Secrets of the South Platte

Denver's nearest national forest is stacked with recreational opportunities.

May 2010


Remarkably, most of the nearly 120,000 acres in Lost Creek Wilderness Area escaped the Platte's conflagrations—Hayman burned only a few thousand acres along the eastern edge. And the east side is where most people enter this beautiful wilderness of grassy parks, smooth granite slabs, and stacked house-size boulders. Hikers and backpackers congregate around the Goose Creek Trail. To escape the crowds, drive to the west side, where the highest peaks often go days without seeing visitors.

The second-highest peak in the Lost Creek Wilderness has no official name; Gerry and Jennifer Roach, in their Colorado's Lost Creek Wilderness: Classic Summit Hikes, just call this wind-swept, 12,429-foot summit "Peak X." There is no formal trail to this high point of the Kenosha Range—a sure way to keep down the crowds—but experienced hikers will have no problem following the 2.5-mile route to the top.

To start, drive 3.1 miles past Kenosha Pass on Highway 285, then turn left on County Road 56 (Lost Park Road). Follow this gravel route 10.7 miles, through rolling open parks and shimmering stands of aspen—the autumn leaf displays in Lost Creek are some of the best in the state—to reach the Long Gulch Trailhead.

Hike across a small stream; you will cross the Colorado Trail in less than a quarter-mile. Continue straight ahead on the unmarked but broad Hooper Trail, which follows the right bank of a creek. After about three-quarters of a mile, look left for a spur trail that stays alongside the creek as it bends to the north up a prominent, narrow gulch. Follow this to tree line, and then choose a route through willows and over tundra toward Peak X, visible to the left (northwest). The broad summit is dotted with twisted rock pillars, and you may have to climb more than one to find the true high point. The panoramic view takes in a dozen or more fourteeners, from Pikes Peak in the southeast to Mt. Evans in the north, down along the Ten Mile and Sawatch ranges, and over sprawling South Park to the distant Sangre de Cristos.

Gear Bring a map (Trails Illustrated 105: Tarryall Mts. and Kenosha Pass) and a compass or GPS.