Mt. Ida out-and-back
Macs Adventure Verified partner Explorers Choice
The summit of Mt. IdaPhoto: Shan Nagar, Macs Adventure
Track typesShow elevation profile
While the trail itself on this hike is very moderate in difficulty, the entire hike is made more difficult by being almost entirely over 11,000ft (3350m) in elevation, reaching nearly 13,000ft (3950m). Be sure to hike with more water and snacks than you usually need, and start as early as you can to give yourself plenty of time to complete the hike. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of altitude sickness, and know your own limits! This hike has stunning views throughout the entire trail, so you can turn around and head back to the trailhead at any point.
As you will be hiking in a high-alpine environment, there will be unique and exciting opportunities to view wildlife. Whether it's a little marmot or a bighorn sheep, give all wildlife a wide berth. If there's an animal on the trail, do not approach; keep your distance, and wait for the animal to move on before continuing.
Tips and hints
Points of interest
The trailhead of today's hike is right next to Poudre Lake, which is the source of the Cache la Poudre River that flows all the way down to Fort Collins, and onward to join the South Platte River in eastern Colorado. This river is famous for trout fishing (look for native cutthroat trout swimming in the lake!), and for whitewater kayaking and rafting in the spring and summer.
Azure & Inkwell Lakes
From the summit of Mt Ida, you'll have a beautiful view of two seasonal alpine lakes: Azure and Inkwell. These two lakes are nowhere to be seen for most of the year; only in late spring, early summer does the snow and ice give way to these two beautiful lakes framed by Mt Ida.
Food & Drink
Stock up on food and water before you start the hike! Carry at least 2 litres of water per person, along with snacks and a packed lunch. Grand Lake is the only place to stock up before you start the hike, so make sure to stop by a market or grocery store before leaving town.
0.00 mi. - Today's hike starts at the Milner Pass trailhead next to the Poudre Lake, source of the Cache la Poudre River that goes all the way down to Fort Collins. The hike starts at the information kiosk on the East side of the parking lot; the kiosk says "Milner Pass". With the kiosk directly on your left, continue STRAIGHT ON to start the walk.
3000 ft. - At the branch in the trail, you'll come to a wooden trail sign that has arrows pointing to the left for "Alpine Visitor's Center" and "Old Fall River Road", and an arrow to the right for "Mt. Ida". TURN RIGHT to follow the sign for Mt. Ida. Make note of the trail cautioning hikers that the remaining 3.5 miles to the summit are through the tundra, with potentially less-maintained stretches of trail.
3700 ft. - You'll encounter another branch in the trail. BEAR LEFT to continue along the Mt. Ida trail.
3900 ft. - At the unmarked fork in the trail, continue to BEAR LEFT to stay on the larger, more well-defined Mt. Ida trail.
5100 ft. - At another unmarked fork in the trail, continue to BEAR RIGHT to stay on the larger, more well-defined Mt. Ida trail.
1.5 mi. - A small trail branches away from the main trail on the left. Continue to BEAR RIGHT and stay on the main trail.
2.8 mi. - At the fork in the trail, you will see a pile of rocks blocking the left-hand trail. This is the old trail that is no longer in use due to erosion; BEAR RIGHT to follow the trail that is unblocked.
3.5 mi. - At this point, the trail turns into a scree-field, where you'll be walking across an extremely rocky surface, making the trail much less well-defined. Over time, a number of "paths" have developed from hikers taking different ways to the summit over the years; from here until the top of Mt. Ida, it will be important to follow the Macs Adventure App to follow the highlighted route.
4.5 mi. - Congratulations, you've reached the summit! After taking time to relax, catch your breath, drink some water, eat some food, and enjoy the view, it will be time to turn back around and go back down the way you came. Note that, when going downhill, the path looks quite different! There are a few different ways to get back down, as again, there is no clearly-marked trail for the first mile of the descent. As with the final stretch of the ascent, please keep an eye on your Macs Adventure Mobile App to follow the highlighted GPS trail.
6.0 mi. - BEAR LEFT to stay on the main trail.
9.5 mi. - Congratulations, you've arrived back at the parking lot! You have finished today's hike.
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