The Home Ranch is located in the midst of the million-acre Routt National Forest near the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness area, offering some of the most secluded and scenic hiking in Colorado. Every morning, our hiking guides confer with our guests and schedule hikes geared to each ability and taste. We offer guided hikes for every level of climber from easy-going acclimation hikes, to the challenge of the 12,000 foot Mount Zirkel, which is less than a 20-minute drive from the ranch. The Zirkel Wildreness has many alpine lakes that make perfect destinations for all-day hikes. So, whether you would like to learn the names of alpine wildflowers or see Steamboat Springs Colorado from the top of Hahn's Peak, The Home Ranch will make sure you accomplish your goal, or at least have fun trying!
Hiking is good anytime at The Home Ranch. In late spring, the meadows are green from the winter runoff and the wildflowers begin to bloom. The snow melts off the higher elevations in July & August, while the wildflowers continue to change, taking turns showing off their brilliant colors. In fall, the gold of the aspens will take your breath away.
Here is an example of a typical week of Home Ranch hiking options. We offer hikes every morning and afternoon with the exception of Monday morning.
Afternoon - South Fork - A gentle hike to acclimate you to our higher altitude. There are about 500 feet of elevation change on this 3 mile round trip hike. You will get to stretch your legs as you stroll through fields of wildflowers, aspen groves and pines. The hike ends at the south fork of the Elk River. This is a wonderful place to sit and reflect, have a drink of water and stretch before heading back to the ranch.
Morning - North Fork - This is a hike geared for many levels of hikers. Once again there is little elevation gain, but a group or two of previous hikers have been able to accomplish the 8 mile round trip hike in the morning. Others choose to bask in the wonders of Mother Nature. This section of forest was damaged not only by the 1997 Blowdown, but also the wildfire of 2002. It is wonderful to see how the forest has recovered in a short time.
Afternoon - Hinman Lake & Overlook - After a 1000 foot climb you will be rewarded with a breath taking view of a boulder field and a 1000 foot drop off. Along the way you will pass Hinman Lake covered in yellow water lilies. The initial climb is steep, followed by aspen groves, waist high vegetation and evergreens.
Sunrise - Home Mountain - Join Selina in a pre-breakfast 5 mile hike. After a short car ride that takes you to Rock Creek, accomplishing most of the elevation gain, you will stroll through dew covered meadows and be rewarded with views from the top of Home Mountain that can only be experienced at daybreak. Continue along the ridge and follow your nose back. It will lead you to the dining room just in time for breakfast.
Morning - Prospector Trail - A steep hike that winds through old growth forests and to the top of a ridge to once again give you amazing views of Northwest Colorado (and even Wyoming in the distance.) If you have enough time, you will cover about 7 miles and 1500 feet in elevation gain round trip. Most hikes cover about half the distance.
Afternoon - Burn Ridge - You will once again follow the south fork of the Elk River, as it winds through the National forest. You will be greeted by beautiful wildflowers, aspen groves and pines, but also the mysteriously placed lone boulder. As you hike you can contemplate how it got there. This is a 5.5 mile hike with about 500 feet in elevation gain.
Morning - Hahn's Peak - Hahn's Peak sits at the north end of the Elk River Valley and tempts everyone to try and climb it. We save this hike for later in the week: it is 1.5 miles up with 1700 feet in elevation gain. The steep trail switchbacks though aspens, blue spruce and wildflower on the west side of the peak. The last 1/4 mile is scree, and at the top sits the old fire watch tower. We also make sure to complete the hike before lunch when thunderstorms roll in. You will want to make sure you bring your camera for this hike - the panoramic views are mind blowing.
Afternoon - Three Island Lake - The Mt. Zirkel Wilderness has a over one million acres and more alpine lakes than you could imagine. One of our favorites is Three Island. It is a 7 mile hike with 1600 feet in elevation change. The climb to the lake alternates from moderate to steep as you pass through meadows, aspen groves and evergreens. You will notice the blowdown, again, as well as catch a glimpse of the south fork of the Elk River.
All-day - Zirkel Circle - This is what every hiker during their stay works for, and the #1 pick among Steamboat residents - 11 miles, 6 creek crossings and 3,000 feet in elevation. On this hike we will visit two alpine lakes, Gilpin and Gold, in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness. We leave a little earlier than usual for this hike - we aim to be out of the high country before the afternoon thunderstorms think about rolling in. You will meander along Gilpin Creek as you climb to the first lake. After a short break at the lake, we will climb up to the saddle for a look back at one of the bluest lakes we've ever seen. From there it is all down hill. As we meander through the evergreens and meadows, you will see other peaks within the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness. We will have lunch by the second lake, Gold. The hike follows Gold Creek down to where it meets the Elk River. There is one last overlook at the '97 blowdown, '02 wildfire and the Elk River far below before reaching the car.
Morning - Pearl Lake to Coulton Creek - This hike is an 8 mile moderate hike with a couple steep sections that winds through the aspens and everglades with stunning views of the Elk River Valley.
Afternoon - Canoe Gulch - Take your last afternoon to stay on the ranch and take one last overlook. You will wind along the Elk River and cross our irrigation ditch before beginning a steep climb up to a cool aspen grove. You will cut across to Home Mountain and look down on the ranch before continuing down the ridge.