Patricia's Colorado Various Day Hikes

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Colorado

Colorado Pictures (75 pictures)


14er note: If you are thinking about hiking some of the 14ers
(mountains over 14,000 feet) in Colorado, I highly recommend
taking a look at www.14ers.com - an excellent site with maps,
trail details, directions, and other things for the 54 
Colorado 14ers.  Be forewarned that hiking 14ers is addictive.
I've done 35 so far (plus have also done Mt Whitney in 
California).  Many can be done as day hikes and a number are 
not technical (no mountain climbing, permanent snow fields).  
Keep in mind that no matter how nice of a day it is, it can be
cold and windy at the peak (I was flurried on 3 times on my 
August 2009 trip and pulled out my wool scarf a couple of 
times).  It is recommended to peak by noon as afternoon 
thunderstorms are common in the summer in the Rockies.  
Altitude sickness is a concern, so keep an eye out for your 
co-hikers and be aware of indications you or someone else is 
in trouble - headache, nausea, dizziness.  If any of those 
signs occur, stop and take a long rest and drink some water.
If the symptoms don't improve with rest, turn around - the 
mountain isn't going anywhere and you can come back some other
time.  Drinking water, eating some, and hiking at a slow pace 
with short and longer rests along the way will help prevent 
altitude sickness.  If you don't hike wearing a hat, you'll 
want to have good lip balm with SPF of 30 or higher (and make 
sure you use it every few hours - same with good sunscreen).  
Once you get above the treeline, (unless it's solid overcast) 
you'll be in high altitude sunlight for several hours.  If 
you've never had a fried lip, they are extremely painful and 
take a week or two to heal.


Mica Lake and Gold Creek Lake (Steamboat Springs) Directions: On the west side of Steamboat Springs, take Rt 40 to Elk River Rd (CR 129) and head north for 20 miles. In the small town of Clark, turn right on to Seedhouse Rd (sign for Slavonia) and drive 12 miles all the way to the end of the road. The road is good dirt after 6 miles and then narrows and is a little rougher (still 2wd) after the campground (there is no camping in the area for the last 2 miles). Vault toilet at the small parking area Free. Trails: I headed to the Steamboat Springs area hoping to find less snow than I was seeing further south (the hikes I had planned for the area were at a lower elevation), but found plenty more snow - 2011 had twice as much snow as usual - the two rangers I talked to were amazed by the high snow pack. After reaching the trailhead, I headed out towards Gold Creek Lake with the plan on doing a large loop hike. A short ways on the trail, at the signed junction, turn right and the one-person width trail heads a mostly mild up the valley. There are a lot of dead trees in the area (including a distant full mountain of dead trees) as the mountain pine beetle has devastated the area. The trail has a bridge over a creek and after a bit goes near the larger creek and stays to the left of the creek. There is a small waterfall/cascade along the way (nothing exciting, but I had a few people ask me where it was located along the way back so apparently it is known as a place to hike to). A little over an hour in, the route heads right across the creek, with no bridge and this was where I had to turn around as the creek was running way too high and fast to safely cross. So the next day I gave Mica Lake a try. A short ways on the trail, at the signed junction, take a left and the trail heads a not hard up. The trail is mild through a section of dead trees and stays mild for a ways. Then it is a mixture of not hard ups and milds. As you head up the valley near a rock crop, look for a narrow trail branching to the left (there was a post for the sign for the branch, but the sign was gone on my visit). Take the left for Mica Lake. The trail soon starts heading up, with a number of zig-zags. And it is an up. The trail goes near the falls towards the top and then heads left away from the falls (not going up and over right next to the falls as it looks like it might), with more of an up and some switchbacks as it heads to the ridge top. The trail goes through the ridge and reaches an outcrop of rocks with a nice view of the basin - this is where I stopped as the basin was 90% snow filled (and the lake is not in that basin). It is a pretty, large-sized basin with small mountains on 3 sides. Trail Length + Elevation: 5 miles, 2050 ft to Mica Lake Loop hike: 10.5 miles, 2350 ft 3 miles, 1160 ft to Gold Creek Lake 2.5 miles, 400 ft Gold Creek Lake to Gilpin Lake 5 miles, 1950 Gilpin Lake to trailhead Area: Mountains, mountain lakes When I did the hike: Monday, July 11, 2011 Recommendation: This is one of those areas that I debated about writing about since I didn't get to complete any hikes, but it gives a suggestion of a place to go if you are ever in the Steamboat Springs area. I was very disappointed in the area (the dead-tree ridge was heartbreaking), but maybe if I had reached the lakes my opinion would have been different. Maybe some time in the future I'll give the area another go, but it is not high on my to do list.
