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Tonahutu Creek Trail -
Rocky Mountain National Park

moose laying in tall grass

The Trail Guide to Tonahutu Creek Trail (and Haynach Lake Trail) includes a trail description, photographs of the trails, comments from our hikes, mileage data, custom topo map, and Tonahutu Creek Trail tracklog on a geo-pdf map. The guide will familiarize you with the Tonahutu Creek Trail system. We hope the guide helps you on your hikes and adventures.

Route Data

Photos from: July '14

Elevation: Haynach Lake Junction - 10,340'
Haynach Lake - 11,060'

Range: Rocky Mountain Mountain National Park

Map Coordinate System - Geodetic Base (NAD27)

Trailhead - Latitude: 40.25661, Longitude: -105.81413

Green Mtn Tr Jct - Lat: 40.281413, Lon: -105.72068

Haynach Lake Tr Jct - Lat: 40.281413, Lon: -105.72068

Route: Tonahutu Creek Trail, Haynach Lake Trail

One-Way Distance: 4.25 miles from the trailhead to the Green Mountain Trail Junction and 9.35 miles from the trailhead to Haynach Lake Trail Junction, and 10.85 from the trailhead to Haynach Lake.

For Map, Trail Mileage, and Trail Notes
go to Page 2


We hiked the Loop in the summer of '14. We had hiked sections of the Tonahutu Creek Trail before summer, that was the first time we hiked the entire trail. We hiked the North Inlet Trail to Flattop Mountain and then finished the loop on the Tonahutu Creek Trail. The Tonahutu Creek Trail was not as manicured as the North Inlet Trail. In other words... if North Inlet Creek was a parkway, Tonahutu Creek would be a country road. We liked the Tonahutu Creek Trail.

The Route

The Tonahutu Creek Trailhead is close to the North Inlet Trailhead. Driving to the North Inlet Trailhead, the Tonahutu Trailhead is passed. Parking is very limited or prohibited at the Tonahutu Creek Trailhead. North Inlet Trailhead is less than a tenth of a mile from Tonahutu Trailhead. Parking at North Inlet is probably the best option.

road directional sign with an arrow to Tonahutu Creek Tail and an arrow to North Inlet Trailhead

Directions: From Highway 34 (Trail Ridge Road) near Grand Lake, Colorado - go east toward the town of Grand Lake on West Portal Road. Stay on West Portal (bear left) and bypass the town. Turn left on Co Rd 663. The turn has a National Park directional sign posted. At the junction - Road 663 goes left uphill to the trailheads, Hancock St goes to the right - downhill to town. Tonahutu Trailhead is passed at the top of the hill on the left before the road curves to the right. To reach the North Inlet Trailhead continue to the end of Rd 663. The location is searchable on Google Maps (terms: Tonahutu Trailhead Grand Lake, CO.)

View from top of the hill on Rd 663 to Grand Lake with Shadow Mountain in the background

From the top of the hill on Rd 663, the view of Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain. There are no parking signs in the area.

Hiker leaving the Tonahutu Trail exiting past a gate on to Rd 663.

The photo was taken from the Tonahutu Trailhead Kiosk. Road 663 is straight ahead of the hiker. North Inlet Trailhead is a short distance to the left on this photo. There are privies at the North Inlet Trailhead.

Photo of the Tonahutu Creek Trail Kiosk - filled with a map and trail information

Check the kiosk for current information (on our '13 trip there was a WARNING posted concerning the Tonahutu Wildfire. In '13, we walked from the Park Visitor Center to Tonahutu Creek Trailhead and on to North Inlet.

The first section of the Tonahutu Creek Trail is well used, but not necessarily by folks wanting to hike the Upper Tonahutu Creek Drainage. The first section of the trail sees heavy horse traffic and shorter day trip hiking.

Trail sign indicating the direction and distance to Grand Lake Lodge

Leaving the trailhead the trail climbs a bit and then eases as it follows a more gradual grade. In the first quarter of a mile there are locations that provide easy access to the Tonahutu Creek. Many hikers and fishermen seem content to only travel that short distance.

At 0.75 mile from the trailhead the trail reaches the junction with the Grand Lake Lodge Trail.

Trail Sign showing directions to Big Meadow, Grand Lake, North Inlet Trailhead, Tonahutu Trail

In another tenth of a mile the trail reaches another junction, this time with the Spur Trail that connects the Kawuneeche Visitor Center with the Tonahutu Creek Trail.

Trail crossing Harbison Ditch on a foot bridge

From the KVC Spur Trail Junction, the Tonahutu Trail climbs a bit and crosses Harbison Ditch.

