This 2-day backpacking trip is easily accessible from Denver, but is less-frequented enough that you could go a few miles without running into a fellow hiker.

Day 1:
Park at the Payne Creek/Brookside Trailhead (8,040 ft.) right outside Bailey. You'll go on the trail for about a mile before the trail parts to Craig Meadows or Craig Park. If you start this in the nighttime, it's best to camp before you part ways on the trail as it's a little more spacious once the trail divides. However, assuming you start in the daytime, head left to go toward Craig Meadows and climb an old logging road. Once you get to an aspen grove, this is a great spot to take a break. When you get to Craig Creek, you can easily stop to try your hand at fishing in the creek. Word is this is a great spot.

You'll begin to climb and arrive at the Colorado Trail (9,300 ft.). I would recommend camping near Craig Creek or somewhere when you arrive at the intersection of the Colorado Trail.

Day 2:
In the morning, you can go exploring further on the trail or head back toward your car at the trailhead.

Note: This trip is roughly 19 miles depending on how adventurous you’re feeling and how many miles you want to pursue. It's a designated wilderness, so you can camp anywhere along the trail. The best places to camp are along Craig Creek, and that is roughly 8 miles from the trailhead.

Please help keep Wilderness wild by following Leave No Trace practices.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Stove (fires are generally allowed)
  • Food for 2 days
  • Camera
  • Layers
  • Rain gear
  • Hiking boots
  • Backpack
  • Headlamp
  • Sunscreen
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RT Distance 19 Miles
Elevation Gain 2650 Feet
Activities Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Forest
River

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Awesome Weekend Backpacking Trip

A friend and I turned this into a two-night trip, driving to the trailhead and camping just off the Brookside trailhead and leaving in the early morning. It's about 9 miles to Payne Creek near the CT and it's a fairly simple hike. The first third is easy going but the second third is very steep uphill climb along the "logging road." With a full pack this is very strenuous. The last portion is a gentle downhill into the meadows and valley. The way back is an easy enough hike assuming you didn't blow yourself out the next day. Excellent views, a few convenient campsites along the river and an overall great experience. Would recommend to anyone. Didn't see a soul (although we went on a cold and snowy April weekend).

Great beginner trip

I did this trip as a one-nighter in late August. The weather was perfect, the hike was challenging, but not overwhelming, and there were very few other people on the trail. This is an excellent trek! Be warned, the dirt road to the parking lot has been partially washed out. Cars with low clearance may get scraped or stuck!


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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