Colorado State Forest State Park Directions: I25 to Fort Collins. Head west on Rt 14 (weaves through Fort Collins, so keep an eye out for turn signs for Rt 14). It's 62 miles from Fort Collins to CO State Forest on Rt 14, a very pretty drive as it winds through mountain canyons and mountain valleys (which also means you won't be going more than 45 mph, at times less). As you see peaks in the distance, you finally are getting close to the park. 4 parking options for the trails below (there are other trails in park): Michigan Ditch trailhead - At Cameron Pass on Rt 14 (sign for pass), turn right/north in to the parking lot/loop. The trail starts across the road slightly to the right as a gated dirt road. Vault toilets at the parking area. $3 pay station shortly along dirt road. Crags Campground - Rt 14 to 2 miles west of Cameron Pass, south turn (only turn in area) on to dirt road. Self pay station and park brochures just past turn. The road drops and then is a junction, take a right. Soon is another junction, take a left (my sedan made it, but wasn't too happy with the road). The road heads up, turns right and then is the one-way small campground loop (outhouse right there). The signed trailhead is near camp site #8. Note: no day-use parking in the campground. Vault toilets at the start of the campground loop. $6. American Lakes trailhead - Rt 14 to 2 miles west of Cameron Pass, south turn (only turn in area) on to dirt road. Self pay station and park brochures just past turn. The road drops and then is a junction, head straight. The road heads along the valley floor and ends at a parking area. $6 Lake Agnes trailhead - Rt 14 to 2 miles west of Cameron Pass, south turn (only turn in area) on to dirt road. Self pay station and park brochures just past turn. The road drops and then is a junction, take a right. Soon is another junction, head straight. The road ends at the day-use area. $6. Trails: Well, I started this day with high expectations - 3 mountain lakes and a mountain pass. Reality of it being too early in the season (with a heavy winter) soon set in and I reached none of those objectives. Still, it is a pretty area and my miscues may help you better plan a good outing for this area. I stayed in the campground (and there was snow in my campsite, first warning of problems to come), so I headed out from the campground trailhead. The one-person dirt trail heads a harder up from the campground. It reaches a trail junction, go left and the trail is mild for a bit. The trail then switchbacks up a few times (and I started hitting snow patches) and eventually reaches a dirt service road (with a sign for the campground, the only signed junction I encountered) - there is a pretty cascade near there. My first oops was heading right along the road (thought it was the 2nd trail junction on the map, where it was really the 1st). I took the level road for out 20 minutes before figuring out I was heading the wrong way and turned around (but decided I'd try that way later for Lake Agnes). Back at the campground junction, I headed a very slight bit left along the road and then headed right up a trail with a stream coming down the middle. The rocky and muddy trail heads sharply up and there are sometimes blue diamonds on trees marking the way. There were several side trails, but stick to the blue diamonds (I took 3 of them and eventually ended up turning around back to the main trail, probably old mining trails). I got within sight of the Crags (rugged peaks at the top of the valley) and there was more snow on the trail. I reached the large rock mound and to the right there was a single boot-path through the solid snow heading up - I figured that was the way to Snow Lake and I didn't go due to the snow. I took a left at the mound and made my way through and around the snow. The occasional diamonds curved to the left and I reached a large snow patch where I didn't see any diamonds in the distance and wasn't sure which way the trail went, so I turned around - had thought I was on the branch for American Lakes, but might have actually been on the Thunder Pass branch. I headed back to the dirt road (only took me 30 minutes to reach) and took the packed level dirt road as rounded the mountain. As the road rounds the bend, there are good views of the Rt 14 valley and Diamond Peak across the way. The road rounds the other end of the mountain and soon there are great views of the Lake Agnes valley. After a while, views of the other side of the Crags (up to the left) will become visible. Soon after the trail started heading a mild up, was junction for a wide trail/road that headed down (guessing the Lake Agnes trailhead trail) and not too long after that I reached an impassable snow slope (guessing the trail headed sharply up that slope and the lake was just over the ridge. Thus ended my attempts to reach mountain lakes and I headed back to the campground. So I started my 2009 trip with another go for the American Lakes, this time starting from Cameron Pass (Michigan Ditch route). The trail starts as a (still in use) dirt road as it makes it's way for 3 miles around to the top of the valley (mild, no climbs). Next to the road is a water flow for a water supply system (Michigan Ditch). You do get road noise from Rt 14 for a ways. There are a few cabins along side the road. After about an hour, the road reaches the top of the valley (and then the road curves and goes along the other side of the valley) and keep an eye out for the trail branch on the left - there is a sign, but it's a few steps off of the road. Take a left on to the dirt and rock trail. From the junction it is 3 miles to the American Lakes and another mile further to Thunder Pass. The wide trail heads up for a bit and then down as it rounds a long oblong meadow. The trail then starts heading back up through the trees. The trail crosses a creek (bridge) and narrows to one-person width and is packed dirt (few rocks) as it starts zig-zagging up and up. When you can see Thunder Pass to the left, there is still another zig-zag. After the last zag, it's a short hard up to a ridge, where there are some great views. The lakes are a little further ahead, but not too much farther. It took me 2:20 to reach the lakes. The twin lakes (really an hourglass shaped lake) have green slopes on the left and right sides and a rock field at the top with the crags higher above. From the lakes, you can head left for a mile to Thunder Pass (not a hard hike) and/or go up the rock field (a very hard up) to Snow Lake. Heading back from the lakes, I did try to find the other route back to the dirt road (the way I came up in 2008), but failed to find any side trail and ended up heading back the way I came. For Thunder Pass, take a left rock hop across the outlet stream at the top of the American Lakes. You can clearly see the trail as it makes its way up to the saddle, less than a mile away. For a pass route, it's actually a mild hike from the lakes. At the pass, take a right up the rocky slope to the top of ridge for grand views into Rocky Mountain National Park to the south (and a nice resting spot). For Snow Lake, head around the right side of the lakes to the rock field. You should see a sign at the top of the lake pointing the way up to Snow Lake. But that won't help you much as there isn't much of a trail and most of the time you are just making you way up the steep rocky slope the best that you can - it is a rock scramble as you'll need you hands free to help you get up the rocks - if you see something that looks like a trail, follow it until you lose it. The rock surrounded lake is in the shelf where you'd expect it to be. It's pretty, with the crags looming directly above, but very difficult to reach and not really worth the danger. Since I had already hiked about 15 miles and wanted to get some more driving in for this day, I skipped going to Lake Agnes. Trail Length + Elevation: 6 miles, 800 feet Michigan Ditch 5.5 miles, 1680 feet American Lakes trailhead 3 miles, ?? American Lakes from campground .8 miles, 340 feet Lake Agnes from parking area Area: Rocky Mountains Pictures When I did the hike: Monday, June 30, 2008 (campground); Tuesday, July 21, 2009 Recommendation: Though pretty, it is out of the way and (with all the road walking) there are better outings in Colorado. Now, if you want to do a mix bike ride, hike outing, this would be a good spot (bike the dirt road to the trail junction).
