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Mt. Ida out-and-back

Hiking trail
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Macs Adventure Ltd Verified partner  Explorers Choice 
  • The summit of Mt. Ida
    / The summit of Mt. Ida
    Photo: Shan Nagar, Macs Adventure
  • / Trail through the tundra
    Photo: Shan Nagar, Macs Adventure Ltd
  • / Incredible mountain views
    Photo: Shan Nagar, Macs Adventure Ltd
m 3800 3600 3400 3200 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 km
A challenging, high-alpine out-and-back hike along the tundra of the Continental Divide, with sweeping vistas from every angle!
difficult
Distance 15.8 km
6:00 h
741 m
743 m
This hike starts with a series of switchbacks through the forest as you climb up to the treeline. Once out of the woods, enjoy stunning mountain views as you hike the Continental Divide trail through the tundra's alpine meadows, passing wildflowers, marmots, pikas, and even bighorn sheep! The ascent ends with a challenging final push through the scree-field at the top Mt Ida, before being rewarded with a 360-degree panorama from the summit. Then, turn around and head back down the way you came!

Author’s recommendation

Slow and steady wins the race! This hike is almost entirely above 11,000 feet, so give yourself plenty of time (and snacks!) to hike at your own pace.
Profile picture of Shan Nagar
Author
Shan Nagar
Update: July 16, 2019
Difficulty
difficult
Technique
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Highest point
3,933 m
Lowest point
3,276 m
Best time of year
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
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Dec

Safety information

Altitude

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.

 

Wildlife

 

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

 

Poudre Lake

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.

Start

Mt. Ida trailhead; Milner Pass (3,286 m)
Coordinates:
DD
40.420316, -105.811284
DMS
40°25'13.1"N 105°48'40.6"W
UTM
13T 431175 4474725
w3w 
///smuggled.shrubs.hypnotist

Destination

Mt Ida summit (halfway point)

Turn-by-turn directions

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.

Note


all notes on protected areas

Coordinates

DD
40.420316, -105.811284
DMS
40°25'13.1"N 105°48'40.6"W
UTM
13T 431175 4474725
w3w 
///smuggled.shrubs.hypnotist
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

Equipment

We recommend wearing hiking boots that are well broken-in, plus a rain jacket and waterproof trousers in wet weather, as well as taking sun cream and a hat on nicer days.

Basic Equipment for Hiking

  • Sturdy, comfortable and waterproof hiking boots or approach shoes
  • Layered, moisture wicking clothing
  • Hiking socks  
  • Rucksack (with rain cover)
  • Protection against sun, rain and wind (hat, sunscreen, water- and windproof jacket and suitable legwear)
  • Sunglasses
  • Hiking poles
  • Ample supply of drinking water and snacks
  • First aid kit
  • Blister kit
  • Bivy / survival bag  
  • Survival blanket
  • Headlamp
  • Pocket knife
  • Whistle
  • Cell phone
  • Cash
  • Navigation equipment / map and compass
  • Emergency contact details
  • ID
  • The 'basic' and 'technical' equipment lists are generated based on the selected activity. They are not exhaustive and only serve as suggestions for what you should consider packing.
  • For your safety, you should carefully read all instructions on how to properly use and maintain your equipment.
  • Please ensure that the equipment you bring complies with local laws and does not include restricted items.

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Difficulty
difficult
Distance
15.8 km
Duration
6:00 h
Ascent
741 m
Descent
743 m

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