Parika Lake, Bowen-Baker Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Parika Lake - 11.2 miles

Bowen-Baker Trailhead

Parika Lake in the Never Summer Wilderness

Parika Lake in the Never Summer Wilderness

Round-Trip Length: 11.2 miles
Start-End Elevation: 8,864' - 11,360' (11,371' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +2,496' net elevation gain (+2,736' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Parika Lake - 11.2 Miles Round-Trip

Parika Lake (11,360') is located 5.6 miles from Bowen-Baker Trailhead in the Never Summer Wilderness. This small but scenic lake is ringed by alpine meadows and terraces under Parika Peak (12,394') and Fairview Mt (12,246') just east of the Divide.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Baker Gulch Trail runs 4.35 miles to the Baker Pass - Parika Lake split, where the Parika Lake Trail veers west and steepens through treeline to the open basin.

The trail continues over the lake to a saddle between Parika and Fairview and joins the CDT, which can be taken south to Bowen Lake and back to Bowen Baker Trailhead for a ~20 mile loop across the Never Summer.

Note: The trail begins in Rocky Mountain National Park and entrance fees apply. No fee or permit is required to camp in the Never Summer Wilderness. Dogs are not permitted in RMNP, but it's generally accepted that those heading into the NSW can walk the short distance with their leashed pets across the Park - Wilderness boundary.

A service road heads west from Bowen-Baker Trailhead across Kawuneeche Valley to the Bowen Gulch - Baker Gulch split (.3 miles); turn right on Baker Gulch to the Never Summer Wilderness Boundary (.7 miles). Dispersed camping is permitted beyond this point and you'll find several good sites along the creek.

The trail moves quickly through a beetle-marred forest with many small, verdant glades (1.5 miles : 9,240'). Grades steepen briefly through 2.45 miles, then ease across open talus with upper valley views (2.9 miles : 9,790').

It re-enters the forest and makes a short, steep push up the north valley wall into the lower subalpine (3.5 miles : 10,160'). Travel steepens again to Grand Ditch Road (3.8 miles : 10,310'); turn left then immediately right over a log bridge to regain the trail (3.82 miles). This bridge has some flex to it - backpackers should cross one at a time.

The trail rises steadily through an open subalpine forest with large meadows and crosses a creek to the Parika Lake - Baker Pass Trail split (4.35 miles : 10,470').

The Parika Lake Trail splits left across an avalanche-swept area and can be difficult to follow for a short distance. Pick through debris and cross a creek to regain the trail.

It steepens in a thinning forest to a grassy bench and the perimeter of a large pond (5.1 miles : 11,025'), a good place to find flowers, wildlife and places to camp.

A final steep push twists through treeline and moderates along the outlet to Parika Lake (5.6 miles : 11,360'). Though relatively small, open, gentle terrain rings the lake with ample room for crowds and campers to disperse.

Look for goats and sheep on the slopes and ridges above. Views back east into Rocky Mountain National Park are exceptional, especially with afternoon light.

Extend travel by continuing over the lake to the saddle between Fairview and Parika, from which you can summit either peak or drop down the west side of the Divide and join the CDT.

Another great option for extended travel follows the unmarked Baker Pass Trail on a sparingly marked alpine traverse to Baker Pass.

This trail / route splits off the Parika Lake Trail just .2 miles before reaching the lake, and is (currently) only marked by a large anonymous cairn (GPS Point #17). From Baker Pass you can return via the Baker Gulch Trail to the Parika Lake - Baker Pass Trail split to form a 14.9 lollipop loop (described here | see map route).

The Baker Pass Trail is scheduled for 2017 - 2018 maintenance, which should help clarify the route. Only experienced hikers should attempt the route in its current state. Contact the Sulphur Ranger District for status (970.887.4100).

Illustration of bighorn sheep

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 21.290 W105 51.471 — 0.0 miles : Bowen - Baker Trailhead
  • N40 21.368 W105 51.754 — .3 miles : Bowen - Baker Gulch Trail split
  • N40 21.553 W105 52.115 — .7 miles : Never Summer Wilderness Boundary
  • N40 21.659 W105 52.406 — 1.0 miles : Fast, level travel
  • N40 21.925 W105 52.792 — 1.5 miles : Moderate climb in forest with glades
  • N40 21.925 W105 53.206 — 2.0 miles : Moderate climb in forest with glades
  • N40 22.065 W105 53.669 — 2.5 miles : Steep segment up to 2.5 miles
  • N40 22.234 W105 54.158 — 3.0 miles : Cross open talus and re-enter forest
  • N40 22.283 W105 54.609 — 3.5 miles : Steep push into subalpine forest
  • N40 22.394 W105 54.873 — 3.8 miles : Turn left on road
  • N40 22.416 W105 54.890 — 3.82 miles : Cross bridge to trail
  • N40 22.538 W105 54.962 — 4.0 miles : Moderate travel in open subalpine
  • N40 22.643 W105 55.233 — 4.35 miles : Parika Lake - Baker Pass split
  • N40 22.719 W105 55.361 — 4.6 miles : Steep climb in open subalpine forest
  • N40 22.804 W105 55.781 — 5.1 miles : Level near large pond
  • N40 22.838 W105 55.841 — 5.2 miles : Begin steep climb to lake
  • N40 22.912 W105 55.993 — 5.4 miles : Baker Pass Trail split (unmarked)
  • N40 22.900 W105 56.207 — 5.6 miles : Parika Lake

Worth Noting

  • Despite its inhospitable name, the Never Summer Wilderness features exceptional bio-diversity and some of the best alpine scenery accessible within or from Rocky Mountain National Park. The range's position and prominence captures above-average moisture, which supports some of the largest and oldest spruce-fir forests in the area.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping in the Never Summer Wilderness

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Never Summer Wilderness. No fee or permit is required.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any trail, lake, stream or road. Group size is limited to 15 individuals (people + dogs and stock combined).

