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It’s tough to imagine a better bang-for-your-buck alpine hike than the short hike to the lookout on the 403 Trail.
If your car can make it to the upper trailhead on Washington Gulch road (not recommended for standard passenger cars), you’re almost at treeline already.
This means that the short 1.6-mile hike to the scenic overlook is chock-full of views all along the way! This short stretch of trail runs through vast alpine meadows located just below treeline, with unreal views of the Elk Range all around you. While this is probably the easiest alpine hike with the best views imaginable, it still doesn’t come for free.
Right out of the gate you’ll have to climb a series of moderately-steep switchbacks to gain the ridgeline traverse.
All told, there’s 584 feet of elevation gain in the full round trip hike.
After the initial climb, the trail follows a bench through some of the aforementioned visually-stunning meadows.
After winding along a ridge, the trail reaches a rocky outcrop above Gothic Valley and Schofield Pass.
Prepare to be amazed! The mountain views from this outcrop are surreal, with jagged peaks and ridgelines filling your field of view.
This is the perfect stop to stop for a snack and a bit of reflection. To complete this easy route as mapped, turn around here and head back to your car.
If you choose to continue on Trail 403, note that you’ll descend all the way down to Schofield Pass, which is thousands of feet below where you started.
Returning from Schofield Pass back to your car will be a lot of work, so choose carefully!