Missouri Pass - Fancy Pass Loop, Missouri Lakes Trailhead - Fancy Creek Trailhead, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado

Missouri Pass - Fancy Pass Loop - 8.8 miles

Missouri Lakes Trailhead - Fancy Creek Trailhead

View from Missouri Pass over the Missouri Lakes basin

View from Missouri Pass over the Missouri Lakes basin

Round-Trip Length: 8.8 miles (distance may vary slightly by route)
Start-End Elevation: 10,010' - 12,390' (max elevation on Fancy Pass)
Elevation Change: +2,380' net elevation gain (+2,740' total elevation gain on loop)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Missouri Pass - Fancy Pass Loop - 8.8 Miles Round-Trip

The Missouri Lakes and Fancy Creek trails form an 8.8 mile loop highlighted by several lakes and airy alpine landscapes between Missouri Pass (11,986’) and Fancy Pass (12,390’).

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

This feature-filled hike is one of the most popular backpacking routes in the Holy Cross, with access to the Missouri Lakes, Treasure Vault Lake, Fancy Lake and numerous tarns above treeline.

Terrain is generally moderate, but two steep pass climbs and descents give this a more difficult rating. The following description begins on the Missouri Lakes Trail and travels clockwise on the loop:

The trail begins on a mild grade that steepens past .5 miles to the Holy Cross Wilderness Boundary (.93 miles : 10,360’). It rises to a bridge over the creek (1.1 miles : 10,468’), where grades pick up considerably along the rim of a deep, narrow gorge.

The trail crosses back over the creek (1.35 miles) and levels around a large, marshy meadow with views of Savage Peak and a diverse collection of flowers (1.5 miles : 10,805’).

It circles the meadow and funnels into the upper gorge right along the creek (2.0 miles : 10,987’), then moderates away in a thinning subalpine forest (2.5 miles : 11,170’).

Look for a sparingly-marked social trail between 2.7-2.8 miles that veers SW along a creek to the first Missouri Lake. This is a compelling destination that few visitors see, and great choice for backpackers on busy weekends.

The main trail continues on variously rugged and moderate intervals into the upper valley, where the landscape opens to Lower Missouri Lake (3.15 miles : 11,410’). Gentle terrain, ponds and streams complement this idyllic setting.

It pitches up through treeline to Upper Missouri Lake in a wide, level basin below the pass (3.5 miles : 11,502’). Turn left and follow the shore clockwise. The trail undulates around the lake and over the inlet to a large tarn (3.85 miles : 11,535’), where it turns sharply on a 450’ - .5 mile climb to Missouri Pass (4.35 miles : 11,986’).

Views from the pass are stunning, highlighted by Treasure Vault Lake, Blodgett Lake and distant Middle Mountain ridge. The trail drops quickly off the pass through high alpine meadows to the Cross Creek Trail – Fancy Creek Trail junction (4.7 miles : 11,802’). 

Treasure Vault Lake is an easy .4 mile roundtrip excursion, but be mindful of time and weather with one more pass to climb. Also note that trails may be faint leading to and past the intersection; a good map and understanding of the route will help avoid confusion.

The Fancy Creek Trail turns toward Fancy Pass, a rocky notch in the NE corner of the basin. It rises gently across rolling slopes, then steepens over talus up to Fancy Pass (5.45 miles : 12,390’).

Views once again are exceptional, with a chance to survey the markedly steeper descent into the Fancy Creek drainage. The drainage is quite different from the Missouri side, notably narrower, deeper and topped by rugged crags.

The trail drops sharply through a rocky chute that gradually moderates to the edge of treeline with great views over Fancy Lake.

It reaches the Holy Cross City Trail split at 6.05 miles (11,560’), turns right across a creek and twists down to the open east side of Fancy Lake (6.15 miles : 11,540’). The lake fills a steep-walled bowl at treeline, which takes a little more effort to explore than the Missouri cluster.

The trail continues steeply from Fancy Lake on tightly wound corkscrews into a thick forest. Pay close attention on this fast, shifting descent. Travel gradually moderates to a sloping meadow and a vaguely marked creek crossing at 6.67 miles (11,145’). Anticipate this point, as it’s easy to miss.

Travel clarifies once over the creek on a much steadier descent through a pleasant (if nondescript) forest. It’s generally removed from the creek before crossing a wide section of it on Zen Bridge (8.0 miles : 10,455’). The bridge can be slippery, especially with a heavy pack.

The trail undulates past the bridge up to the Holy Cross Wilderness Boundary (8.6 miles), and down to the Fancy Creek Trailhead to complete the loop (8.8 miles : 10,017’).