Cascade Creek, Crater Lake, Pawnee Lake Directions: From Granby (east of Rocky Mountain National Park), take Rt 34 north for 7 miles. Turn east at the signed turn for Arapaho Bay (the south end of Lake Granby) - keep an eye out for the turn as it is easy to miss. Stop at one of fee stations and pay. Drive the good dirt road all the way to the end, at Monarch Lake. There is a loop parking lot at the end. The trail starts at the top of the loop at the gate over the road. Port-a-potties at parking lot. $5 per car for a day or $10 per car for 3 days in 2010 Trails: Note that you do see some of the damage done by the mountain pine beetles (many dead trees) early in the hike, but that goes away as you get further along on the hike. The wide trail stays to the left of the large Monarch Lake and is mild and then narrows as it goes along the inlet creek for the lake for a little bit. At the signed junction, continue straight. The trail soon makes a quick switchback and then heads a mild up the other direction. The trail nears the creek and then makes a few easy switchbacks up (so easy that a direct up would have been much better). After crossing a bridge over a stream, the trail heads more of an up and then is again easy switchbacks to a small ridge. The trail annoyingly heads down some and then is mild as it goes alongside the creek, and stays mild to the signed Buchanan junction. Continue straight and the trail heads up some (not hard). The trail crosses a bridge and then at the corner is your first view of why this is called Cascade Creek, a pretty waterfall. The trail then heads up (this time it is an up) for a little ways before becoming mild again as it goes next to the creek. A cascade is not next to the trail, but a small sidetrip will take you to it (there are more falls). There is more of a climb ahead. The trail crosses the creek on a good log bridge and, if you look carefully, you can spot the falls to the left. The trail passes a pond and then heads up, up, up alongside the falls - some pretty spots to stop and enjoy them along the way. The trail crosses the creek (above the falls) on another log bridge and resumes heading up - though not next to the cascades. There is another cascade spot ahead. At that spot, the trail switchbacks up and then becomes a mixture of mild and ups for a good ways (away from the creek). The trail goes across a creek via a flattop-log and it is a mild walk to the Crater-Pawnee junction. For Crater Lake: At the junction, continue straight and the trail heads up a bit and over some rocks. The trail crosses the creek via a single log and then goes next to the creek for a little ways. The trail then takes several switchbacks up (and it is an up). Mirror Lake is at the top of the up - take a short sidetrip to get next to Mirror Lake (the trail stays a little ways away). Usually there is a nice reflection of Lone Eagle Peak on the shallow over-sized pond. The trail rounds to the right of the lake and then up away from it - it is not much further to Crater Lake. There are a number of nice resting spots where the trail mets the larger sized Crater Lake - the near side of the lake has trees and is rocky while the far side is open with a rock-ridge above to the right and the distinctive Lone Eagle Peak looms above the left. It is a very pretty lake in a pretty setting and worth going to. For Pawnee Lake: At the junction, take a left and the more narrow trail heads up. After rock-hopping across a creek, the trail starts its switchback up, up, up. There is a very pretty scenic spot near the top of the Crater Lake valley (lakes not visible) and Lone Eagle Peak - take a moment to enjoy that view (and catch your breath). After the switchbacks, the trail is mild as it goes through a rockfield (good trail), meadows, and fallen tree section - with some nice views along the way. After more up, the trail crosses a stream and then there are some switchbacks up and more up. And then another set of switchbacks and a little more up before finally reaching the lake - take a right shortly past the camping sign for good views of the smaller sized lake and nice resting spots. There are thin sections of pine trees along the bottom and left side of the lake and the top and right side are open granite faces of the mountain and ridges. Trail Length + Elevation: 6.5 miles parking area to Crater-Pawnee junction 7.5 miles, 1934 feet parking area to Crater Lake 8 miles, 2494 feet parking area to Pawnee Lake Area: Rocky Mountains, waterfalls, mountain lakes Picture When I did the hike: Friday, August 6, 2010 Recommendation: It is a very pretty hike all the way through (instead of just a pretty destination). I liked both lakes and they are different from each other and couldn't recommend one over the other - if you only had time/energy to go to one of them, Crater is the easier hike as there is a big up for Pawnee.
Lulu City - Rocky Mountain National Park Directions: From Estes Park, take 36 to 34 all the way to the Colorado River Trailhead parking lot (other side of the mountains). $20 per car for a week's pass or National Parks Pass Trails: The Lulu City-Little Yellowstone trail is about 5 miles one-way on a mostly one-person width (starts out wider) trail. Along the way to Lulu City, take a short hike up to the mine shaft (can't go in). Besides the hike up to the mine, it is a mostly flat (but some elevation change) hike to the Lulu City area. There are a couple of log cabin foundation remains (not much) along the way, but not much is left of Lulu City. A short ways past Lulu City is a big climb up for a mile or two where there is a pretty view of Little Yellowstone Canyon (pretty, but not really worth all the effort). Area: Lulu City is in a valley between the mountains. When I did the hike: September 1999 Recommendation: Unless you have a lot of time at RMNP, don't do the Little Yellowstone Canyon trail - stick to the trails in the eastern area of the park. There is not much at Lulu City (not worth a hike just for that), but Little Yellowstone Canyon is kind of pretty.
