Payne Creek Trail

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Payne Creek Trail #637

This trail provides access into the northeast portion of the Lost Creek Wilderness. It is a relatively gentle trail overall, climbing gradually through ponderosa and lodgepole pine forests and an aspen grove created by a 135 acre fire in 1926. It then descends into open meadows along Craig Creek. Payne Creek is named for Jim Payne, who once logged the area and had a mill two miles up the creek from the Platte River. Payne and others logged all the way up the valley to the divide between Payne Creek and Craig Creek in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. There are sites suitable for overnight camping in Craig Meadows. Because most of the Payne Creek Trail is in designated wilderness, Wilderness regulations apply.

At a Glance

Operational Hours: Open year round; however, weather may make access difficult.
Fees The trailhead has self-issuing permits free of charge. Only one permit per group is required. No personal information is collected, but these permits help document numbers of users to maintain funding.
Permit Info: The Forest Service is implementing a mandatory self-issuing permit system in the Mount Evans and Lost Creek Wildernesses to enable us to better manage these heavily visited Wildernesses. The same type of system is already in place in other Wildernesses. The intent is to use the data obtained through this permit system to more accurately assess the amounts and types of existing Wilderness use. This will enable us to better preserve their natural condition for future generations, balanced against the pressures of growing populations and increased use. These permits have no quotas associated with them nor will there be any fees required to obtain them. They will be available free at each trailhead. As you enter the Wilderness, fill out the provided permit and deposit the white paper copy in the slot in the lower front of the register box. Keep the yellow tag in your possession and please follow the Wilderness regulations found on the back.
Open Season: May
Best Season: Summer & Fall
Busiest Season: Summer & Fall
Restrictions: The following regulations / restrictions apply to the Lost Creek Wilderness:

  • No motorized equipment (chainsaws, drills, etc.) or mechanized transportation (bicycles, wagons, etc.)
  • No landing or dropping of supplies by aircraft (including parasails)
  • Groups size is limited to 15 persons and/or 10 pack or saddle animals in any one party.
  • Dogs must be leashed.
  • Camp at least 100 feet from lakes, streams, or trails.
  • Campfires must be at least 100 feet from lakes, streams or trails.
  • Hobble, tie, or tether any pack or saddle animals at least 100 feet from lakes, streams or trails.
  • All livestock feed must be processed and weed free.
  • Do not cut switchbacks.
  • Pack it in; pack it out.
  • Practice Leave No Trace principles.
Closest Towns: Bailey and Jefferson.
Water: Backcountry water only
Restroom: No
Information Center: Appears on the following maps:

  • Pike National Forest
  • USGS Quad Green Mountain
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated #135 (Deckers / Rampart Range)
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated #105 (Tarryall Mountains / Kenosha Pass)
  • USGS Topo: Shawnee
  • USGS Topo: Bailey
  • USGS Topo: Windy Peak

General Information



  • Payne Creek/ Brookside Trailhead (8,040 ft. elevation): The Payne Creek Trail and the Brookside/McCurdy Trail share tread for about a mile before splitting and going their separate ways to Craig Meadows and Craig Park.

From US 285 in Bailey, go south across the South Platte River on County road 64 between the Post Office and Moore Lumber. After 0.45 miles take a left at the Y. Go 2.2 miles to the trailhead on the left (south) side of the road.

This trail is open year round; however, weather may make access difficult especially in the winter and spring months.

Parking is at the trailheads.
General Notes:

Leaving the trailhead near Bailey, the Payne Creek Trail and the Brookside-McCurdy Trail rise gently and soon reach a trail junction at the foot of a large private meadow. Here the two trails diverge, with the Payne Creek Trail bearing left and the Brookside-McCurdy Trail bearing right. The trail crosses a small drainage and then rises gradually along the west side of Payne Gulch, crossing the wilderness boundary. The next stretch from the Payne Creek crossing to the high point is fairly steep as the trail climbs up an old logging road. This climb puts hikers into a pleasant aspen grove, which is a great place to take a break. The trail now begins to descend into the Craig Creek drainage. In the large open meadow along Craig Creek, the trail first runs down the north side of the creek, then crosses to the south. The trail then continues in a southeasterly direction until you reach the Bluestem Draw flowing north into Craig Creek. Shortly thereafter, the trail crosses another unnamed drainage flowing north into Craig Creek and begins to climb out of the Craig Creek drainage to meet the Colorado Trail.

Dispersed Camping

No camping or building fire within 100 feet of lakes, streams and forest development trails. Do not cut switchbacks. Practice Leave No Trace by dispersing any rocks used for fire rings and leaving the area so there is no evidence you were there.

Day Hiking

The Payne Creek Trail is the starting point for the Payne Creek Trail and the Brookside-McCurdy Trail. It also is one access points for the Craig Creek trail off of the Brookside-McCurdy Trail.


The Payne Creek Trail is the starting point for the Payne Creek Trail and the Brookside-McCurdy Trail. It also is one access points for the Craig Creek trail off of the Brookside-McCurdy Trail.

Horse Riding

The Payne Creek Trail is the starting point for the Payne Creek Trail and the Brookside-McCurdy Trail. It also is one access points for the Craig Creek trail off of the Brookside-McCurdy Trail.


  • Trail Measurement: 9.8 Miles
  • Compass Latitude: 392231N
  • Compass Longitude: 1053001W
  • Numeric Latitude: 39.3752672
  • Numeric Longitude: -105.5002783
  • Elevation in Meters: 2451
  • Elevation in Feet: 8040

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