Cow Creek to Gem Lake Hike

This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
12.6 km
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
431 m
User Ratings
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Directions to Trailhead

The Cow Creek to Gem Lake Hike is a wonderful adventure to the alpine basin that is Gem Lake. Nestled amongst towering granite peaks, Gem Lake is the perfect place to set up for the day and enjoy the scenery of the mountainous wilderness.

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Route Description for Cow Creek to Gem Lake Hike

The Cow Creek to Gem Lake Hike is a stunning and manageable hike in the Colorado high country. This adventure is ideal for those hoping to explore Gem Lake but do not want to face the crowds that the direct route attracts. If you venture this trail in the winter or autumn months, it is important to wear microspikes or snowshoes to navigate the icy terrain. Note that visitors are required to purchase a park pass to access the Rocky Mountain National Park trails.

Embark on your adventure from the Cow Creek Trailhead. From here, track west along the Cow Creek Trail. This path will guide you along the gurgling creek. As you hike keep an eye out for elk! Shortly after your departure from the trailhead, you will meet an intersection, veer left, and you will be diverted onto the Gem Lake Trail. Trek along this route until you meet Gem Lake. Explore Gem Lake and revel in the charming scenery.

Rest along the shore, and when you are ready, retrace your footing along the path back to the trailhead.

Getting to the Cow Creek to Gem Lake Hike Trailhead

The Cow Creek to Gem Lake Hike departs from the trailhead off the McGraw Ranch Road.

Route Information

  • Backcountry Campground

    Designated Dispersed Campsites, view details here.

  • When to do


  • Pets allowed


  • Family friendly

    Older Children only

  • Route Signage


  • Crowd Levels


  • Route Type

    Out and back

Cow Creek to Gem Lake Hike Elevation Graph

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Cow Creek to Gem Lake Hike Reviews

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