Lawn Lake and Crystal Lakes - Rocky Mountain National Park Directions: In Rocky Mountain National Park, take Hwy 34 to the east turn for the Old Fall River Road - about a mile north of the 34-36 junction in the park (before 34 starts its climb for the Trail Ridge Road). Turn east on to the Old Fall River Road and take the first right turn in to the parking area for Lawn Lake. The trail starts to the left of the toilets. Vault toilets. $20 per car for a week's pass or National Parks Pass Trails: [Grumble, lost my trail notes, so from memory...] In 1982 the dam at Lawn Lake broke and resulted in a flash flood that carved a wide valley along the creek (taking out the old trail and killing 3 campers). The damage caused by the flood is still visible and you can still see where the old waterline was at Lawn Lake. The Lawn Lake trail starts wide and takes several switchbacks up before heading left over to the creek valley and then heads up the valley in the trees. The trail does stay away from the creek area as the walls above the creek are not stable. At the signed junction for Ypsilon Lake, continue straight. The trail does have a couple of long switchback sections in the middle of the valley (don't worry, the trail eventually continues up the valley). There is a nice viewpoint short of a switchback section where you can see a pretty waterfall up the valley (the trail doesn't go near the fall). Eventually the trail reaches the signed junction for Black Canyon - continue straight and the trail heads through an open, rocky area (left by the flood) before curving left and going back in to the trees. The lake is not too far ahead (but not almost there). The trail goes alongside (but still above) the creek as it nears Lawn Lake. Because of the lower water level, the shoreline of Lawn Lake is in the open (there are trees above the lake) and there are nice resting spots lakeside (but it was very windy at the lake for me) and you get good views of the mountains to the upper left and top of the lake. To continue to Crystal Lake (Lawn Lake should not be your destination - nice, but nothing stunning or worthy of that long of a hike), continue on the trail above the right side of Lawn Lake. The trail soon narrows and weaves some through the trees (you may have to puddle jump if there is water on the trail as some small streams cross the trail). Eventually the trail reaches the treeline and heads a harder up - there are some nice views back on Lawn Lake. The trail curves to the right heading up the open slope and soon reaches a junction (just before the ridge of the slope). Going straight heads to The Saddle, between Fairchild Mountain (to the left) and Hagues Peak (to the right). But you want to take a left at the junction for the Crystal Lakes. It is surprisingly a mild hike from the junction to the lakes. The narrow trail curves along along the green slope and then makes a small drop to the creek and you have to rock-hop across the two creek branches. The trail then heads up to the right and rounds a bend and a pretty small pond is right there (the lower lake). The trail stays to the left of the pond and goes over some rocks and a short ways ahead is the very pretty middle lake. It takes a little more work and more going over rocks (still staying to the left) to reach the upper lake, but the reward is great. You can rock-hop the outlet stream to get to the other side of the upper lake, but the best views are at the near side of the lake - but you will have to work your way over big boulders to get lakeside. It is a beautiful lake in a rock bowl setting with a couple of rock mounds standing up in the water and Fairchild Mountain directly above. Trail Length + Elevation: 6.2 miles (one-way), 2249 feet to Lawn Lake 1.5 miles, 731 feet Lawn Lake to Upper Crystal Lake Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Saturday, August 7, 2010 Recommendation: The Crystal Lakes are very pretty, but they are a long way from the trailhead.
Fern Lake Loop - Rocky Mountain National Park Directions: From Estes Park, take 36 to Bear Lake Rd to the end of the road and the Bear Lake parking lot. $20 per car for a week's pass or National Parks Pass Chemical toilets at parking lot. Trails: The trail starts to the right of Bear Lake (pick up a trail map of the area at the info kiosk at the parking lot if you don't already have one). A short bit onto the trail is another junction and take a left (the right is the return spot if you do the full loop). The packed dirt and rocky trail (well defined trail, but they didn't clear all the rocks so it isn't smooth (not complaining, just describing) heads up for a while. After the Flattop Mt junction (continue straight), the trail is a milder up and it remains that way almost all the way to Lake Helene (2.5 miles in). Make sure you get off the main trail and make your way lakeside for Lake Helene - the prettiest of the lakes along this hike. It is not a deep lake and there is a nice backdrop of mountain peaks (probably some snow on them). From the north side of the lake, you can make your way up a rockcrop for a pretty view down the valley (don't head down any of the pseudo-trails you see - there is no trail down to Odessa Lake from there). Back on the main trail, the trail heads a steady down (no switchbacks) alongside the mountain for a little over a mile to just past Odessa Lake. At the junction, the main trail continues straight, but first take the sharp left and a short level walk to the top of Odessa Lake, a tree surrounded lake with the peaks visible above. Back on the main trail, it is .7 miles further and more down to the uneventful Fern Lake. From there, you can take a .9 mile (one-way) sidetrip to Spruce Lake. I didn't do it on my second visit (and don't remember it from my first), but this is what I had written from the first trip: it's a thinner trail and you have to climb over some rocks, but the payoff is beautiful. The rest of the hike is uneventful. It is a little over 2 miles to The Pool (a small area of water (not lake-sized) along the river). At the junction next to The Pool, you can either head left for a fairly blah 1.7 miles through the trees and another .8 miles of road walking to reach the free park shuttle spot (chemical toilets there) or take a right for a much harder blah 4.3 miles to complete the loop. The views along the back portion of the loop are nothing exciting (no peak views), Cub Lake is nothing to write about, and the trail goes up a small mountain and down the other side. Trail Length + Elevation: Total: 13.4 miles 2.9 miles Bear Lake to Two Rivers Lake 1.1 miles Two Rivers Lake to Odessa Lake .7 miles Odessa Lake to Fern Lake 1.0 mile Fern Lake to Spruce Lake 2.2 miles Fern Lake to The Pool 4.5 miles The Pool to Bear Lake Area: It's the Rockies. Mountainous with a number of mountain lakes Picture When I did the hike: September 1999; Saturday, September 1, 2007 (half-loop) Recommendation: The Bear Lake area is gorgeous. I really like Lake Helene, but could skip the rest of the hike. If you want to do more than just Helene, do the half-loop with taking the shuttle back to the start. I felt really sorry for the people who hiked 5 miles from the Fern Lake trailhead to Fern Lake (a lot of effort for almost no reward).
