This are many intersecting trails in this area, meaning there are many ways to build a loop trail to Rowton Peak. This particular route is a combination of parts of several trains in the Royal Gorge area, including the Rowton Peak, Razorback Ridge, Claim Jumper
and Switchback trails.
If these sound vaguely like ski runs to you, you are right, they mostly are runs in the Royal Gorge Cross country ski area. There are so many trails I strongly recommend using your GPS or Trail Run Project mobile app
here to stay on the prescribed loop. That said, it would be hard to get really lost here, the downhill trails will eventually take you back to Soda Springs Road.
Limited parking at the trailhead so you may have to park on the shoulder of Soda Springs Road.
Taking this loop counter clockwise creates an uphill direction for most (but not all) of the looser footing, which should help with traction.
The trailhead is called the Hoelter Hall Trailhead, and is a short unpaved drive off Soda Springs Road. It is easy to miss the turnoff for the trailhead, but if you get to where the road goes from pavement to gravel, turn around and go back about a quarter mile and the turnoff will be on your right (east). I suggest taking this loop counter-clockwise. That will let you tackle the steepest portion first, while you are still fresh, and reward you with dramatic Royal Gorge views.
From the parking lot, you take the Rowton Peak Trail
for about 1.1 miles (the first part of this is labeled Sierra Watch
Trail on some maps). The first 0.5 mile of that will be a series of switchbacks that allow you to gain some elevation with relative ease. If you are there in season there are amazing amounts of wildflowers along this route. And be sure to look back for great views of Serene Lakes. This first 0.5 miles takes you to a clearing with a multiple trail intersection. You'll proceed uphill and to you left for about 400 feet on the Bogus Basin trail before making a sharp right back onto the Rowton Peak Trail
. The trees thin out and you are now hiking a ridgeline trail; the going is a bit more steep, but not terribly so. And to your right, endless views across Royal Gorge.
From Rowton Peak, the loop now goes to the northeast along the Razorback Ridge Trail
for about 1.3 miles to Crow's Nest Viewpoint. This portion of the trail is all about the views into and across Royal Gorge. If you look closely you can see the tops of Sugar Bowl's Mount Disney and Mount Lincoln chairlifts. And if the season is right, a lot more wildflowers. At 2.4 miles from the trailhead you'll take a left turn and start working your way downhill, eventually picking up the Claim Jumper
and then Switchback trails, which take you back to the trailhead.
Wildflowers galore in season. Arguably the best I have seen in the Sierra. As for fauna, the usual birds and squirrels (and mosquitos in damp areas, bring some DEET just in case).