Never Summers Backpack


  • Old growth forests (some 600+ years old!)
  • Running streams and high country
  • Ascents of multiple summits and mountain passes
  • Camps at pristine, glacial-fed alpine lakes
  • Moose, Elk, Ermine, Lynx, and much more
  • Alpine high country with amazing views


This 3-5 day backpacking trip explores the breathtaking Never Summer Range at the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. The 3, 4 and 5 day itineraries offer options of how to experience the Never Summers. All three options take us west from the boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park, through the rich Kawuneeche Valley of the Colorado River, and up into the high country of the Never Summer Wilderness along mountain streams and through large verdant meadows rich in wildlife. We’ll camp near mountain lakes each evening, enjoy day hikes to mountain summits along the Continental Divide, and explore alpine terrain that is sure to bring solitude and extensive views of the mountains that surround us.
Our hikes will take us into remote country, less-traveled areas rich in snowmelt, which pours from the high country into mountain streams and alpine lakes. The land sustains old growth forest - stands of Spruce-Fir, some 600 years old and over four feet in diameter grace the trails that lead to the high peaks. We make the most of our time in the mountains on this trip, seeing a tremendous amount of these extraordinary mountains!
Join us for an exploration of Colorado’s Never Summer 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 Colorado Rockies

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Shuttle to the trailhead: 1.5 hours
Hiking Mileage: 5.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 2520 feet

This multi-day Colorado backpacking trip begins with a fresh breakfast as we shuttle through Rocky Mountain National Park over Trail Ridge Road, to our starting point at the Bowen-Baker Trailhead (8,840). From the trailhead we continue West on the Baker Gulch Trail through the lush meadows of the Colorado River Valley.

In about 1 mile we enter the Never Summer Wilderness within Arapahoe National Forest. At approximately 3.5 miles we reach the Grand Ditch - one of the first major irrigation projects in the state -, where we cross at the footbridge and continue on the Baker Gulch Trail. We’ll have our first of many hearty lunches along the way, today’s likely in the towering shadows of an ancient old-growth Spruce-Fir forest.

We’ll be on the lookout for a wide variety of wildlife in this area, and likely will be treated to a rich wildflower display as we walk. Once we reach the Parika Lake Trail junction, we continue West to camp at Parika Lake. (11,360). We’ll settle in for an excellent dinner and conversation as we plan for tomorrow’s activities.

We plan two nights at this beautiful location, with a day hike into the alpine tundra above Parika Lake, where we'll explore the alpine tundra leading to the Continental Divide. Many options exist for summit hikes depending on weather and our interests in this day among the high peaks.

Day 2

Hiking Mileage: 6.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 300 feet

After a freshly-prepared breakfast we'll head west for an exhilarating day above treeline, where we'll have our pick of cross-country routes and mountain crests in the alpine tundra above Parika Lake.

If our weather is good, we'll make our way to the summit of Parika Peak at 12, 394 feet, where we'll enjoy our lunch with views east to the high peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park, and west into the Gore Range, and the vast mountain landscape beyond.

We'll then return east from the Divide to Parika Lake for camp, dinner and time exploring the broad meadow surrounding Parika Lake. Parika Peak(12,394ft) and Farview Mountain (12,246ft) stand above us as we enjoy the evening.

Day 3

Hiking Mileage: 6.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 890 feet

After breakfast this morning we’ll depart Parika Lake en route to Bowen Lake, via Farview Mountain and Bowen Pass (11,476) to the Bowen Gulch/Bowen Lake Trail junction at approximately 5.2 miles from our starting point.

We can expect plenty of time above treeline, as we traverse Farview Mountain and make our way south through the alpine to Bowen Pass, at 11,476ft where we’ll enjoy lunch before descending from the Pass 1.6 miles to the Bowen Lake trail junction.

We’ll find ourselves once again in the land of Moose and big trees as we turn south and ascend another 1.6 miles to camp at Bowen Lake (11,019). Another freshly prepared dinner awaits us at this high-altitude lake just below treeline.

Day 4

Hiking Mileage: 5.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 150 feet

From Bowen Lake, we return to the Bowen Gulch/Bowen Lake Trail junction (1.6 miles), hike East from the junction to the Blue Lake trail, and from there to Blue Lake (10,690) in an additional 3.2 miles. We’ll set camp, enjoy lunch and explore the high country above the Lake that afternoon with just light day packs. We’ll keep a close eye for Rocky Mountain Bighorn as we enjoy our hike into this special place above Blue Lake.

Then it’s back to camp for a hearty dinner, campfire and stars above.

Day 5

Hiking Mileage: 7 miles
Elevation Loss: 1840 feet
Return Shuttle: 1.5 hours

After breakfast we’ll pack up, return 1.5 miles to the Bowen Gulch Trail junction from Blue Lake, and from there make our way along a gentle descent about 5.5 miles back to the Bowen-Baker Trailhead and trip’s end. Wildflowers should be plentiful in this stretch as we walk the Continental Divide trail back into the river valley of the Colorado.

3 and 4 Day Variations

Our 3-day and 4-day variations of this trip are backpacking basecamp trips vs. the 5-day trip described above, which is a thru-hike on which we move camp each day. On the 3- and 4-day variations we hike into Parika Lake (same Day 1 as the 5-day itinerary), camp 2 or 3 nights, and day hike each day up into the stunning high country of the Never Summers. Day hiking destinations include alpine lakes, ridges, and peaks as well as vast wildflower-laden meadows and good wildlife country.

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

  • 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 your hotel in Estes Park, 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 72 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 in Estes Park, Colorado on the morning of Day 1, when we pick you up at your hotel. Your guide will be in contact approximately 2 weeks before your trip to answer any questions you have, provide you with more details about your exact trip, and coordinate the pick up.

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

Start/End Times

Your guide will inform you of the first day's pick-up time in the pre-trip contact. 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 at your hotel on the final day normally before 5 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 Colorado backpacking trips is 6 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