Flattop Mountain - Rocky Mountain National Park Directions: In Rocky Mountain National Park, take Hwy 36 to the south turn for Bear Lake Road. Take Bear Lake Road all the way to the end, where there is a large parking area. Note that the parking area does fill in the morning (the earlier you go, the better) and you may park at one of the shuttle bus stations and take the free shuttle to Bear Lake. Vault toilets. $20 per car for a week's pass or National Parks Pass Trails: After going next to the info station, take a right and go in front of Bear Lake. At the next junction (all junctions are signed), take a right and start heading up. Take a left at the next junction and continue more of an up for a ways. The rocky and dirt wider trail in the trees is then fairly mild with a short up to the next junction, one mile in. Take a left. The trail is a fairly steady up the rest of the way. 1.3 miles from the junction is the overlook for Dream Lake - Dream Lake (which is my favorite in the park) is actually not that pretty from above, but there are nice distance views of Longs Peak and Mills Lake. The trail continues up. The trail nears the treeline with short trees and some switchbacks and eventually reaches the Emerald Lake Overlook (now above the treeline). Emerald Lake is really pretty from above. If you are tired, this is a good turning around point as the views are nothing interesting until the top - and it is a good ways still to get to the top as the way rounds the backside of the ridge above and then continues aways up the backside (you are not close from the overlook to the top). The trail (and its still a trail) makes its way up through the rocks and goes on the backside of the mountain, with more up. The trail heads up the green slope to the right and then reaches the horse hitch (and finally getting close to the top). Follow the now gravelish trail and rock cairns to the top. At the signed post [closest thing to signaling a summit point as the mountain lives up to its name as its extremely wide and flat at the top, make your way left (using the rocks as much as possible) for a nice view of the glacier and down on Sky Lake and Dream Lake (Emerald Lake is not visible from here). Note that it was extremely windy (and a cold wind) when I did this hike and I nearly turned around due to the wind. Trail Length + Elevation: 4.4 miles (one-way), 2335 feet Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake When I did the hike: Sunday, August 8, 2010 Recommendation: Na. A lot of work for not a lot of reward.
Emerald-Haiyaha-The Loch loop - Rocky Mountain National Park Directions: From Estes Park, take 36 to Bear Lake Rd to the end of the road and the Bear Lake parking lot. $20 per car for a week's pass or National Parks Pass Trails: For this trip I went on the hike that I had planned in 1998, but got snowed out. I did a pseudo-loop starting from the south of Bear Lake. The 1.1 miles up to Nymph and Dream lakes are on a 2 person paved (but not smooth) trail. The elevation gain to Dream Lake is 425 feet. The lakes are very pretty and you can see why it is the most traveled trail in the park. Past Dream Lake, the trail thins into a rocky and rooty trail that makes its way up to Emerald Lake for .7 miles. Emerald Lake is a beautiful mountain lake with mountains surrounding it. You climb an additional 180 feet to get to Emerald Lake. I started at 6:50 am and had the trail to myself, but passed more than 15 people just heading back from Emerald to Dream Lake. Back at Dream Lake, I hooked a right onto the Lake Haiyaha trail. It starts with a climb over the mountain and then the elevation change is not quite as dramatic. After about 1.4 miles from Dream Lake and 320 feet additional elevation, you reach the large, rocky Lake Haiyaha. There are lots of fun rock scrambling to be had around this lake. Going back about .3 miles from Lake Haiyaha is a branch trail towards The Loch. It's a small trail in that it's a 1 person width and does not see as much traffic as some of the other trails - the trail is also going downhill most of the way. At the 4 trail intersection, take a hard right on to The Loch trail and start climbing again for a little over a mile. The Loch was another pretty lake and I enjoyed my lunch break there. Then came my mistake. Lake of Glass looked to be less than a mile away and I decided to head for it. See the pretty waterfall in the distance? The lake is at the _top_ of that. After over a mile of hiking uphill (not too steep) and over some rocks, I came to 2 snow fields and the waterfall. The snow fields were steep, but passable. At the top of the 2nd snow field, you are right next to the impressive waterfalls. The wonderful view of the falls is the good news. The bad news is that you have to climb up the small waterfall to the right - and it's pretty scary. At the top of the falls is Lake of Glass - a clear mountain lake that almost makes the climb worth it. Another .3 miles ahead on a thin trail that involves some rock scrambling is Sky Pond - a bowl encased lake. If you've come this far, go on to Sky Pond. The climb back down the waterfall wasn't quite as bad as I thought it was going to be, but I did butt-slide through the second half of the 2nd snow field (and my fingers were tingling for the next hour). Back at the 4 trail intersection, head towards the Glacier Gorge Junction for 1.9 miles - its a little climb for the start and the downhill for the rest of the way. The trail goes passed Alberta Falls (the falls at Lake of Glass are more impressive). At Glacier Gorge Junction, head left for .5 uphill to Bear Lake (I resisted the strong temptation to take the shuttle from Glacier Gorge parking lot to Bear Lake). I finished the about 13 mile hike a little after 5 pm. Ouch. Trail Length + Elevation: Total: 12.7 miles, over 2000 feet 1.1 miles, 425 feet Bear Lake to Dream Lake .7 miles, 180 feet Dream Lake to Emerald Lake 1.1 miles, 320 feet Dream Lake to Lake Haiyaha 1.9 miles Lake Haiyaha to 4 trail junction 1.5 miles 4 trail junction to The Loch .8 miles, 720 feet The Loch to Sky Pond 1.9 miles 4 trail junction to Glacier Gorge Junction .5 miles, 235 feet Glacier Gorge Junction to Bear Lake Area: It's the Rockies. Mountainous with a number of mountain lakes Picture When I did the hike: June 24, 2001; Saturday, September 1, 2007 (Dream and Emerald lakes); Sunday, August 8, 2010 (Dream Lake and Lake Haiyaha) Recommendation: This was a little much for one hike, but all of the sights along the way were worth it. Definitely go up to Emerald Lake and to Lake Haiyaha. If you want to go to Lake of Glass and Sky Pond (and be fully aware that it is a tough hike - I can't not recommend it though as the sights are worth it), I'd do it on a separate day (ie, not like I did). The Loch is pretty and worth going to even without going on to Sky Pond. If you have 2 days, do the loop as I did it and head towards Mills Lake and Jewel Lake (1 mile) [haven't been there] from the 4 trail intersection and do The Loch/Lake of Glass/Sky Pond on a separate day. Start your hikes _early_ to avoid the crowds. Dream Lake is my favorite lake in the park.