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 23.390 W106 28.257 — 0.0 miles : Missouri Lakes Trailhead
  • N39 23.140 W106 28.671 — .5 miles : Fast travel on mild grade
  • N39 23.154 W106 29.070 — .93 miles : Holy Cross Wilderness Boundary
  • N39 23.306 W106 29.457 — 1.5 miles : Trail levels around scenic meadow
  • N39 23.439 W106 29.781 — 2.0 miles : Trail steepens through narrow gorge
  • N39 23.418 W106 30.253 — 2.5 miles : Travel moderates in thinning forest
  • N39 23.485 W106 30.851 — 3.15 miles : Lower Missouri Lake (11,410')
  • N39 23.698 W106 30.731 — 3.5 miles : Upper Missouri Lake (11,502')
  • N39 23.923 W106 30.866 — 3.85 miles : Skirt edge of large tarn under Pass
  • N39 24.226 W106 31.008 — 4.35 miles : Missouri Pass (11,986')
  • N39 24.496 W106 30.996 — 4.7 miles : Missouri Lakes - Cross Creek - Fancy Creek Trail split
  • N39 24.690 W106 30.572 — 5.2 miles : Steady rise toward Fancy Pass
  • N39 24.638 W106 30.399 — 5.45 miles : Fancy Pass (12,390')
  • N39 24.496 W106 29.810 — 6.05 miles : Fancy Creek - Holy Cross City Trail split
  • N39 24.466 W106 29.894 — 6.15 miles : Fancy Lake (11,540')
  • N39 24.353 W106 29.581 — 6.67 miles : Steep descent to creek crossing
  • N39 24.217 W106 29.156 — 7.2 miles : Travel moderates in thick forest
  • N39 23.888 W106 28.583 — 8.0 miles : Cross Fancy Creek on Zen Bridge
  • N39 23.580 W106 28.265 — 8.6 miles : Holy Cross Wilderness Boundary
  • N39 23.445 W106 28.237 — 8.8 miles : Fancy Creek Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • Trails on each side of the Missouri Lakes - Cross Creek - Fancy Lake intersection are fairly faint, and can be difficult to discern from each other, especially with lingering snow or if the sign is in disrepair. While navigation is fairly intuitive on this part of the hike, carry a good map and understand the route before setting out to avoid confusion between the passes.
  • The Missouri Lakes and Fancy Creek trails see many visitors, especially on summer weekends. Arrive early to secure choice campsites at the lakes.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area. Self-registration permits are available at the trailhead and/or Wilderness Boundary. There is no fee or limit to the number of permits issued. Backpackers must carry a completed registration form with them for the duration of the trip.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.

  • Campfires are not permitted in the Missouri Creek and Fancy Creek basins (this includes each trail corridor and anywhere on the loop).

  • Campfires are otherwise permitted in the Holy Cross Wilderness for dispersed camping in the backcountry, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any lake or stream in the Holy Cross Wilderness.

  • Gold Camp is a developed campground on Homestake Road. There are also many undeveloped campsites along Homestake Road with no fees. These are not marked but the turnoffs for each are fairly clear. Be mindful of adjacent private property.

  • Contact the Holy Cross Ranger District (970.827.5715) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip. The office is open M - F from 8am - 4pm.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted at the Missouri Lakes, Treasure Vault Lake, Fancy Lake and all creeks in the watershed with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Campfires are not permitted in the Missouri Creek and Fancy Creek basins (this includes each trail corridor and anywhere on the loop).
  • Dogs must be leashed or under strict voice control at all times.

Directions to Trailhead

The Missouri Lakes - Fancy Creek Trailhead is located on Missouri Creek Road, 9.8 miles west of Highway 24.

From I-70, take Exit 171 (just west of West Vail) and follow Highway 24 south for 12.4 miles to Homestake Road (right turn). Anticipate this turn, as it comes quickly on a bend in the road.

Take Homestake Road 7.6 miles to Missouri Creek Road - turn right. Follow this road 2.2 miles to the parking area for each trailhead. The trailheads are located several dozen yards apart in the same parking lot (Missouri is to the left, Fancy to the right).

Homestake and Missouri Creek roads are on graded dirt suitable for all vehicles. The final 2.2 miles are nominally rougher and narrower. Watch for wildlife on the road, especially moose at dawn and dusk. Spaces are limited but roadside parking is permitted in designated areas.

Contact Information

Holy Cross Ranger District
24747 US Highway 24
Minturn, CO 81645
970.827.5715

White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602
970.945.2521

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.



Comments

"Made it almost to the pass. Still at least 2ft of snow blocking the pass."
Christie  -  Denver  -  Date Posted: July 2, 2016

 

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