You will want to start from Milner Pass, there is a trailhead there. This is about 30 miles from Estes Park heading West on Hwy 34. It's only about 15 miles from Grand Lake heading East on 34. Trail Ridge Road is closed in the Winter, making this loop much less appealing during the long Winter season.
There is a VERY clearly marked trail from the Milner Pass trailhead all the way to the summit of Ida.
Note, you will end this loop at the Timber Lake Trailhead, maybe 8 miles (or more) from Milner Pass. Either have a shuttle car waiting or be prepared to hitch-hike.
From Milner Pass to Mt. Ida to Timber Lake to the Timber Lake Trailhead is roughly 11 miles.
From Milner Pass, the trail climbs steadily through thick sub alpine forest for about a half mile. You will soon reach treeline. Once on the Tundra, you follow the broad slopes of the Continental Divide all the way to the summit of Mt. Ida.
This is a beautiful trail where you are sure to see an abundance of wildlife. I have seen Bighorn herds along this trail every time I have hiked it (4 times). There is a great chance you will see Elk too.
Once on top of Ida, head Southwest to a saddle between Ida and a small, unnamed rise. This is a steep slope with wonderful views into the nice basin that holds Julian Lake. The trail is not defined well here, but it is very easy to find your way. Once at the saddle, take a right (West), which will drop you down toward Timber Lake (you will be able to see the lake from this point). Keep an eye out for bighorns on the cliffs above!
Pick the best route down this valley toward the lake. Some basic boulder hopping at times, but it's pretty easy. Again, nothing more than a simple hike. The lake is a beautiful destination in its own right, and the Timber Lake trailhead is a simple five mile hike down the trail through the forest.
This is a classic Rocky Mountain National Park hike! One of my favorites.
Bring your basics...layers, rain gear, food, water, maps, compass, etc......
This can be as long of a day or as short of a day as you want it to be...pack accordingly!
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