Dream-Haiyaha-Black Lakes loop - Rocky Mountain National Park Directions: From Estes Park, take 36 to Bear Lake Rd to the end of the road and the Bear Lake parking lot. $20 per car for a week's pass or National Parks Pass Trails: See the Emerald-Haiyaha-The Loch loop description for most of of this pseudo-loop hike. After hiking to Dream [Emerald was temporarily closed due to trail work when I went] and Haiyaha Lakes and taking the connecting trail between Lake Haiyaha and Glacier Falls 4-trail junction, I took the branch towards Glacier Falls (not impressive) and Mills Lake instead of towards The Loch. It's a mild up from the junction to Mills Lake (with little shade). Mills Lake is a large mountain lake and there are some good views and resting spots early on. The trail continues in the tress along the lake and then goes passed the small, blah Jewel Lake. And then it is forever and a day 2 miles with some good ups to Black Lake - you'll think you should be there long before you finally reach it. You're not almost there until you spot the waterfall, and then it's a hike up next to the falls. But you are rewarded with a very pretty lake in a half-bowl. The best views and resting spots are right as you cross the stream at the front of the lake. The trail does continue along the lake and there is a small viewing area at the head of the lake (but may be buggy). There also may be a snow field near the head of the lake and the falls that feed it (the trail does continue along the falls and you can off-trail hike up to Frozen Lake, but I didn't do that). Back at the 4 trail intersection, head towards the Glacier Gorge Junction for a long blah 2 miles (it's not a pure down, you head up immediately from the junction for a good while before it starts going down). You can cheat and skip the last uphill .5 miles by taking a right for a mild .3 miles to the Glacier Gorge parking lot and catch the shuttle back to Bear Lake. Trail Length + Elevation: Total: 13.1 miles, over 1800 feet 1.1 miles, 425 feet Bear Lake to Dream Lake 1.1 miles, 320 feet Dream Lake to Lake Haiyaha 1.9 miles Lake Haiyaha to 4 trail junction .6 miles 4 trail junction to Mills Lake 2.6 miles, 680 feet Mills Lake to Black Lake 1.9 miles 4 trail junction to Glacier Gorge Junction .5 miles, 235 feet Glacier Gorge Junction to Bear Lake Area: It's the Rockies. Mountainous with a number of mountain lakes. When I did the hike: July 18, 2005 Recommendation: Again, it's a lot for a day hike, but it has several worthy stops along the way (if there was just a way to skip those last 2.5 miles). Dream Lake is probably my favorite Lake in the park. Black Lake was definitely worth the effort and Mills Lake is pretty, but can get crowded later in the day. Start your hikes _early_ to avoid the crowds.
Chasm Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park Directions: From Estes Park, take Hwy 7 to the turn off on the right for the Longs Peak area (the turn off is a short ways pass Lily Lake). Flush toilets at the parking area. Free [they don't check for a park pass]. Trails: Nothing like a recent weather-reason failed hike to make you want to come right back and try again. My unexpected free time (unemployed and taking the summer off due to other previously planned trips) and wanting to hit a couple of hikes in Colorado and return to Glacier National Park prompted an on-the-cheap-side driving trip with Chasm Lake definitely on the schedule. My first attempt at this hike was cut short a little over a mile short of my destination as the skies opened up and it really, really started snowing on me with a very strong wind - a quick turnaround and fast walking to get below the tree line - and that was in June. So my 2nd try came with a beautiful clear day (despite rain prediction) and I reached the lake with no problem. The trail is 2-person width that starts climbing right away and continues going up through the woods for about a mile. It levels for a bit with a mild up and then starts going up again and goes next to a creek and then later crosses 2 creeks. Shortly after the 2nd creek crossing, the trail comes out of the forest and is above the tree line the rest of the way and is a mild up for a bit. After turning a sharp corner, you'll soon have great views of the peaks. There is a harder up, then a stretch with a mild up, then a harder up to a ridge. There are posts to tie horses to at the ridge [the trail does not seem to be used much by horses - manure traces were very few and old when I went] and an outhouse to the left of the trail. From the ridge, the trail heads down to a meadow with a waterfall above - along the way, there are pretty views down to a lake (not your destination) with falls above it. There may be a short snow patch along this section - only go through it if there is a worn boot-path. The meadow is pretty and a nice resting spot. There is an outhouse up to the left and a patrol hut/emergency shelter to the right. The good news is that the lake is just above you, at the top of the pretty falls that feeds the meadow. The bad news is that it is a little ways ABOVE you. Catch your breath because the trail becomes a rock scramble up behind the hut. Take your time, use your hands, and watch your step - follow the rock cairns when you can and look for footprints where you don't see cairns or simply just head up. There is one part where you do have to lift yourself up - it gets a little tricky right there seeing which way is the best way up and the way you are supposed to go. The lake is just a short ways after that harder up. Find a nice spot near the smaller size (not dinky, though) lake and enjoy the view with Longs Peak above you. It took me 2:45 to get to the lake. Be careful going back down the rock scramble and take your time. Trail Length + Elevation: 4.2 miles, 2,360 feet (one-way) Area: Rocky Mountains, woods, creek, above tree line, mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Sunday, June 12, 2005; Tuesday, July 19, 2005; Sunday, September 2, 2007 (part of Longs Peak hike) Recommendation: It's a lot of up, up, up. But it is a pretty hike with nice views.
