Flat Tops Explorer (Under Construction)


  • Convenience of meeting in Denver
  • First night/dinner at a historic hotel
  • Wonderful rejuvenating solitude
  • Ascent of Big Marvine Peak (10,898 ft)
  • Two unique creeks tumbling from the high country
  • High plateaus, alpine tundra, glacier-carved lakes & more
  • Abundant wildlife habitat


Please Note: The itineraries for our Flat Tops trips are changing in 2018. We are working hard to complete the changes, and will update the website and add trip dates when the changes are complete. Our apologies for any inconvenience.

If you want a challenging, enjoyable, intensely scenic experience of Colorado's alpine backcountry, this trip is for you! This five-day Colorado backpacking trip first ascends an impressive, glacially scoured valley along a rushing alpine creek, through meadow and forest habitat, and from there to the lake-strewn high country of the Flat Tops Plateau. We’ll see evidence of both fire and ice as we walk: glaciers and volcanoes have shaped the landscape of the Flat Tops Wilderness and we’ll explore this world in depth together. If you fish, you’ll find world-class trout waters on this trip!
If wildlife and wildflowers captivate you, you’re in for a treat throughout this adventure: wildlife abounds in these rich valleys and high open meadows: we have a great chance for sightings of elk, deer, beaver, a variety of raptors and forest birds, to name but a few. We’ll eat well, with hearty meals prepared by your guide and plentiful snacks for trailside energy.

This tour includes travel through two beautiful creek valleys, and then up onto the high Flat Tops Plateau, where we camp by lakes and running water with mountain vistas surrounding us. We’ll climb Big Marvine Peak and explore as our interests dictate, with options for gentle mountain ascents and side trips to unnamed lakes as well!
Join us for an exploration of Colorado’s Flat Tops Wilderness – give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) to learn more and make your reservation today!
Click here to have a detailed PDF information packet emailed to you, or request a reservation today. You can also call us at 800-715-HIKE.


Photos of the Flat Tops

Thanks to Keith Darnell for Photos 2, 3, and 5-8

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Shuttle to Meeker, CO: 4 hours
Accommodations: The historic Meeker Hotel

We will meet at Union Station in downtown Denver, Colorado at 1:00 PM (your guide will be in contact approximately 10 days before the trip to coordinate the rendezvous). Union Station is centrally located in downtown Denver, has light rail to and from the airport, provides nearby lodging and multiple dining options. From Denver we will shuttle across the Rocky Mountains to the small, historic town of Meeker, Colorado, which sits below the Flat Tops. We will check into our rooms (included) at the historic Meeker Hotel and Cafe. Staying at the Meeker Hotel is a wonderful pre-trip experience - it was originally established in the 1880's for miners and cattle ranchers, and has accumulated fascinating stories in the century-plus since, including a murder over a poker game in the 1890's.

We will enjoy a classic "Old West" meal in Meeker tonight, over which we'll discuss the specifics of our upcoming adventure. Eventually we'll turn in for a good night's sleep to energize us for our hike.

Day 2

Shuttle to the trailhead: 45 minutes
Hiking Mileage: 5.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 1342 feet

After a fresh breakfast en route as we shuttle to the trailhead, we’ll hoist our packs at the Marvine Creek trailhead (8,458 feet), and then hike the East Marvine trail southeast across an impressive, glacially scoured valley. We initially follow East Marvine creek, a fast-flowing creek descending from the many alpine lakes above us.

We gain 500 feet in the first mile or so, pass Johnson Lake at about mile 2.5, reach the Wild Cow Park trail cutoff at mile 2.8, and continue on the East Marvine trail through dense aspen and spruce-fir forest into a land of many lakes, each left behind in the aftermath of the last ice age, when glaciers scoured this high Plateau.

We’ll enjoy a hearty and healthy lunch up on the Plateau, and afterwards we’ll continue another 3.2 miles to the Mary Loch trail junction, and depending upon timing and group interest we’ll make camp at one of many small lakes in the area, near East Marvine creek which we rejoin at this point, - or we’ll continue another .3 miles to Mary Loch Lake (9,800 feet) and camp in a lovely sheltered area there. Freshly cooked dinner and good conversation awaits as we look ahead to tomorrow.

Day 3

Hiking Mileage: 5 miles plus day hike
Elevation Gain: 2079 feet

We return down the Mary Loch spur .3 mile to its junction with the East Marvine trail, then make our way south toward the Flat Tops Plateau. We climb steeply, gaining 1,200 feet - and a tremendous view - in just over a mile of hiking. We emerge on the Flat Tops Plateau, where behind us to the north the Little Marvine Peaks stand in the distance. Trappers Peak (12,002ft) rises to our east, and Big Marvine Peak rises before us to the southwest at 11, 879 feet. We’ll be on this mountain’s summit in a couple of hours!

We reach the Big Marvine Peak cutoff (11,155ft) 1.8 miles after we summit the Plateau. Here we’ll stash our packs, bundle lunch and day gear, and make the 1.7 mile hike to the Peak summit at 11,879ft. Big Marvine is a stellar example of the volcanism that occurred here - it’s actually a massive vent, where explosive magma found its way to the surface. We’ll see just how vast the Flat Tops Wilderness from our position on the summit as we have a great, well-earned lunch.

We then return 1.5 miles to the East Marvine trail junction, and from there another 1.75 miles, where we make camp at Twin Lakes (10,989ft).