  • Campfires are permitted in the Never Summer Wilderness below 10,800'. Campfires are not permitted within 1/2 mile of Parika Lake.
  • Use established sites whenever possible to minimize impact. Practice strict Leave No Trace camping.
  • Contact the Sulphur Ranger District (970.887.4100) or Rocky Mountain National Park (970.586.1242) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip.

Backcountry Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • 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.
  • There's a $26 fee to backcountry camp in Rocky Mountain National Park (May 1 - October 31). This administrative fee covers each party (defined as an individual or group) for the duration of the trip. Note that park entrance fees are applied separately and in full.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted in Parika Lake, Bowen Lake, Baker Gulch and Bowen Gulch with a valid Colorado fishing license. Contact the Colorado Division of Wildlife or Rocky Mountain National Park to learn more about fishing the Colorado River within RMNP, and special restrictions that apply to greenback cutthroat trout.

Rules and Regulations

  • A $20 Day Use Fee is required to enter Rocky Mountain National Park (or $30 for a 7 Day Pass).
  • Dogs are not permitted on hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, however they are allowed on all trails in the Never Summer Wilderness. Dogs must be under control at all times in the NSW.
  • Fires are not permitted within 1/2 mile of Parika Lake.

Directions to Trailhead

The Bowen - Baker Trailhead is located 6.7 miles north of the Kawuneeche Entrance Station on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The trailhead is on the west side of the road.

Coming from Estes Park, the Bowen Baker trailhead is approx 10.6 miles south of Milner Pass.

Limited roadside parking is available when the lot is full.

Contact Information

Sulphur Ranger District
9 Ten Mile Drive
P.O. Box 10
Granby, Colorado 80446

Rocky Mountain National Park
Visitor Information:

Backcountry Office:

Campground Reservations:

Emergency Dispatch:

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"The trail is 99% clear up to the lake, and on to the divide. The lake is beautiful and set in big alpine space, but lots of people camping around it makes it feel less 'remote' than it really is. Really gorgeous and recommended."
Russell Hanover  -  Boulder  -  Date Posted: June 25, 2018
"Gorgeous hike. After the trail split (Baker Pass/Parika Lake) the trail becomes not navigable unless you have a compass/GPS, knee deep snow all the way up to the lake. ABSOLUTELY gorgeous though. There were bear tracks (not sure how recent) in places. Baker Pass was also completely not navigable after about twenty-minutes, lots of deadfall and deep snow. Cheers, Robby"
Robby  -  -  Date Posted: October 23, 2017
"Very nice hike through varying terrain to an accessible lake shore that's fun to explore. Aside from some very muddy areas, the trail was in great shape and was never terribly difficult, although the last 1.5 miles or so were deceptively strenuous, but totally worth it. Our group had the lake to ourselves, which is one of the other attractions of this less-well-known hike."
Alex C  -  Denver, CO  -  Date Posted: August 27, 2017
"Don't be fooled. This is pretty darn strenuous, but very worth it. Hiked to Parika Lake to camp 1 night. Started to rain the last mile. There were 3 groups already there when we arrived, but there is plenty of spots to tent. A male moose showed up at dusk to survey our campsite and we saw a mama and her baby on the trail. Beautiful in the morning and well worth the trip. So many wildflowers on the trail, larkspur, columbine, etc. There is a pretty significant rock slide area and when ran into horseback riders who had to turn around there. Not sure why they thought they could ride through there! Tons of clean water, so I wished I had carried less. We crossed 28 streams. Some mud as well."
Helen  -  Boulder, CO  -  Date Posted: August 1, 2017
"The trail is mostly clear except for a few easy snow patches that are probably gone by now. Avalanche damage at the Parika Lake - Baker Pass Trail split is pretty extensive and can be tricky to get through, especially on the way down. Pay attention to how you get through it on the way up. Otherwise the trail is beautiful and in great shape. I was surprised (maybe I shouldn't have been) at how many people were at the lake - probably a dozen or more groups camping there. Next time I'll leave earlier and definitely avoid holiday weekends."
Benjamin Hearst  -  Denver  -  Date Posted: July 5, 2017
"Great quick overnight trip! I don't think the author does the scenery justice. We camped the weekend following Labor Day to avoid crowds on I70 and near the park. There were a few groups camping around the lake, but it did not feel crowded. About the hike: About an hour or so into the hike there is a great rock outcropping spot perfect for lunch. Be sure when you get to the Grand Ditch service road you "veer" left only briefly. We were not looking across the ditch (right) and missed the sign to Baker Gulch Trail. We ended up walking to the dead end of the service road, which added some length to our journey up. We camped at a spot just below the lake, which had great views of the peaks looking into RMNP. I would love to go back and do a longer loop of the area. "
Sarina  -  Denver, CO  -  Date Posted: September 14, 2015


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