If you like solitude and spectacular views, chances are you will like the Mount Zirkel Wilderness, located in the northern Park Range
and Sierra Madre
of Colorado. Only a few of the peaks get much attention (namely Mount Zirkel, Mount Ethel, Lost Ranger Peak, and Big Agnes), but even then the popular peaks are much less crowded than many of the other places in Colorado. Davis Peak itself is not climb very often.
Although the peaks in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness are lower than they are in some other parts of Colorado, the Mount Zirkel Wilderness receives more snow on average than any other part of Colorado (nearly 500 inches of snow a year according to SNOTEL data), thus lower mountains have a much more alpine appearance than they would for similar elevation mountains in other parts of Colorado.
Davis Peak is the northernmost peak in the Park Range to reach above 11,000 feet. The peak itself is rather unassuming, and not very rugged, the views of the surrounding rugged and jagged peaks are spectacular.
Park Range: 11,000+ Foot Peaks with 300+ feet of Prominence
Big Agnes Mountain as seen from Davis Peak. June 21 2015.
The summit of Davis Peak.
There are many possible trailheads that can be used to access Davis Peak.
Buffalo Ridge Trailhead
From Walden, drive 9.3 miles north on SH14/125 to Cowdery. Turn west on County Road 6W and drive 20.3 miles to CR6B. Turn left on CR 6B and drive 8.1 to FR 682. Turn left on FR 682 and drive 2.6 miles to the trailhead. The trailhead roads should be good for most vehicles.
Beaver Creek Trailhead
From Walden, drive 9.3 miles north on SH14/125 to Cowdery. Turn west on County Road 6W and drive 18.6 miles to Cr 6A. Turn south onto CR 6A (signs will point to Big Creek Lakes) and drive 4.9 miles to FR 698. Turn right onto CR 3/FR 689 and drive 2.7 miles to CR 3A/FR 681. Turn left on CR 3A/FR681 and follow it 1.7 miles to the trailhead. The roads to the trailhead should be good for all vehicles.
Near the Beaver Creek Trailhead.
Big Lake Trailhead
From Walden, drive 9.3 miles north on SH14/125 to Cowdery. Turn west on County Road 6W and drive 18.6 miles to Cr 6A. Turn south onto CR 6A (signs will point to Big Creek Lakes) and drive 5.6 miles to Big Creek Lakes.
Encampment River Trailhead
Thus far I haven't been to this trailhead (so no detailed directions will be provided), but it can be accessed from Walden on the east, Steamboat Spring on the south, or Hog Park and Wyoming to the north. Use a good road map or forest service map to reach the trailhead.
North Fork Elk River/Diamond Park Trailhead
From Steamboat Springs head two miles NW on US 40 to CR 129 (Elk River Road) and turn right at the stoplight. Head 17.5 miles, past Clark, to Glen Eden, and turn right again at Seedhouse Road (a.k.a. CR 64 and FR 400) and follow the road and signs about 90.2 miles to the Seedhouse Campground. Just past the Seedhouse Campground there is an intersection with FR 433 (a.k.a. Lost Dog Road).
Turn north on FR 433 and follow it 3.9 miles to the junction with FR 44.1. To this point, the road is good for most vehicles, but the rest of the route to the trailhead is considered to be a 4wd road. Turn left (west) here and and descend 2.1 miles to the bridge. Continue North on FR 431 and follow it 1.5 miles to the trailhead.
Davis Peak can be approached from almost any direction. The east side routes are shorter. No matter which approach is used, the final ascent route will likely be up the east slopes.
The upper east slopes of Davis Peak.
Via Buffalo Park and Buffalo Ridge
This is one of the more scenic routes and the route isn't used much. There are several ups and downs before you reach Davis Peaks, but there will be some nice views along the way. Unless trail maintenance has been done recently, expect lots of deadfall along the trail.
From the Buffalo Ridge Trailhead, the route climbes over Buffalo Ridge and then drops down to a creek before ascending gradually to the saddle near Stump Park. From there the trail climbs to the east slopes of Davis Peak, which can be easily climbed to the summit. The climb will take most of a day.
Via Beaver Creek
This is the shortest and probably the easiest route that accesses Davis Peak. From the trailhead, the trail follows the north side of Beaver Creek to the saddle near Stump Park (see above). This is a nice day hike for most.
