Cache La Poudre Trail, Poudre Lake Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Cache La Poudre Trail - 18.4 miles
Poudre Lake Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||18.4 miles (distance may vary by route)|
|Start-End Elevation:||10,747' - 9,753' (10,762' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||-994' net elevation loss (+2,582' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Cache La Poudre Trail - 18.4 Miles Round-Trip
The Cache La Poudre Trail begins at the Poudre Lake Trailhead on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. It follows the Cache La Poudre River 9.2 miles down a wide open valley to the Mummy Pass Trail junction, 1.3 miles from the Corral Creek Trailhead in the Comanche Peak Wilderness.
This lightly used trail offers excellent wildlife viewing, solitude and big open spaces. Mild terrain and modest elevation gains make the Cache La Poudre Trail achievable in a day, but consider camping overnight to fully explore and enjoy this immense river-valley corridor:
The trail begins north of Poudre Lake on the west side of the valley, and immediately drops to the west side of the headwater. It runs close to the forest edge, but mostly through open space on a gentle, rolling grade.
The first 4.5 miles are an unmaintained cross-country route between the river and forest. Despite that classification, the trail is fairly well-defined and intuitively followed. Hikers should have little trouble keeping track of their location given the distinct path it takes down valley and by the river.
The same path is used extensively by elk, which readily take this path of least-resistance. The trail loses clarity through 4.5 miles (10,338') as you pass a forested knoll on the west side of the valley - edge back down toward the river, and the trail will soon reappear.
You'll reach spurs for the Cache Campsite and Chapin Creek Campsite along a good section of trail (approx 5.25 miles and 5.5 miles from the trailhead). Note these signs may be in disrepair and difficult to see - if camping, anticipate these signs and use a map for guidance.
Here you'll notice the main valley narrowing, and branching into smaller valleys that run W-NW. The trail now runs through intervals of dense montane forest before emerging in a long, open area adjacent to the river (7.2 miles : 9,985').
It re-enters the forest on a high bank (8.25 miles), then drops to a willow-marsh along an oxbow (8.8 miles : 9,965'). Travel levels to the Mummy Pass Trail split at a major bridge (9.2 miles : 9,753').
The Mummy Pass Trail turns east over the bridge to the Hague Creek Campsite, located just above the confluence of Hague Creek and the Cache La Poudre. It continues 2.6 miles east to the Mirror Lake Trail junction. You may also hike another .5 miles from the Mummy Pass Trail split to the Park Boundary and Corral Creek Trailhead in the Comanche Peak Wilderness.
- N40 25.525 W105 48.316 — 0.0 miles : Cache La Poudre Trailhead
- N40 25.888 W105 48.097 — .5 miles : Rolling descent down upper west side of valley
- N40 26.189 W105 47.779 — 1.0 miles : Clear path weaves through forest fringe
- N40 26.457 W105 47.387 — 1.5 miles : Oscillate between forest and meadows
- N40 26.690 W105 46.911 — 2.0 miles : Variously defined trail
- N40 26.905 W105 46.458 — 2.5 miles : Steady descent down river river valley
- N40 27.212 W105 46.034 — 3.0 miles : Good view over oxbow in river
- N40 27.525 W105 45.700 — 3.5 miles : Travel in-out of forest
- N40 27.874 W105 45.357 — 4.0 miles : Big opening in mid-valley; edge down to river
- N40 28.124 W105 44.922 — 4.55 miles : Dispersed Camping sign #1
- N40 28.216 W105 44.608 — 5.0 miles : Trail closely follow river
- N40 28.286 W105 44.047 — 5.5 miles : Dispersed Camping sign #2
- N40 28.727 W105 44.111 — 6.0 miles : Dispersed Camping #3
- N40 29.232 W105 44.351 — 6.7 miles : Cross Creek
- N40 29.643 W105 44.258 — 7.15 miles : Emerge in open valley by river
- N40 30.153 W105 44.274 — 7.75 miles : Level travel through long meadow-valley
- N40 30.567 W105 44.326 — 8.25 miles : Trail weaves through thick timber
- N40 30.889 W105 44.488 — 8.8 miles : Marshy meadow on river bank
- N40 31.126 W105 44.611 — 9.2 miles : End trail at Mummy Pass Trail split
- Flatiron Mountain (12,335') is the most prominent peak on the skyline, visible much of the way.
- The first 4.5 miles of trail pass through a Cross Country Travel Zone, meaning that significant portions are unmaintained and unmarked. Despite this classification by the NPS, the trail is relatively easy to follow.
- Staying close to and following the river through unidentifiable segments will ensure that you stay on course and regain the trail when it becomes more visible.
- The first few miles can be muddy year-round, obscuring the established route.
- While there is only a small net elevation loss relative to the trail's total distance, there are frequent minor elevation changes along the way that, in aggregate, add to the hike's overall difficulty.
- Look for elk, moose, deer, bear, mountain lion, fox and coyote along this trail. Elk and moose are particularly common.
Directions to Trailhead
The Poudre Lake Trailhead (Cache La Poudre River Trail) is located 24.5 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station on Trail Ridge Road. There is parking at Poudre Lake on the east side of the road, and a turnoff with space for a few cars where the trail begins on the west side of the road.
Coming from the Kawuneeche Entrance Station, take Highway 34 north approximately 12 miles until you reach Poudre Lake on the right.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Comanche Peak Wilderness Area
Canyon Lakes Ranger District
2150 Centre Ave. Bldg. E Fort Collins, CO 80526
Monday - Friday 8:00 am -5:00 pm