uphill. There’s also an easy stream crossing.
Fishermen and women take note: both the lake and the reservoir offer good fishing, with plenty of rainbow, brook and cutthroat trout in the 14-16-inch range; just remember, only flies and lures are permitted.