If you and your trusty pup are determined to get to Gourd Lake, you should plan for at least one night of camping. While the Gourd Lake Trail is only three miles long, you can only get to it by taking other trails that increase your round-trip hike to 16 miles or more. The most popular route starts at the Monarch Lake Trailhead at the very end of County Road 6. From there, you'll take the Cascade Creek Trail for about three miles to the Arapaho Pass Spur Trail, follow it for a little over three miles to the Buchanan Creek Trail, then follow that trail for about six miles to get to the Gourd Lake Trail which leads to the lake itself. This last section of the hike may be its most challenging, with over 1200 feet of elevation gain in three miles along steep and steady switchbacks.
It's all worth it for rugged adventurers and lovers of solitude. Along the way, you'll enjoy views of pristine lakes nestled into bowls of rock, high mountain meadows, and deep forests of pine, fir, and aspen. Wildflowers you might see include orange paintbrush and blue Colorado columbine, the beautiful state wildflower. Animals that stop by the lakes include moose and osprey. All around you, high mountain peaks loom, surrounding you with sublime majesty. With a Colorado fishing license, you can fish for trout in the ponds and lakes along your way. Near the top, austere rocky peaks catch the light and create quilted folds of shadow over the valleys below. The sun sparkles on the water and lights up clusters of bright yellow wildflowers.
Be sure to prepare thoroughly for your journey to Gourd Lake. To enjoy this hike, you will need to pay $5 to park at Monarch Lake and obtain a permit for overnight camping. No campfires are allowed and dogs must be on a leash at all times. Get creative with your meals and come prepared to pack out your waste and leave no trace. You'll be surprised how refreshing it is to pare things down and get in touch with your and your dog's wild side.
Come to Gourd Lake to get away from it all and you'll return home with a new perspective.