Day 4

Hiking Mileage: 7.3 miles
Elevation Loss: 353 feet

From Twin Lakes we make our way southwest along the Oyster Lake trail, the longest trail in the Flat Tops Wilderness. We travel 7.3 miles today, taking in the high country meadows and vistas as we traverse the Plateau southwest to Oyster Lake, at 10, 636 feet.

As we walk we’ll look for moose near the many small lakes that dot the landscape, we’ll have lunch on high ground as we soak in the wild country about us, and we’ll then continue through the afternoon to camp at a large and beautiful lake - remember the fishing option!

We’ll reach Oyster Lake, and make camp here just .2 miles beyond the Oyster Lake/Ute Creek trail junction. Expect another memorable meal as twilight descends on camp.

Day 5

Hiking Mileage: 5.5 miles
Elevation Loss: 1650 feet

We proceed north 2 miles along the Ute Creek trail to its junction with the West Marvine Creek trail. Our path will alternate through open alpine meadows, deep forests, with the rush of West Marvine Creek accompanying us. We’ll have lunch as the water cascades along below us.

We then descend the West Marvine Trail about 3.5 miles and make our final camp along West Marvine Creek at about 9,000 feet, just east of Camel Peak, which we’ll see to our left as we approach our chosen camping area. We’ll enjoy this trip’s final dinner and evening together.

Day 6

Hiking Mileage: 3.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 542 feet
Shuttle to Denver: 4 hours

Day six we’ll enjoy a last campsite breakfast together, then break camp and continue our descent north and northwest along the creek and through a dominant Aspen forest a short 3.2 miles miles to the Marvine trailhead at 8,458ft and our shuttle back to Denver. We'll stop at a scenic spot on our return drive for a picnic lunch and reflection on the amazing journey we've had over the last 5 days. Eventually we'll arrive back in Denver and say our good-byes.

Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary park restrictions, campsite availability, weather, road closures, guest ability/injury, and natural events like fires and flooding.

Trip Details

What's Included

  • Pick up in Denver with a night of historic lodging and dinner "Old West" style in Meeker, Colorado
  • Top-of-the-line tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and technical backpack
  • Use of trekking poles
  • All meals are included from breakfast the first day through lunch on the last day
  • A professional, knowledgeable, certified Colorado hiking guide
  • Roundtrip transportation from Denver, Colorado to the trailhead and back
  • Entrance fees and public lands permits
  • Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
  • You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!

What's Not Included

  • Clothes, raingear, and footwear
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)
See the Packing Lists page for more information.

Meals: What To Expect

All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.

For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables (fresh and dried). In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.

Gear We Provide

We provide all group gear which includes the following:
  • Deuter or Osprey backpacks
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware sleeping bags
  • Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
  • Leki or Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Cooking stoves and cookware
  • Company-issued first-aid kit
  • Satellite phone

What Gear To Bring

We ask that you supply a couple of gear items on your hiking tour. These items are two 1-liter water bottles per person and either a headlamp or flashlight per person. Basic items like sunscreen, bug repellent, lip balm, and toiletries are also important. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.

What Clothes to Bring

Please refer to the trip packet for a recommended clothing list (we email you a detailed trip packet when you inquire and when you register). All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots (reliable brands include Montrail, Lowa, Merrell, Vasque, and Salomon), rain gear, and non-cotton clothing layers. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.

NOTE: See the Packing Lists page for more detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your hiking tour. The trip packet you receive when you contact us will have the most accurate clothing and gear list for the tour you're interested in.

Trip Logistics

How do I Register?

Ready to hike? Simply click here and complete the form to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you're ready to register we'll email you a link to a registration profile. You'll have 48 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($500).

Feel free to call us for more info - we're here 7 days a week!

Where Do We Meet?

You will meet your guide and group at Union Station in downtown Denver, Colorado on Day 1, where we will shuttle to the town of Meeker, Colorado. (Union Station is centrally located in downtown Denver, has light rail to and from the airport, and provides nearby lodging and multiple dining options.) The first night's lodging at a historic lodge and "Old West" style dinner are includedin Meeker. It is also possible to rendezvous in Meeker, if that is more convenient for you.

Check out our Travel Resources page for information on flights, shuttles, lodging and more.

Start/End Times

Your trip officially starts at 1PM on Day 1 with pick up in Denver and shuttle to Meeker, Colorado. Your guide will inform you of the first hiking day's departure time at the orientation meeting on Day 1. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will drop you off in Denver on the final day normally before 7 PM (this time is not guaranteed, as a variety of circumstances can influence our exact return time).

Safety Considerations

Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT's, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We've developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.


Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.

Guide Working Parameters

Guides are required to take 8 hours off each 24-hour period to sleep, recuperate, take personal/down time...etc. In addition, as part of the 8 hours off they must sleep/rest or be in their tents/rooms uninterrupted for a minimum of 5 hours each night. We ask guests to respect these requirements and to not interrupt guides' off time and sleep time unless there is a true emergency.

Group Size and Age Restrictions

The standard group size on Flat Tops backpacking trips is 5 guests and 1 guide, with a maximum group size of 8 guests and 2 guides. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) and we'll answer all your questions.

Age restrictions are as follows:
  • 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
  • 10 and older to join private tours, with final approval on a case by case basis
  • specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis

Weather in the Colorado Rockies

Being a high mountain environment, the Rocky Mountains are prone to sudden temperature and weather shifts. This is an exciting aspect of being in Colorado's high country. On trips in June, snow is a slight possibility, and the rest of the summer rain is always a possibility on your trip. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). See below for average summer temperatures:
Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)
High / Low