Longs Peak/Keyhole - Rocky Mountain National Park Directions: From the town of Estes Park, take Hwy 7 south about 10 miles to the Longs Peak road (on the right) (the turn off is a short ways pass Lily Lake). Take that road to the parking area at the end. Flush toilets at parking area, outhouses at Chasm Junction (3.5 miles) and the Boulder Field Campground (5.9 miles). Free [they don't check for a park pass]. Trails: Because of the threat of afternoon lightning storms, this is one of those hikes you have to start in the middle of the morning (as in before 3 am). I started at 2:15 am - and I wasn't alone as a lot of people were doing this hike (didn't help that it was Labor Day Weekend). With such an early start, you are hiking by headlamp for several hours. It didn't start to get light until I was on the backside of Mt. Lady Washington (past Granite Pass). The trail starts by heading up (a common theme with this hike) and switchbacks through the forest (it is a pretty hike, see the Chasm Lake hike description). There is a milder section through the Goblins Forest area (campground) and then more switchbacks ahead before crossing over the bridge (2 miles). The trail is then mild for a bit. When it rounds the curve, you head up again (no switchbacks) and you are above the tree line. At the junction, take a left and the trail goes through the open rocky area (not that you can see any of this) - the trail remains a rocky area (path through the rocks) the rest of the way. Right before Chasm Junction is a harder switchback up to the junction. Take a right at the junction and the trail is fairly mild as it heads around the east side of Mt Lady Washington. When the trail rounds the mountain to the north side, the grade is more up. Shortly past Granite Pass (4.2 miles) is more switchbacks. When the sun is out, you'll have nice views the rest of the way of the valleys and mountains to the west. Then it is milder to the campground of Boulder Field (5.9 miles). The views of the Keyhole (a distinct sight of a gap in a pass that actually looks like a keyhole) and Longs Peak are great. Someone told me that from the campground, you can make a (no trail) trek across the rocks to a low point to the left and have a view down on Chasm Lake. From the campground, there is no true trail up to the Keyhole. The parks service calls it a rock scramble, but the end is more of a rock climb. It is only about .3 miles from the campground up to the Keyhole, but you gain 354 feet in that short distance. There are some cairns along the way up, but there are multiple ones marking different routes and it is hard to follow them. So you simply make your way up (yes, up) the rock field by chosing the route that looks best to you and/or following others. A hiking stick will help you maneuver over the rocks until the last hard bit where you'll need to use your hands to get up the rocks. It is not a technical climb as you don't need climbing equipment, but I heard one person say that it is as non-technical as you can get before being technical. Take your time, watch your step, and take plenty of breaks (don't rush to get up). The Keyhole area is a very small area and you'll likely be sharing it with other people. Find a nice spot and sit and enjoy the great views down on Glacier Gorge Valley below including a number of mountain lakes [you can hike to Black Lake, one of the lower lakes you see, from the Bear Lake area]. Then take a look to the left and see the trail up to Longs Peak - there are Bullseye paint spots marking the way along the mountainside heading to a scree slope and the trail heads up that slope (on which for the down, you reportedly have to crab walk). The Keyhole was actually my planned destination. I was worried about the last bit for the Longs Peak hike and decided that I would make my decision for continuing up to the peak based on what I felt like at the Keyhole and seeing the rest of the way. I took one look to the left and said, 'No fricken way!!!' It is about 1.3 miles and 900 feet gained from the Keyhole to Longs Peak. Since I didn't do Longs Peak, I took a sidetrip to Chasm Lake on the way back down (only .7 miles and 260 feet from the Chasm Junction). Trail Length + Elevation: about 6.2 miles, 3754 feet trailhead to Keyhole 7.5 miles, 4853 feet trailhead to Longs Peak Area: Huge mountains and mountain views. Pictures When I did the hike: Sunday, September 2, 2007 Recommendation: Even with going just to the Keyhole, it's more of an 'I did it!' hike than a beautiful hike - you get just as pretty of a hike going to Chasm Lake. Though the view of Glacier Gorge Valley from the Keyhole is very pretty. If you are thinking about going all the way to Longs Peak, read some of the trip reports out there about the hike and make sure you understand what you are getting into - you need to be in great shape to do this hike and the area past the Keyhole is harrowing.
