A challenging, high-alpine out-and-back hike along the tundra of the Continental Divide, with sweeping vistas from every angle!
This hike starts with a series of switchbacks through the forest as you climb up to the treeline. Once out of the woods, enjoy stunning mountain views as you hike the Continental Divide trail through the tundra's alpine meadows, passing wildflowers, marmots, pikas, and even bighorn sheep! The ascent ends with a challenging final push through the scree-field at the top Mt Ida, before being rewarded with a 360-degree panorama from the summit. Then, turn around and head back down the way you came!
Slow and steady wins the race! This hike is almost entirely above 11,000 feet, so give yourself plenty of time (and snacks!) to hike at your own pace.
While the trail itself on this hike is very moderate in difficulty, the entire hike is made more difficult by being almost entirely over 11,000ft (3350m) in elevation, reaching nearly 13,000ft (3950m). Be sure to hike with more water and snacks than you usually need, and start as early as you can to give yourself plenty of time to complete the hike. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of altitude sickness, and know your own limits! This hike has stunning views throughout the entire trail, so you can turn around and head back to the trailhead at any point.
As you will be hiking in a high-alpine environment, there will be unique and exciting opportunities to view wildlife. Whether it's a little marmot or a bighorn sheep, give all wildlife a wide berth. If there's an animal on the trail, do not approach; keep your distance, and wait for the animal to move on before continuing.
Tips, hints and links
Points of interest
The trailhead of today's hike is right next to Poudre Lake, which is the source of the Cache la Poudre River that flows all the way down to Fort Collins, and onward to join the South Platte River in eastern Colorado. This river is famous for trout fishing (look for native cutthroat trout swimming in the lake!), and for whitewater kayaking and rafting in the spring and summer.
Azure & Inkwell Lakes
From the summit of Mt Ida, you'll have a beautiful view of two seasonal alpine lakes: Azure and Inkwell. These two lakes are nowhere to be seen for most of the year; only in late spring, early summer does the snow and ice give way to these two beautiful lakes framed by Mt Ida.
Food & Drink
Stock up on food and water before you start the hike! Carry at least 2 litres of water per person, along with snacks and a packed lunch. Grand Lake is the only place to stock up before you start the hike, so make sure to stop by a market or grocery store before leaving town.
We recommend wearing hiking boots that are well broken-in, plus a rain jacket and waterproof trousers in wet weather, as well as taking sun cream and a hat on nicer days.