On the way to Monarch Lake is the Doe Creek Trail. It provides several options, from short hikes to overnight camping, as the trail system navigates the Arapaho National Forest and into the Indian Peaks Wilderness. From the trailhead, you make a short climb to a meadow leading to an intersection that allows you to loop the trail or venture off to various side trails. We opted to hike up the N9.7 trail that takes you up a large hog back, plateauing around 9042 feet.
After leaving the sagebrush covered meadow, you begin climbing through an Aspen grove. A few weeks back, the views would have been amazing, but we were now past the peak of the fall colors. However, the golden leaves lined the trail like a carpet. Continuing our climb, we traversed a series of switchbacks allowing for various views of Lake Granby below, and the snow covered peaks of the mountains beyond the lake.
We ran into a few obstacles along our journey, with a fallen tree here or there, blocking the trail. After reaching the summit, we traveled down a steep incline to the trail intersection that continued on to the Strawberry Bench Trail (or you can loop back along N9.3 trail). We reversed course, climbing back up the steep incline on our way back to the trailhead. We covered over 4 miles out and back with an elevation gain of 574 feet. This would be a moderate hike due to some of the inclines along the trek.