Sleep In The Dirt

Section 17:

Bowen Gulch Trailhead to Willow Creek Pass

What We Found

The content below contains general information about Big Agnes staff experience while traveling along the CDT through Colorado in the summer of 2018. While we have made an effort to provide you with a valuable trip-planning tool, we cannot offer any assurance that this information is current, complete or even accurate – if you choose to travel this route, do so at your own risk. A hidden gem along the Continental Divide Trail, this section is often overlooked and underrated. On the border of the Rocky Mountain National Park and the Never Summer Wilderness, this section boasts epic and open views stretching from Rabbit Ears Pass all the way to Wyoming.

  • distance
    19.9 miles
  • elevation gain
    4,795 feet
  • elevation loss
    3,966 feet
  • highest point
    11,466 feet
  • wilderness area?
    yes
  • percent on trail
    100%

When I began this section, I'll admit, I didn't quite know what I was in for. Along this route you'll find yourself on an amazing ridge walk that dissects the summits of three-to-four 12,000 foot peaks. After descending from the ridge walk, there is little to no water along this stretch. The nearest fishing spot was at a lake that was a couple extra miles or so at the junction of the Arapahoe Forest. We didn't see anyone on this stretch, which makes me think that this section isn't heavily used despite the gorgeous scenery." On Trail: August 6th, 2018 - August 9th, 2018

Shelby Jennings, Direct Sales Coordinator, Big Agnes
Learn more about the hike

Our Itinerary

Southern Access Point:

Bowen Gulch Trailhead Parking Area (Where Trail Crosses US HW 34, Trail Ridge Road). Ley Maps CO 10a

Northern Access Point:

Willow Creek Pass (Hwy. 125). Ley Maps CO9

Wilderness Area:

Yes

What We Experienced: 

Good amount of on-trail water for the first few miles, but very little after descending towards Willow Creek Pass.

Lakes are scattered throughout this section, but are usually a little ways off the trail.

EPIC Never Summer Wilderness ridge walk – don’t forget your camera!

Additional Resources: 

Leave No Trace Principles

Guthook Guide – Continental Divide Trail

U.S. Forest Service – Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest

U.S. Forest Service – Medicine Bow and Routt National Forests

Our Route

Ascent:
4,795 feet

Descent:
3,966 feet

Grade per Mile:
441 feet

Pro tips:

Bring good rain gear, as afternoon showers form quickly and unexpectedly.

Navigation in this area can be tricky, so pay close attention to the trail and know your maps well.

Skills We Needed

• Map Navigation
• Lightning Safety
• LNT Ethics

* This site and routes described within contain general information about Big Agnes staff adventures in the backcountry, summer 2018. While we have made an effort to provide you with a valuable trip-planning tool, we cannot offer any assurance that this information is current, complete or even accurate – if you choose to travel these routes, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check local weather, trail conditions, closures, legal access points, Forest Service, BLM, or National Park rules and regulations, and other risks involved. We hope to inspire responsible backcountry and public land use, but by using our website you agree to use this information at your own risk.