We fought through some rainy cloudy weather as our adventure continued and headed west to Steamboat Springs. We didn't know much about Steamboat Springs and the main reason we stopped there was to visit a friend. We though Steamboat was a ski town, and it definitely is, but it is also an extraordinary town to visit in the summer and has a lot to offer hikers.
Stop 2: The Zirkel Circle and Steamboat Springs.
Steamboat Springs has a nice little downtown area with some great restaurants and great views of the mountains surrounding the city. Steamboat Springs is about 2 hours west of Rocky Mountain National Park and is a great stop if you have the time. We got the inside scoop from our local friend on where to hike for great views and an epic hike. About 1 hour northwest of Steamboat is the Mount ZIrkel Wilderness, a must stop if you are ever in the area. The drive to the trail head for the Zirkel Circle is a nice drive through forests and along a few rivers until you eventually hit a small dirt road about halfway to the trail head. After that you have a few more miles to go on a bumpy dirt road. Make sure you are paying plenty of attention because we ended up having to stop for a large herd of sheep as they crossed the road to get to their grazing field.
The trailhead for the Zirkel Circle is fairly small only fitting about 20 cars. It has a restroom, but no drinkable water so make sure you load up before you go. There are also plenty of spots along the trail for filterable water. The Zirkel Circle Trail is a steady incline for the first half of the hike. We hiked through fields of wildflowers that we were told were blooming very early (mid-July). There was also a lot of water for that time of year.
There are numerous river crossings on this hike, some harder than others, so make sure you wear appropriate footwear otherwise it could make for a long day if your socks get wet after falling in on the first river crossing. . . we may know how that feels. There are two amazing mountain lakes along the trail with either being a great spot to stop for a snack and you will want to take lots of pictures. This trail is very picturesque. We even ran into a little snow going over the pass in the middle of July.
The Zirkel Circle was one of the top hikes on our trip and that is saying a lot. This 11.2 mile trail didn't disappoint and was well worth the 6 hours, wet socks and tired legs afterwards. Do yourself a favor and visit the Mount Zirkel Wilderness if you are in the area.
Keep in Mind when Visiting the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness:
-Make sure you carry rain gear even it is sunny when you start.
-Bring a filter or plenty of water.
-Take plenty of pictures of the Blue Columbine flower, but don't pick it!
-Watch for sheep on the way to the trailhead...they were everywhere.
Next Stop: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park