Overnight Backpacking Indian Peaks Wilderness or Similar

Mako231

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Mar 29, 2021
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Hello, and thank you for reading and any input!

Looking to make a quick trip out to CO (from Iowa) to do an overnight backpacking trip. Given the RMNP lottery this year, I did not get drawn for a permit and looking for an alternative. I have been looking at the IPW and trying to find a spot to go to. Really looking for alpine lakes and exposure. I really like the look of Dorothy Lake and the Neva Lakes; it appears both are in the Neva BZ for permits? A couple of questions around these lakes:

Is there an option to camp relatively close to Dorothy, or is it suggested to camp further away and closer to treeline?

I saw that there is not discernable trail to Neva Lakes, is this true? If not, similar to above is the a spot to pitch a tent relatively close to the lakes?

Finally, are there any alternatives you would recommend? I will unfortunately have to come Labor day weekend and our up to camp day is Friday.

-Nick
 

marmot_boi

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Neva and Dorothy lakes are both nice destinations. I wouldn't suggest camping very close to either since it gets very windy up there, it would be a lot more pleasant to sleep in the trees or krummholz in the basin below.
There isn't a real trail to Neva lakes but it is not difficult to navigate to them off trail.
If you can't get a permit for Labor day (Arapaho Pass and surroundings is a popular area), you could also check out some other areas in the IPW (Middle St. Vrain, Coney Creek, Devil's Thumb BZ to name a few) or try the Rawah wilderness or the Eagles Nest Wilderness, neither of which require permits.
 

JBG

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Nick,

How many days do you have to hike and what is your skill level? If you have the time, there is a FANTASTIC hike that goes up Pawnee Pass, down past (or to) Crater Lake, then up to Fox Park, and over and out via Buchanan Pass. If you have about four days, it is so worth it. A hard trek, but beautiful...
 

Mako231

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Nick,

How many days do you have to hike and what is your skill level? If you have the time, there is a FANTASTIC hike that goes up Pawnee Pass, down past (or to) Crater Lake, then up to Fox Park, and over and out via Buchanan Pass. If you have about four days, it is so worth it. A hard trek, but beautiful...
I am an experienced backpacker with proper gear too. That being said, my buddy is not as capable though certainly willing to try. The largest hurdle is the amount of time we have. Really looking for an overnighter, may be able to stretch to 2 nights.
 

Wanderlust073

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I hate permits/lotteries but there is still availability for that weekend in IPW and as pretty as the Rawah is I'd suggest you stick with your first thought as far as general destination. We hit the Rawah on the first day following Labor Day a couple years ago and the amount of people hiking out of it was insane. I can only imagine how bad it will be now since every outdoor destination here seems to be 10x as crowded.

I'd get the IPW permit for one zone or the other before it's gone and figure out route details after the fact.
 

marmot_boi

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I am an experienced backpacker with proper gear too. That being said, my buddy is not as capable though certainly willing to try. The largest hurdle is the amount of time we have. Really looking for an overnighter, may be able to stretch to 2 nights.
In that case I would not recommend the Pawnee-Buchanan loop.
You could also look at doing Columbine Lake via Lake Dorothy and Caribou Pass, the trail between Arapaho and Caribou passes offers fantastic views.
 

Mako231

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Thanks for everyone's valuable input. I snagged a Neva BZ permit for 2 nights. From what I can tell Lake Dorothy falls in that zone and @marmot_boi 's suggestion of Columbine is of interest, but our campsite would have to be before Dorothy (Columbine permit quota full). Given that, I am leaning towards Neva Lakes. Alternatively, Gore Lake in Eagles Nest has more of the mileage.

Though subjective what would be your top choice?
 

marmot_boi

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I would lean towards Neva Lakes, simply because they are off-trail and won't see many people (and you already paid the $11). Gore Lake will no doubt be crowded on Labor Day weekend.
 

Mako231

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Resurrecting this again. What about King Lake as an overnight in IPW? It appears that a tent could be pitched relatively near the lake, there is more mileage involved too. Anyone used this as an overnighter? Thanks!
 

marmot_boi

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I've been to King Lake. The lake itself is not great for camping since it's pretty exposed to the wind, but there is an excellent spot at a pond just north of the lake. Personally I think that pond is a bit more scenic than King Lake anyway.
King Lake is very convenient to the continental divide, so if you go, make sure to take a quick excursion up there for a good view.
 

RyanP

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I've been to King Lake. The lake itself is not great for camping since it's pretty exposed to the wind, but there is an excellent spot at a pond just north of the lake. Personally I think that pond is a bit more scenic than King Lake anyway.
King Lake is very convenient to the continental divide, so if you go, make sure to take a quick excursion up there for a good view.
There is also some good camping up near Betty Lake
 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
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Mar 1, 2015
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I hate permits/lotteries but there is still availability for that weekend in IPW and as pretty as the Rawah is I'd suggest you stick with your first thought as far as general destination. We hit the Rawah on the first day following Labor Day a couple years ago and the amount of people hiking out of it was insane. I can only imagine how bad it will be now since every outdoor destination here seems to be 10x as crowded.

I'd get the IPW permit for one zone or the other before it's gone and figure out route details after the fact.
Yeah, everywhere that fits your criteria will be super crowded on Labor Day weekend; I second the suggestion to get somewhere with a permit if possible. We did the classic Rawah lakes loop last summer and it was quite crowded (as in, tough to find available campsites at all). Other similar places that used to be hidden gems will also be mobbed this upcoming Labor Day. Normally I wouldn't recommend RMNP over many of the other wilderness areas in the region that are better for backpacking, but with the COVID crowds I actually applied for a Labor Day RMNP permit myself this year (and failed to get it).
 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
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Mar 1, 2015
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King Lake is very convenient to the continental divide, so if you go, make sure to take a quick excursion up there for a good view.
I agree. Although if you're going to get up on the divide, you may as well loop back via Devil's Thumb Pass and Jasper Lake/etc. At that point it wouldn't be much additional work at all and would enable you to do a loop (I did this loop with my two kids, ages 10 and 12, last year, and we loved it!). Are there still permits available for that area though?
 
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