7 Best Day Hikes in Colorado’s Flat Tops Wilderness

Stillwater Reservoir, en route to the Causeway in the Flat Tops Wilderness of Colorado

Stillwater Reservoir, en route to the Causeway

Colorado’s Flat Tops Wilderness is an overlooked gem.  Overshadowed by more prominent mountains to the east (Rocky Mountain National Park) and south (Rockies; think Aspen, Glenwood Springs, etc.), the “busy” parts of the wilderness see several hundred visitors each year.

 



 

Cliffs near the Causeway, Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado

Cliffs near the Causeway

But the Flat Tops are beautiful – deep lake basins give way to sheer cliffs; atop the cliffs, grasses and wildflowers grow in abundance, with dimpled lakes and higher cliffy peaks rising out of the grasslands.  I’ve long compared the views to something out of an Andrew Wyeth painting, namely, Christina’s World.

Below Amphitheatre Peak, Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado

Below Amphitheatre Peak

While most trails in the Flat Tops Wilderness are backpacking-worthy, there are some shorter trails – or parts of trails that have good destinations within a few miles of the trailhead – that cater to adventure-seeking day hikers.  Some trails even lead to lakes, which are quite popular with anglers (permit required; contact the Colorado Division of Wildlife).

Views down from the Flat Tops on the Causeway Loop, Colorado

Views down from the Flat Tops on the Causeway Loop

7 Best Day Hikes in the Flat Tops Wilderness

 

The Causeway, Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado

The Causeway

The Causeway.  The “busiest” section of the Flat Tops, the Causeway is certainly one of the most impressive features of the area.  The trail wanders along picturesque Stillwater Reservoir, then climbs past an alpine lake to ascend to the Flat Tops Proper, and ends at a narrow rock bridge between two highland areas.  Those without vertigo, with a good sense of balance, and with maybe just a little bit of insanity can cross the 3ft.-wide-500ft.-drop-on-either-side Causeway. 6.0 miles out & back; Stillwater Reservoir Trailhead

 

Walking the Chinese Wall Trail near the Causeway, Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado

Walking the highlands, between the earth and sky…

Causeway Loop. Crossed the Causeway once, but don’t want to go back across?  The good news is that it’s a beautiful trek across the Flat Top highlands, and then through the valley, back to the parking area. 9.5 miles loop; Stillwater Reservoir Trailhead

 

Along the Lost Lakes Peaks Trail in the Flat Tops Wilderness of Colorado

Along the Lost Lakes Peaks Trail

Chinese Wall Trail to the Lost Lakes Peaks.  If you’re feeling energetic while on the Causeway Loop, you can turn right, off-trail, on the (nearly non-existent) Chinese Wall Trail.  It’s mostly a wander through grasslands, with occasional cairns, to the Lost Lakes Peaks and views over the edge down on lakes and valleys.  13+ miles loop with side spur; Stillwater Reservoir Trailhead

 

Views across Pyramid Peak, Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado

Views across Pyramid Peak

Pyramid Peak.  If off-trail adventures are your forte, check out Pyramid Peak.  The route follows a trail, then strikes off up the ridgeline to views of Flat Top cliffs, lakes, and more. About 9 miles out & back; Sheriff Reservoir Trailhead

 

Spring Lake along the Sand Creek Trail, Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado

Spring Lake along the Sand Creek Trail

Sand Creek Trail.  If you like alpine lakes, you’ll love the Sand Creek Trail.  It’s also the shortest route on this list, and you’ll have a decent trail the entire way, past four lakes and a reservoir at the trailhead.  Wildflowers are quite nice early in the summer months. 4 miles out & back

 

Views of Trappers Peak and more from the Himes Peak area, Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado

Views of Trappers Peak and more from the Himes Peak area

Himes Peak.  Another off-trail adventure, this one takes you across grassy flatlands, over a dinosaur back-like rib of rock, and finally down through a fire-ravaged forest.  But along the way, you’ll see many cliffs, peaks, and valleys – all of them quite beautiful.  It’s adventure in its truest sense. About 6.5 miles loop; Trapper’s Lake Trailhead

 

Trappers Peak and Wall Lake from Amphitheatre Peak. This doesn't include the fantastic views over Trappers Lake. Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado

Trappers Peak and Wall Lake from Amphitheatre Peak. This doesn’t include the fantastic views over Trappers Lake.

Amphitheatre Peak. This (along with the Causeway Loop) is one of my favorite views in the Flat Tops.  There is a section of off-trail to get to the peak, but the views of Trapper’s Lake, the Chinese Wall, Trapper’s Peak, and so much more is totally breathtaking!  About 10 miles out & back or Lollipop Loop; Trapper’s Lake Trailhead

 

Bonus!

This is a tarn, not Wall Lake, but you get the idea of the views, Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado

This is a tarn, not Wall Lake, but you get the idea of the views

Not feeling like leaving the trail to Amphitheatre Peak?  Continue to Wall Lake.  10 miles out & back; Trappers Lake Trailhead (the link is a route to both Wall Lake and up Trappers Peak – I can’t imagine it’s nicer than Amphitheatre Peak, but it’s probably worth the climb!)

 

That's Flat Top Mountain extending into the sky on the left, Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado

That’s Flat Top Mountain extending into the sky on the left

Flat Top Mountain.  This is on my to-do list someday.  The views over the edges are incredible! 8.6 miles out & back; Stillwater Reservoir Trailhead

 

The Important Info

Fees: None

Permits: None; see this link about camping, etc.

Notes: Summer monsoon thundershowers roll in about noon during July and August.  The wilderness is extremely isolated; stock up on gas and groceries before driving to the trailheads.  Hunting is allowed during the fall months.

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For more hikes in the Flat Tops Wilderness, check out this guide.

 

 




2 thoughts on “7 Best Day Hikes in Colorado’s Flat Tops Wilderness

  1. Joanna

    Good post Anne! Looks like I’m going to have to add another mountain range to my bucket list 😉 Keep up the great work!