Fall in the Never Summer

There is always one last backpacking trip of the season.

A time when the leaves are turning, the days are growing shorter and the air that has a crispness at night.

In mid-September, a few of us had a last backpacking trip together for the season.

I was hoping to get a last trip in October, but social obligations and less than ideal weather made the trip to the Never Summer Wilderness a final trip of the season.

And for a final trip of the season, it was a memorable one.

The Never Summer Wilderness is a comparatively small wilderness area hemmed in with the Rawah Widlerness to the north, bordered by Rocky Mountain National Park and is often ignored because of its more famous neighbors.

someone wanted to revisit an area she had seen a few years back. She chose the route, organized the trip and planned accordingly.

A short trip, but one full of much scenery, great Fall weather and an isolated feel.

The trip started with a trip over Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park to the trailhead.

Once at the trailhead, we followed an old roadbed and quickly entered the USFS Wilderness land.


The hike went through pleasant, old-growth forest.  Towards early evening, we went off trail to the hidden (if you can’t read a map 😉 ) Ruby Lake.

A wonderful, tucked away lake with a great view of the Continental Divide above. It was quiet, peaceful and scenic. Easily one of the best campsites I’ve personally had all season.


The sun started setting and the soft light of the alpen glow on the ridge above was as memorable as we had hoped.

The following morning, we hiked up to Bowen Pass on the Continental Divide and reveled in the sunshine and coolness of the morning.

We crossed over the divide and down to Parika Lake.  Another gorgeous lake. This one is one trail and showed signs of more use but was still wonderful to enjoy.


Shortly after, we made our way back into the trees and enjoyed the splash of Autumn color along the way.


A last great trip of the season before the high country closes. The foothills are still beckoning and my skis are waitng….



The route:  The route is a well-known one as shown in Backpacker Mag. Rather than Parika Lake, we opted to camp at the off-trail Ruby Lake and went to Parika Lake the following day. Ruby Lake had NO ONE on this awesome Fall weekend. (Of course, backpacking is a less popular activity in years past..but that’s another topic…..)   The route is about 16 miles R/T and 4k elev gain.

The map: Trails Illustrated Map #200 – Rocky Mountain National Park  is what you need

Getting there: From the Denver area, go over Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park  and enjoy the scenery over the longest continuously paved road in the US. The Alpine Visitor center at almost 12k ft is worth the pit stop.  From there, travel down Trail Ridge Road, and park at the Bowen-Baker TH.

Red Tape: No permit needed as you are on USFS land for most of the trip. However, you do need to pay the park entrance fee ($20 as of Sept 2011).  Since you start the trip in  RMNP, dogs are not allowed. (as per the sign at the trailhead).

Post Trail Nosh:  By-pass Estes Park and drive a little further to Lyons, CO and drop in at my perennial favorite of Oskar Blues. The Silo Burger washed down with an Old Chub is proof that there is much that is good and just and true in this world.

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12 years ago


7 years ago

About how far is the hike to Ruby Lake from the trailhead? Is Ruby Lake above treeline? Are there good campsites with tree shelter? Thanks