Gourd Lake, Monarch Lake Trailhead, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado

Gourd Lake - 16.6 miles

Monarch Lake Trailhead

Gourd Lake (10,795')

Gourd Lake (10,795')

Round-Trip Length: 16.6 miles
Start-End Elevation: 8,345' - 10,795' (10,818' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +2,450' net elevation gain (+2,872' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Gourd Lake - 16.6 Miles Round-Trip

Gourd Lake (10,795') is located 8.3 miles from Monarch Lake Trailhead in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. It lies just below treeline in a large, granite bowl west of the Divide. Gourd Lake is similar in appearance to nearby Mirror Lake but with lighter crowds.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Though fairly long, moderate terrain and 2.7 miles of well-designed switchbacks above Buchanan Creek make Gourd Lake achievable in a day for strong hikers. Visitors will enjoy diverse terrain, berry picking and excellent fishing at Gourd Lake:

The Cascade Creek Trail begins on a level path up the north shore of Monarch Lake to the Indian Peaks Wilderness boundary (1.2 miles : 8,358’). Look for osprey over the lake, moose in the marshy inlet area and raspberries along the way.

It rises to the Arapaho Pass Spur Trail (1.6 miles : 8,367') and steepens under a tall canopy marred by pine beetles.

At 2.05 miles (8,481') the trail meets Buchanan Creek before climbing away on steep switchbacks. It moderates past 2.5 miles and begins a long, level stretch through uniform lodgepole to the Buchanan Pass Trail split (3.45 miles : 8,772').

*There are several established campsites in this area, however some do not conform to Forest Service rules. Only use sites that are at least 100' away from trails and streams.

The Buchanan Pass Trail pitches up and NE along Buchanan Creek in a more open forest. It moderates through 4.0 miles (9,110’) past a few clearings and aspen groves. While the forest is aesthetically mundane, this versatile habitat supports a range of wildlife.

The trail crosses a tributary at 4.75 miles; there’s a bridge for hikers but you may choose to hop the stream in favor of this aging plank.

Travel steadies to the Gourd Lake Trail split (6.0 miles : 9,583’), where you’ll begin a 2.7 mile segment of long-leg switchbacks up to the lake. Despite their uninviting depiction on a topo map, these switchbacks are relatively moderate over even terrain.

Lodgepole is gradually phased out from 7 – 7.5 miles on the transition to a healthier spruce-fir forest. Thinning timber and higher elevations expose ridgelines of the Divide, Cascade Creek corridor and Crater Lake cirque.

Conditions grow rugged leading to a scenic pond in the upper valley (8.0 miles : 10,762’). The trail skirts it to a second pond, which is actually just a long finger of Gourd Lake's outlet channel.

Here the trail loses clarity; some maps show it doubling back on itself and heading up the left side, but it's equally easy to follow the right side up to Gourd Lake (8.3 miles : 10,795’).

Steep granite walls frame much of the lake and limit exploration, however social trails around the open south shore connect natural jetties that provide unique vantages and fishing access. Trout are notably large in this deep and lightly fished lake.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 06.647 W105 44.781 — 0.0 miles : Monarch Lake Trailhead
  • N40 06.367 W105 44.108 — .75 miles : Level travel up north shore of Monarch Lake
  • N40 06.217 W105 43.627 — 1.2 miles : Indian Peaks Wilderness Boundary
  • N40 06.273 W105 43.314 — 1.6 miles : Arapaho Pass - Cascade Creek Trail split
  • N40 06.485 W105 43.028 — 2.0 miles : Trail edges next to Buchanan Creek
  • N40 06.664 W105 42.714 — 2.5 miles : Begin long, level stretch
  • N40 06.615 W105 42.294 — 3.0 miles : Fast, level travel in tall, uniform forest
  • N40 06.580 W105 41.835 — 3.45 miles : Buchanan Pass Trail split (to Gourd Lake)
  • N40 06.864 W105 41.440 — 4.0 miles : Open areas along Buchanan Creek
  • N40 07.173 W105 41.113 — 4.5 miles : Steady travel in versatile habitat
  • N40 07.392 W105 40.634 — 5.0 miles : Intervals of glades and creek access
  • N40 07.519 W105 39.997 — 5.55 miles : Gourd Lake Trail split; begin switchbacks
  • N40 07.594 W105 40.012 — 6.0 miles : Steady climb on switchbacks
  • N40 07.691 W105 40.133 — 6.5 miles : Long, sweeping switchbacks
  • N40 07.752 W105 40.541 — 7.0 miles : Transition from montane to subalpine
  • N40 07.830 W105 40.614 — 7.5 miles : Travel in healthier spruce-fir forest
  • N40 08.027 W105 40.377 — 8.0 miles : Pond on edge of Gourd Lake
  • N40 08.121 W105 40.244 — 8.3 miles : Gourd Lake