View of a meadow of tall grass

Continue through the valley at an easy grade. In about a mile the trail passes a meadow to the left or west of the trail. It was the only meadow on the west side of the trail.

Wooden trail sign to Paintbrush campsite

Then in 1.80 miles reach the side trail that leads to Paintbrush 1 campsite. The side trail crosses the southern portion of Big Meadow to reach the site.

Trail directional sign at the junction with the Green Mountain Trail for the Upper and Lower Tonahutu

From the Paintbrush Campsite side trail it is .50 mile to the junction with the Green Mountain Trail. Along the way the trail passes the Big Meadows Group and South Meadows sites. The junction with Green Mountain Trail is 4.25 miles from the Tonahutu Trailhead, but it is only 1.80 miles from the Green Mountain Trailhead. Many hikers start from the Green Mountain Trailhead.

view of the green grass of Big Meadow

The aptly named Big Meadow is to the east of the trail all the way to the Onahu Creek Trail Junction.

Wooden, trail directional sign at the Onahu Creek Trail Junction at the north end of Big Meadow

.60 mile from the junction with the Green Mountain Trail the Tonahutu Creek Trail reaches the junction with the Onahu Creek Trail. The junction is 4.85 miles from the Tonahutu Creek Trailhead.

Two plank footbridge over a small creek

In .65 (from Onahu Creek Tr Jct) cross a small footbridge on the north side of Big Meadow.

Tonahutu Creek bending through the tall grasses next to the trail

Passing Sunset Campsite, the trail passes next to the Tonahutu Creek before reaching Sunrise Campsite.

Water cascading over the rock of Granite Falls

The trail climbs easily up the drainage and passes the lower Granite Falls Campsite and then at 2.75 miles from the Onahu Junction, reaches Granite Falls. The Falls is a popular destination for day hikers using the Green Mountain Trail as an approach. Granite Falls is 5.15 miles from Green Mountain Trailhead and 7.60 miles from Tonahutu Creek Trailhead.

Burn area from the Tonahutu Wildfire '13. Burn scars on standing trees.

Leaving Granite Falls the trail passes through the burn area of the Tonahutu Fire of 2013.

Trail sign for the Tonahutu Meadow Campsites. Sign is with the grassy meadow in the background

A mile above Granite Falls the trail reaches the Tonahutu Meadow Campsites. The impressive meadow is the east boundary of the Tonahutu Wildfire.

Hiker crossing footbridge over Haynach Creek.

The trail also passes Tonahutu Group Site and then at .65 mile from Tonahutu Meadow, the trail crosses Haynach Creek on a footbridge.

Junction with the Haynach Lake spur trail. Hiker starts up the steep trail. Photo includes trail sign

The Haynach Lake side trail is .10 mile from the Haynach Creek crossing. The Haynach Lake Trail is 9.35 miles from the Tonahutu Trailhead and 6.90 miles from the Green Mountain Trailhead.

The Tonahutu Trail continues to Renegade and Timberline Group campsites and then continues to Big Horn Flats and Flattop Mountain.

The Haynach Lake Trail finds passage to Haynach Lake campsites and on to Haynach Lake.

Note: A separate guide will cover the North Inlet Trail from North Inlet Junction to Flattop Mountain and down the Tonahutu Trail to Haynach Lake Trail Junction.

Haynach Lake Trail

Small path between ground cover, rocks and trees

The Haynach Lake Trail leaves the Tonahutu Creek Trail and climbs sharply through steep switchbacks. The first quarter of a mile is memorable. Soon the trail eases and climbs through a small valley. Other maps show a creek in the valley, but at most it is an intermittent creek.

trail sign to Haynach Campsite. A small trail climbs behind the sign

The Haynach backcountry sites are about a half of a mile from the trail.

Creek flows down valley

The actual Tonahutu Creek is across the small rib where the Haynach Campsites are located

Haynach Creek beside the Haynach Lake Trail

From the campsites continue on the unimproved trail through an idyllic (but marshy) meadow. Climb up beside cascading Haynach Creek and then up a rib to a ridge. Follow the ridge and then descend to the other side before starting to climb again. Small lakes are visible to the west as the trail continues to climb.

Haynach Lake with Peak 12,057'

Reach Haynach Lake at 1.50 miles from the Tonahutu Creek Trail. The secluded lake is a mountain destination for the hearty.

Haynach Lake is 10.85 miles from the Tonahutu Trailhead and 8.40 miles from the Green Mountain Trailhead.

For Map, Trail Mileage, GPS, and Trail Notes go to Page 2