Chapin Creek Trail, Chapin Pass Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Chapin Creek Trail - 6.6 miles

Chapin Pass Trailhead

The Chapin Creek Trail

The Chapin Creek Trail

Round-Trip Length: 6.6 miles (distance may vary by route)
Start-End Elevation: 11,040' - 10,205' (11,175' max elevation)
Elevation Change: -835' net elevation loss (+1,245' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Chapin Creek Trail - 6.6 Miles Round-Trip

The Chapin Creek Trail offers a unique backcountry experience through a biologically rich and lightly traveled corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. It drops from Fall River Road to the Chapin Creek Valley, where cross-country travel leads through expansive meadows to the Cache La Poudre River confluence.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

These damp meadows below Mount Chapin and Marmot Point support abundant wildlife, particularly concentrations of elk and moose.

While the route is intuitively followed there’s virtually no trail once in the valley. Hikers will get wet traipsing boggy areas with animal tracks providing the best / only guidance. Basic route finding is necessary, especially on the return to regain the maintained trail.

Visitors will enjoy diverse terrain, open travel and great wildlife viewing on the Chapin Creek Trail:

The trail climbs steeply to the Chapin Creek – Mummy Range Peaks split (.12 miles : 11,175’), where it drops in a thick forest with occasional deadfall.

Steep intervals moderate to the meadow’s edge and a sign for the start of x-country travel (.8 miles : 10,588’). Note this important point, which is concealed by timber and hard to see on the return.

Continue down the meadow and stay west of the creek on drier slopes. Use elk and moose tracks for efficient passage through dense willow and brush.

The trail rises over a narrow section in the valley (1.4 miles : 10,470’) and drops to a wide, intermittently drier section (2.1 miles : 10,315’).

You'll cross a tributary en route to the Chapin Creek Campsite sign (2.65 miles : 10,243’), which may be off your immediate heading but visible from a distance.

Cross Chapin Creek (2.7 miles : 10,235’) onto a clear path over dry, rolling hills that seamlessly merge with the Poudre River Valley.  Once again, take note of your surroundings.

There are several ‘finger’ valleys that seem to head back up to Fall River Road from this low point, but only one accesses the maintained trail.

A good path leads to a disused bridge over the Poudre River (3.2 miles), which is more safely crossed in the water. It rises past dispersed camping boundary signs to the faint Poudre River Trail on the west side of the valley (3.3 miles : 10,165’).

The Cache La Poudre River Trail is a similar x-country route that runs 9.2 miles from Poudre Lake / Milner Pass to the Mummy Pass Trail in the NW corner of the Park.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 26.086 W105 43.825 — 0.0miles : Chapin Pass Trailhead on Fall River Road
  • N40 26.198 W105 43.765 — .12 miles : Split for summits; begin downhill
  • N40 26.598 W105 43.460 — .8 miles : Begin cross-country travel
  • N40 26.798 W105 43.479 — 1.05 miles : Boggy travel down west side of valley
  • N40 27.099 W105 43.322 — 1.5 miles : Faint, temporary path
  • N40 27.399 W105 43.420 — 1.85 miles : Grade moderates in wide meadow
  • N40 27.538 W105 43.586 — 2.1 miles : Wide, short-grass flat
  • N40 27.822 W105 43.891 — 2.65 miles : Chapin Creek campsite spur
  • N40 27.850 W105 43.878 — 2.7 miles : Cross Chapin Creek
  • N40 27.921 W105 43.957 — 2.85 miles : Trail clarifies on rolling hills
  • N40 28.248 W105 43.990 — 3.2 miles : Cross Poudre River
  • N40 28.308 W105 44.070 — 3.3 miles : Poudre River Trail x-country route

Worth Noting

  • Carefully note the entry-exit point to cross-country travel. This important trail sign is potentially difficult to see on the return hike.
  • Retrace your steps from the Poudre River valley back to the Chapin Creek valley. It's possible to head up the wrong 'finger' in the valley and lose your route.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • A permit is required for all backcountry camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. Permits may be obtained from the Beaver Meadows Visitors Center Backcountry Office, or the Kawuneeche Visitor Center at Grand Lake. Day-of-trip permits may be obtained in-person, year round.

  • Reservations may be secured by mail or in person anytime after March 1 for a permit to be used in that calendar year. Phone reservations are accepted from March 1 - May 15, and anytime after October 1 for a permit in that calendar year.

  • Camping is permitted in designated sites only. Fires are not permitted. Gas stoves only.

  • Camp safely away from dead trees, as close as possible to the metal arrowhead posted at each site. Red flags on trees provide additional guidance to each campsite from the main trail.

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $20 entrance fee to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Directions to Trailhead

The Chapin Pass Trailhead is located on Fall River Road, 13.8 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station in Rocky Mountain National Park.

From the entrance station, continue on HWY 34 3.1 miles to the turnoff for Horseshoe Park | Lawn Lake | Fall River Road. Take this road 1.8 miles to the (left) turn for Fall River Road.

The paved two-way road becomes Fall River Road in 1.9 miles. Fall River Road is a one-way dirt road suitable for 2WD cars. Continue on Fall River Road 7 miles to the trailhead on the right. There's limited parking at the trailhead - do your best to economize space.

Note that Fall River Road is only open in the summer (dates defined by snow cover), and may be closed due to weather or maintenance. Call ahead for the latest travel information.

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 had hiked the first 2 miles of this trail the week prior to this report. We hiked in on the Cache la Poudre trail (muddy, off-trail, near river) to Chapin Creek group site. We were visited by 4 moose near Chapin Creek in the evening, with at least one bull coming close to camp. For a change of pace, part of our group hiked out the Chapin Creek trail. (Note: this description follows the trail out to the trailhead) The "trail" comes and goes from the group campsite, requiring careful map reading to be sure you are crossing the right creeks as you proceed east-southeast up the west side of Chapin Creek to the large meadow area rounding Marmot Point. The trail roughly follows the edge of the forest and is well-used by animals, as noted above. The route through the valley is boggy and best traveled near forest edge also. The maintained trail 0.8 miles out at cross-country travel sign can be difficult to find on the way back due to deadfall, but just continue around until you reach the creek at the forest edge. From here, it's a steep climb up to the trail intersection with lots of deadfall to navigate. It seemed like there were more downed trees than the week prior but perhaps because I had a backpack this time vs. daypack. Wildflowers still abundant!"
Amy  -  Colorado  -  Date Posted: August 8, 2015
"Gary and I began our 5 day trek at Chapin Pass trailhead. Our destination was Mirror Lake and then return. The ranger at the backpack office recommended this starting point to give us flat landers a day to acclimate on flat terrain before the 2nd days climb up to Mirror Lake which is quite steep. At 1st we thought hiking the river bed trail would be boring. Not the case at all. Saw lot's of moose and elk even during the day. Camped about 4 miles in the 1st night in a campsite cluster of trees were two creeks converge. This is the best part since the elk are in rutting season. (Spelling?) That evening at near dusk we took our dinner (gorp and water) found a tall grassy spot near the creeks with sun at our back and downwind and sat for 2 hours watching the mating rituals of the elk. The males would 1st butt heads and then go chase a female sniffing running all around. The females off course wanted nothing to do with this and ran away. Then the males would find each other again, butt heads, and go look for another female. That night from our one man pup tents we heard the elk "bugle" calls until morning. Sounded like they were in camp with us. What a great beginning to a fantastic 5 days. Mirror Lake is another great story in itself. I'll post comments in that journey as we'll."
Mark Johnson  -  Rockford Ill  -  Date Posted: February 15, 2015

 

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