Worth Noting

  • Raspberries are abundant along the Monarch Lake shore, and thimbleberries are found within two miles west of the lake. Be mindful of bear activity in these areas.
  • Osprey are common in the Monarch Lake area, frequently seen perched along the shore or on one of the lake's islands.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Permits are required for backcountry camping in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, June 1 - Sept. 15.

  • Permits are required year-round for day and overnight use by large groups (8+) or organizational groups such as scouts, churches, schools and hiking clubs. Group size is limited to 12 people or people and packstock combined.

  • There are no designated backcountry campsites in this travel zone. Dispersed camping only. Use established sites whenever possible to minimize impact. Camp at least 100' away from streams, lakes and trails.

  • Campfires are prohibited within .5 miles of Gourd Lake. Campfires are prohibited in the Cascade Creek drainage above Cascade Falls.

  • Pets must be on a handheld leash at all times.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted at Gourd Lake, Stone Lake, Upper Stone Lake, Watanga Lake and along Buchanan Creek and the Roaring Fork with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $5 day use fee to Monarch Lake, payable at a self service station on Arapaho Bay Road. Pay stations are located on either side of the road, just after the turnoff from Highway 34.
  • Backcountry Camping is not permitted around Monarch Lake. Camping is only permitted in designated campgrounds at Monarch Lake.

Directions to Trailhead

The Monarch Lake Trailhead is located 61.9 miles north of I-70 in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The trailhead is 9.6 miles off of Highway 34 on Arapaho Bay Road along the northwest shore of Monarch Lake.

From I-70, take Exit #232 for Rocky Mountain National Park and Winter Park. Drive 46.9 miles over Berthoud Pass and through the towns of Winter Park, Fraser, and Tabernash to the split for HWY 34.

Veer right on Highway 34 and drive 5.4 miles to Arapaho Bay Road in Granby. Turn right (east) on Arapaho Bay Road, and don't forget to stop at the self-pay station just after this turn. Follow the graded dirt road 9.6 miles to the trailhead.

Contact Information

Boulder Ranger District
USDA Forest Service
2140 Yarmouth Ave.
Boulder, CO 80301

Sulphur Ranger District - National Forest Lands in Grand County
9 Ten Mile Drive
P.O. Box 10
Granby, Colorado 80446

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Too much melting snow pack this year to reach the lake. It was 4 feet in some places and dangerous due to being unstable. Our mileage showed 8.6 miles at 10,500 elevation and not even close to lake. We had to turn back and go back down switchbacks to find a campsite. There were streams everywhere on the trail and a lot of places that we had to wade across. When we headed back those crossings got worse as more snow had melted. It was beautiful scenery but not really worth the effort. "
Sarah Dahlberg  -  Denver, CO  -  Date Posted: July 1, 2019
"The trail from Monarch Lake to Gourd lake is a well maintained trail all the way to the lake. All trail junctions are clearly marked. We got caught in an early season snow storm so cut our peak bagging trip short but will be back to climb Cooper, Martin and Martinette. There were lots of hunters out this time of year so make sure to wear bright colors."
Jeremy  -  Lafayette  -  Date Posted: September 18, 2017
"This is a fantastic, moderate trail, but the distance is inaccurate. The sign at the trail head states 7.3mi to Gourd Lake and this post states 8.3, but both myself and another member in my party were wearing GPS watches and we calculated over 10mi. Once you get to the sign that states "No campfires withing 0.5 miles of Gourd Lake", you have at least another 2mi to go. Due to the distance and level of difficulty, we had the entire lake to ourselves for the whole weekend. There are amazing day hikes along the ridge you can take and numerous campsites. It's guaranteed to be a great trip!"
Tiffany Schommer  -  Denver, CO  -  Date Posted: July 8, 2014


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