Directions: From I-70, take the "No Name" exit between Bakersville and the exit for Loveland Pass and turn right (following signs for Hermit Gulch) into the large parking area and trailhead.
The Watrous Gulch Trail is a little know secret...right next to one of the most popular trails in the Front Range. The trail explores a peaceful and gentle gulch with tremendous views of the surrounding mountains, wildflowers, and cascading creeks. Easily accessed off of I-70, this trail is too often overlooked...which might just be a good thing...
The trail starts from the very popular Herman Gulch Tralihead. On summer weekends the large parking lot fills up quickly but worry not, 80% of the people parked here are hiking to Herman Lake, not Watrous Gulch.
From the trailhead it is just a few minutes walk to the junction with the Herman Gulch Trail, turn right for the Watrous Gulch Trail. The trail skirts the side of the mountain rambling through beautiful Aspen groves and clearings filled with downed trees. The views of the surrounding mountains is almost immediate with Mount Sniktau 13,324 ft rising to the southwest and Torreys Peak 14,267 ft rising to the southeast. These two behemoths will accompany you on the entire trek.
After you've traversed a few aspen groves, the trail turns to the north and steeply enters Watrous Gulch. Before too long the gentle summit of Mount Parnassus 13,574 ft comes into view. The trail climbs the mellow gulch parallel to the creek which you need to cross just before the Bard Creek Trail junction at 1.5 miles. Bear left at the junction continuing up Watrous Gulch. After you've passed through some pine forests you'll see Woods Mountain 12,954 ft at the head of the gulch. Keep hiking up the gulch and make sure to turn around from time to time for amazing views of Torreys and Sniktau across I-70.
At 2.3 miles, the trail fades and ends at a grassy hillside above the willows. This is a great spot to rest, relax, and take in the down-gulch views before heading back the way you came. For those of you who are craving more adventure, you can climb up the gulch to the saddle between Woods Mountain and Mount Parnassus and then up to either peak without too much trouble. Be sure to spread out and not trample any wildflowers or alpine vegetation on your way up...
Perhaps the best part of Watrous Gulch is that you will probably be hiking in relative solitude. There will be other hikers here (especially in summer of fall weekends) but nothing close to the amount of people who hike to Herman Gulch on the weekends. That being said, Herman Gulch is also a spectacular hike and please don't avoid it simply because you'll have to share it with other hikers...we all need to share...
HIKES BY REGION
NATIONAL PARK HIKES
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- GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
- HOVENWEEP NATIONAL MONUMENT
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- HIKES BY CATEGORY
- $UPPORT GHC
- INTERACTIVE MAP
Watrous Gulch Trail
Arapaho National Forest
Date Hiked: July 21, 2019
Distance: 4.6 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 1,500 ft
Elevation Min/Max: 10,276 to 11,701 ft
Trailhead Lat/Long: 39º 42' 09" N; 105º 51' 15" W
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service