Trail Snapshot: Monarch Lake Loop, Colorado
- Hike Distance: 4 mile Round Trip
- Difficulty: Easy
- Duration: Approx 2 – 3hr Round Trip
- Trail Type: Loop
- Starting Elevation: 8400′
- Elevation Gain: Approx +300′
- Seasons: All Year, Road open from June 16 to Nov. 14
- Dogs: Allowed On Leash
- Hike Trail Map: Click for a Map of Monarch Lake Loop
- Denver Drive Time: 2hr 50min
- Driving Directions to Monarch Lake, CO: Click for Google Map
- Town Nearest Hike: Granby, Colorado
- Beauty: Lake, Shaded Forest, Wetlands, Wildlife: Moose, Elk, Deer, Fox, Waterfowl.
- Activities: Hiking, Canoeing, Horseback Riding, Photography, Fishing
- Fee Required: ANRA Day Use Fee
Parking & Trailhead Information for Monarch Lake, Colorado
The Hike: Monarch Lake, CO
From the trailhead, a shaded tunnel of trees leads down a short gravel path to the Wilderness Information Cabin. Here you can pick up trail maps and information about hikes up into the Indian Peaks Wilderness area. The trail description here is of hiking the Monarch Lake Loop in a clockwise fashion. Begin on the Cascade Creek trail #N1. This will follow the shoreline of Monarch lake and soon enter the forested area along the Northern end of the lake. After approximately 1 mile, the landscape changes and enters a wetland marsh. Keep your eyes peeled for moose and other wildlife here.
After 1.5 miles on the Cascade Creek Trail, the loop will be continued by taking a right onto the Arapaho Pass Spur Trail. This will head south, crossing Buchanan Creek, then Arapaho Creek. Here, after .8 mile, the spur trail ends and the Arapaho Pass trail begins. This last segment on the Arapaho Pass trail #N6 is 1.7 miles long.
Because of the pine beetle kill, there are many dead trees throughout the Monarch Lake Loop hike. Be alert for falling trees, especially when gusts of wind blow through. Hikers may also encounter deadfall across the trail. Be careful going under any fallen trees as they are often unstable and may only be supported by a few small, dead branches.
The hike continues on the south shore of Monarch lake, passing an old, rusty steam engine. These “steam donkeys” were used to pull logs down out of the mountains back in the logging camps of the 1800’s. After the steam engine, the trail will cross two more creeks, and finally make its way across the dam at the northwestern end of Monarch Lake.
Because this hike is so perfect as a family outing, or for visiting family and friends, we recommend the following day trip:
1) Leave early (take breakfast with you) and arrive at the trailhead at or before 8AM (better chance of seeing wildlife and better parking)
2) Hike Monarch Lake
3) Drive over Trail Ridge Road (fee required–but worth every penny)
4) Eat a late Lunch in Estes Park (so bring snacks)
5) Head back home or drive in to Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Tips & Resources for Hiking the Monarch Lake Loop
- Fishing: Monarch Lake is a popular fishing spot for trout. Colorado State fishing regulations apply.
- Falling Trees: Because of the amount of dead trees in this area, hikers should be on alert for falling trees.
- Trail Map for Monarch Lake Area: Trail Map Link
- Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
- Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
- After the Hike: Mavericks Grill in Granby, CO
Map & Driving Directions
Click for Driving Directions