Via Big Creek
This may be the most scenic route up Davis Peak, but it is a little longer than the two routes mentioned above. This route follows the Big Creek Trail from Big Creek Lakes, passes Big Creek Falls and climbs up to near Seven Lakes. From the junction near Seven Lakes, you can follow the trail north to the east slopes of Davis Peak. This will be a two day hike for most, but it could be done in one long day.
Via Encampment River
From the northwest, you can use the trails along either fork of the Encampment River to eventually intersect the Stump Park Trail which accesses Stump Park and the saddle (see the Buffalo Ridge Route). These routes will take most people at least two days.
Via North Fork Elk River
This route approaches Davis Peak from the North Fork Elk River. It is not the shortest route to Davis Peak, but has the advantage for some as being the closest trailhead to Steamboat Springs. It also makes a nice route if you wanted to climb other peaks such as Buck Mountain on the same trip. The Big Creek Trail will access Seven Lakes just north of Encampment Meadows (see the Big Creek Route section above).
No permits are required. Standard wilderness regulations apply.
Additional Regulations for the Mount Zirkel Wilderness area as follows:
Camping is prohibited within 100 feet of any trail, wilderness lake or stream. Camping is prohibited within 1/4 mile (1320 feet) of Gilpin Lake, Gold Creek Lake and Three Island Lake. Camping, leaving camping equipment or personal property or otherwise occupying national forest system lands for a period longer than 14 days within a 30-day period on a ranger district is prohibited. Camping within 200 feet of a posted sign reserving a site for a commercial outfitter is prohibited.
Storing equipment, personal property or supplies is prohibited within the wilderness for more than 14 days within a 30-day period, including time the area was used for camping.
Building, maintaining, attending or using campfires is prohibited within 100 feet of any trail, wilderness lake or stream. Building, maintaining, attending or using campfires is prohibited within 1/4 mile (1320 feet) of Gilpin Lake, Gold Creek Lake and Three Island Lake.
Dogs must be leashed or under control.
Possessing, discharging or using any kind of firework or pyrotechnic device is prohibited.
The maximum group size is a combination of 25 persons and/or pack/saddle animals, with the maximum number of persons being 15.
Shortcutting switchbacks is prohibited.
Please tread lightly in this beautiful area.
When to Climb
Mid July to early September is the most popular time to climb here. July is fine, but this area gets more snowfall than anywhere else in Colorado, so winter snows tend to stay late and through most of July. Stream crossings can be problematic (on some routes) in June and July and it should be expected that the meadows will be really wet.
Late Spring and early Summer can be miserable with mud, swamps, soft snow, deadfall, and mosquitoes. This is probably the worst time to climb the mountain, but that's when we did it. Waiting until August is recommended.
Fall is a fine season as well, but wear blaze orange during the hunting season. Big snowfalls usually don’t come until late September or early October.
Winter ascents of Davis Peak are certainly possible, though it’s a long trek in when the road is closed. Because of heavy snowfall, trail breaking will not be easy, but most parts of Davis Peak will have avalanche danger. For the well prepared climber, a winter ascent would prove a worthy challenge, but plan to have a few days at your disposal.
A snowmobile would cut down the distance to the trailhead significantly in winter and spring.
Climbing Davis Peak on June 21 2015.
There are some good campsites enroute to the Beaver Creek Trailhead. Just don't camp on private land. The trailhead itself has some excellent campsites as well.
Big Creek Lakes has an official, pay campsite and is very near the Seven Lakes Trailhead. It isn't that far from the Beaver Creek Trailhead as well.
The saddle near Stump Park along the Beaver Creek and Buffalo Ridge Routes has several campsites.
Davis Peak as seen from near Stump Park.
The area around Seven Lakes or above Big Creek Falls is fairly popular for camping if you are using the Big Creek Route.
There are many campsites along the Encampment River if you are coming from that direction.
For current information, contact:
ROUTT NATIONAL FOREST
CLICK HERE FOR THE WEATHER FORECAST FOR MOUNT ZIRKEL WILDERNESS
Below is the National Weather Service Climate Summary of Walden. The data is from 1897-2012. This is the closest long term weather station, but be aware that higher elevations will be much wetter and colder. Walden is at 8110 feet elevation, so expect the temperatures on the higher elevations of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness to be 10-15 degrees colder than in Walden (except for cold winter nights).
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