This is a steep and difficult hike, with the entire trail above 12,000'. Be on the lookout for thunderstorms during the summer.
Loop hike encompassing the summits of four 14ers--three ranked, one unranked. Spectacular views in all directions, with a lot of nearby mining history. This loop hike can be done in either direction, but is more commonly hiked clockwise. It can also be done as a T shape out & back by skipping Bross entirely.
Starting from the Kite Lake Trailhead at the north end of the parking lot, take the signed trail north. After a short distance, the trail splits (signed) near where it crosses the Kite Lake outlet stream. Stay left to head towards Democrat. Shortly after that, the trail splits again, stay to the right to continue straight uphill. Accidentally taking the left split leads down towards the lake, but it is easy to get back up to the correct trail. At first, the trail has a fairly gradual incline up to the area of the Kentucky Belle Mine. There is a lot of old mining buildings and equipment alongside the trail. After passing the mine, the trail becomes steeper and begins to enter the talus slopes.
The trail switchbacks through the talus as it steeply climbs up to the saddle between Democrat and Cameron. Democrat is looming above you to the left. At times, it can be mildly challenging to discern the true trail from the paths cutting some of the switchbacks. Paying attention to the cairns can keep you on the true trail, but it is always easy to find if you get off track. Once at the saddle (at 13,400') there are more mining remnants to look at while you catch your breath. Views to the north begin to open up, and the views of the cirque behind you are good too.
Head west from the saddle to make your way up Democrat. The trail is initially just barely to the left of the ridge, then directly on top of the ridge for a few moments before heading back to the left side again. Cairns again help in the rockier spots, but it's pretty easy to navigate through. As you ascend, the trail becomes steeper, eventually switchbacking in a few places up the east side of Democrat. The trail becomes very steep and loose just before the false summit. Once you reach the false summit, the true summit becomes obvious to your right, and it's a pretty easy hike up to it. Democrat sits at 14,148' and is the 28th highest of the 53 ranked Colorado 14ers. The views all around are spectacular. Once you've had your fill, retrace your steps back down to the Democrat-Cameron saddle, carefully through the steeper portions.
Once back at the saddle, head east towards Cameron. The trail is generally not as steep as what you just dealt with, but you still have to regain 800' in just under a mile. The trail is mostly easy to follow, with cairns helping along the way. Just looking ahead and above you is usually enough to stay on the correct track. Cameron is an unranked 14er, but sits at 14,238', and after all that work you did, you will consider it to be a peak. Cameron is a broad, flat summit, with a definite moonscape feel to it. Lincoln is clearly visible to the northeast.
From Cameron, head down to the Cameron-Lincoln saddle (you'll lose less than 150') and continue to follow the trail northeast up to Lincoln. The trail is clearly defined, and you will regain about 170' on your way to the summit at 14,286', which is the 8th highest Colorado 14er, and the highest in Park County. Again, views in all directions are great, and you can also see numerous mining roads on the surrounding mountain slopes. Lincoln may be my favorite of the four peaks on this loop. Retrace your steps back down to the Cameron-Lincoln saddle. If you are making a T of the three peaks, retrace your steps back over Cameron and to the trailhead. If you are completing the loop, contine reading.
Once back at the saddle, head south towards Bross. You will be traversing the east slope of Cameron for a while, and this is the easiest hiking of the entire loop. After you leave Cameron behind, you will be on the edge of a ridge with the Cameron Amphitheater to your left and the cirque you are looping to your right. As you approach Bross, the trail begins to gently ascend again. Here you have a choice--legally, Bross is on private property and is off-limits to hikers. There is a signed trail that points you to your right and traverses Bross below the summit before descending; there is one fork on this traverse, stay left. This is the legal option. However, it seems that most people continue up to the true summit anyway. If you choose to summit, continue heading uphill, choosing the mining roads or trails that keep leading uphill. A gps track can be helpful here. Once at the summit, you are at 14,172' and on the 22nd highest ranked Colorado 14er. The summit is very broad and flat, huge actually, and also has a moonscape feel. Out of respect for the private property, I did not hang around on the summit; I took a few pictures and headed downhill on the trail leading to the southwest.
Shortly after beginning my descent, the legal trail merges in from the right. So far, the descent has not been terribly steep, but that is about to change soon. Suddenly, the trail becomes extremely steep. With sandy gravel, with makes for terrible footing. Trekking poles are invaluable here, and a lot of people choose to scoot down in places. If you take your time, you will be okay. After the worst of the the footing, the trail doesn't become any less steep, but does move back into the talus, where the rocks are stable and it feels easier. The trail is easy to follow as you carefully pick your way down the rocks. Once curving left off the ridge, the steepness lessens up a bit and isn't as tedious, gradually becoming less steep as you descend.
Eventually you are out of the talus and alongside a creek and waterfall as you make your way west back to the trailhead. At this point, the hike is almost over and you should be feeling a sense of accomplishment for not rolling down a huge mountain slope. This is a great loop to knock out several 14ers at once, and the views are worth the pain.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
This is a more difficult hike. It would be unwise to attempt this without prior experience hiking.