Milner Pass Trail, Poudre Lake Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Milner Pass Trail - 8.2 miles

Poudre Lake Trailhead

Round-Trip Length: 8.2 miles
Start-End Elevation: 10,753' - 11,796' (11,796' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,043' net elevation gain (+1,262' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Milner Pass Trail - 8.2 Miles Round-Trip

The Milner Pass Trail runs 4.1 miles from Poudre Lake to the Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park. The hike begins with a short, steep climb that moderates through treeline and open tundra to Fall River Pass on Trail Ridge Road.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Views are exceptional, highlighted by lengthy sections of the Never Summer Range, Cache La Poudre River valley and Forest Canyon. Few Park trails offer as much alpine exposure on such mild grades.

The Poudre Lake Trailhead is located on Milner Pass (10,759') along the Continental Divide. The 'Great Divide' separates drainages that flow into the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The Cache La Poudre forms just north of Milner Pass and drains into the Platte River, which flows into the Missouri River and eventually the Mississippi before reaching the Gulf of Mexico (Atlantic).

South of Milner Pass, Beaver Creek drains into the Colorado River, which flows through the Grand Canyon and into the Gulf of California (Pacific):

The trail begins on the south edge of Poudre Lake, where you’ll find signs for Milner Pass and Mt Ida a few steps from the trailhead on the lakeshore. It turns sharply uphill and winds through a pretty subalpine forest to the Milner PassMt Ida Trail split (.6 miles : 11,072’).

The Milner Pass Trail turns northeast and levels in a thinning forest with emerging views of the Never Summer Range. It moves quickly through glades that widen to expansive meadows where elk and deer are common (1.75 miles).

It rises nominally to  Forest Canyon Pass (2.5 miles : 11,320’), where you can take a few steps off trail and peer down Forest Canyon and the headwaters of the Big Thompson River. Look for bighorn sheep on higher slopes, and moose by a string of alpine ponds and meadows just beyond the pass.

The trail clears treeline with views across the upper Cache La Poudre River Valley, which runs over 9 miles north from Milner Pass (read about x-country travel on the Cache La Poudre River Trail).

It keeps a modest grade to the terminus on Trail Ridge Road at the Alpine Visitor Center (4.1 miles : 11,796’). Take advantage of the visitor center’s educational resources, and back deck with terrific views of the Mummy Range across Fall River Pass.

Illustration of bighorn sheep

The Afield Rocky Mountain app gives on-the-trail information on plants, geology, turn-by-turn-directions, and more. Install it for your next hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 25.220 W105 48.683 — 0.0 miles : Poudre Lake Trailhead
  • N40 25.080 W105 48.489 — .6 miles : Milner Pass Trail - Mt Ida split
  • N40 25.278 W105 48.251 — 1.0 miles : Level travel in patchy subalpine forest
  • N40 25.446 W105 47.834 — 1.5 miles : Look for elk and deer in high forest fringe
  • N40 25.710 W105 47.485 — 2.0 miles : Emerging views of the Never Summer Range
  • N40 25.814 W105 46.953 — 2.5 miles : Forest Canyon Pass
  • N40 26.058 W105 46.603 — 3.0 miles : Clear treeline with views of the Cache La Poudre
  • N40 26.204 W105 46.104 — 3.5 miles : Trail runs in open tundra on west-facing slope
  • N40 26.458 W105 45.335 — 4.1 miles : Alpine Visitor Center on Trail Ridge Road

Worth Noting

  • The Fern Lake Fire started on October 9, 2012 from an illegal campfire in a steep and rugged section of Forest Canyon.

Directions to Trailhead

The Poudre Lake Trailhead is located 25 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance on Trail Ridge Road. The parking area is located just south of Poudre Lake on the east side of the road.

Contact Information

Rocky Mountain National Park
Visitor Information:
970.586.1206

Backcountry Office:
970.586.1242

Campground Reservations:
800.365.2267

Emergency Dispatch:
970.586.1203

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.



Comments

"I travelled from Milner Pass to the Alpine Center and back, parking my car in a lot on the side of Trail Ridge Road by Lake Poudre. This was a pretty well established trail, the only point it was iffy was when I and several other people ended up off-trail; we somehow ended up below the true trail when our apparent divergence tapered off in a little wooded meadow. The snow on the trail was most likely the cause of this misstep. Speaking of, I probably should have waited until mid-July at least for the snow to melt down a bit. Nevertheless, the trail was definitely passable, even if it meant going around or over some snow-covered sections. The scenery was beautiful, particularly as you entered the tundra, and the Never Summers were a big part of that. Elevation gain wasn't too bad either, although somewhat steep at the beginning as noted in this trail's given description above. I would recommend and will likely reuse this trail, although use later in the season may fair better."
Rachel F  -  Grand Lake, CO  -  Date Posted: June 27, 2016

 

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