Bluebird Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park Directions: From Estes Park, take Rt 7 south to Meeker Park and continue south. At mile marker 13, turn east at the sign for Wild Basin. Go on the road for about a mile and turn right at the sign for Wild Basin - the entrance station is just ahead. The road turns to good dirt and take the road 2 miles to the loop parking area at the end (the road narrows after a mile). The trailhead starts midway on the left side of the parking area (the toilet is midway on the right side). Vault toilet. $20 per car for a week's pass or National Parks Pass Trails: Note that horses also use the trail. The wide trail heads at a mild up with bridges over the creeks and streams. The first falls is nothing much (they should be ashamed that they actually named them). After a campsites sign and bridge crossing, the trail is rockier and heads more of an up to the pretty Calypso Cascades. The trail is a mild up after the cascades. Soon you'll see still visible scars from a 1978 forest fire. The trail rounds a bend and heads up with some switchbacks and log and stone steps. Ouzel Falls does not face the trail (pretty, but you don't get a good view of it) - you loose the crowds here as most are not going to the lakes. After the falls, the trail rounds a bend (nice view spot) and takes two switchbacks down and then is mild for a bit as the trail starts heading up the valley with a rock ledge to the left. Not much further ahead is a signed junction. Take a left for Bluebird Lake (note that the horses continued straight and none were on the Bluebird trail this day). The trail heads a steady up to a ridge and then mildly along the ridge for a ways - the trail goes through some of the 1978 fire damage, but that does mean that you get good distance views. Then take a right at the trail junction for Ouzel Lake (you'll see Ouzel Lake from the trail later on and it does not look like it's worth a sidetrip to visit (it's .5 miles from the junction to the lake)). The trail narrows to one-person width and has some small ups and downs as it heads up the right side of the valley. Look for marmots on the logs and rocks to the right. After a bit, you can see the tree-surrounded Ouzel Lake down to the left as the trail approaches some trees. The trail leaves the burn area and heads more of an up as it heads into the trees. After an up between two rock mounds, the trail reaches a small basin with a waterfall visible straight ahead and another waterfall soon visible to the left (a pretty area). Go past the horse hitch and cross the creek via a flattop log. The trail heads to the left and then up to the right with a steep climb with some zig-zags over rocks (there were lots of pretty wildflowers for my visit in this area) - it is still a trail with some rock cairns to follow over the rocks. Make sure you jag right on one of the rocks or else you'll wonder what happened to the trail. At the top, you can see that there is still more up to go. Head through the stunted trees and up more rocks. There was still a snow field on my visit and there was the option of going up through the small snow field or take a right and go up a small ridge - the two options meet at the other side of the rock mound. After another bit of up, you can finally see the pretty lake. Make your way over and down the rocks to get lakeside. The lake is rock-surrounded with some bushes and peaks in the distance. Trail Length + Elevation: 6 miles (one-way), 2478 feet Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Monday, August 9, 2010 Recommendation: The lake is very pretty, but not stunning.
Blue Lake - Brainard area Directions: 72 to Ward. Just north of Ward, you should see a sign for the Brainard Recreation Area and turn on that paved road and drive for about 5 miles to the entrance station. If you can find a parking spot, park in the Mitchell Lake parking lot. Note that it is very popular. Chemical toilets at the parking lots. $7 per car Trails: The well used dirt and rock trail goes a mild up for a mile to Mitchell Lake (not all that pretty). The trail continues passed Mitchell with a little more up for 2 miles, pass a couple of small ponds and a stream, to Blue Lake. Blue Lake is in a bowl with granite peaks above and a small waterfall feeding it. It was windy when I was there. [I was going to also do the Long Lake and Lake Isabelle trail in the park, but gave up after waiting 20 minutes for a parking spot that never came.] Trail Length + Elevation: 1 mile, 200 feet from trailhead to Mitchell Lake 2 miles, 1100 feet from Mitchell Lake to Blue Lake Area: Indian's Peak Wilderness/Roosevelt National Forest: mountains, mountain lakes, trees. When I did the hike: Monday, August 1, 2005 Recommendation: Na, far too many people (and it costs money) - go to Hessie. If it was this crowded on a Monday, I could only image how crowded it gets on the weekend. Because of the trail length, it probably would be a good outing for a family.
Lost Lake and King Lake - Hessie area Directions: 72 to Nederland. 1/2 mile south of Nederland on 72, go west toward the Eldora Ski Area. At the ski area fork, go straight through the town of Eldora (the road will become dirt just after the town). Park at the fork in the dirt road (there's room for a handful of cars). There is a pretty little trail that goes besides the road to Hessie (and the road to Hessie is _definitely_ high clearance vehicles only as it is part creek - there is more parking at Hessie and a few spots at the end of the road) that includes a small pond where I got a pretty reflection picture. No facilities [nearest is in Nederland] Free Trails: Hessie is the site of an old mining town (there are no building remains at Hessie - just a field). Crossing the bridge over the river takes you to the trailhead for the Hessie trails. The trail starts as an old mining dirt road, but there are more rocks than dirt. A short ways up the road is an abandon cabin that you can roam around. The road starts with a nice climb up a small mountain. Near the top, you can see 2 cabins on the mountain side to the left (look for the orange mounds) - you can get to one of them from the Lost Lake area. The road continues on and crosses the stream over a solid bridge. A short ways later (1 mile from the trailhead), the Lost Lake trail branches to the left for 1/2 a mile (and a good climb) up to Lost Lake. Lost Lake is a very pretty lake with a nice view of the rocky peaks of the Continental Divide in the distance (the base of which is the destination for the King Lake trail). From Lost Lake, you can see an abandoned mine on the far hillside. The road continues around the lake and up to the mine - with a branch to the left up to another (smaller) mine. An abandoned cabin is also somewhere to the left, but I didn't bother trying to find a way to it. Back on the King Lake trail, the road continues for a bit and then crosses the creek (the last crossing of the creek you'll make until the Bob Lake branch). Woodland Lake trail heads off to the right and King Lake trail heads off to the left. And finally you are on a true trail. The trail narrows to a one-person width and at times rocky trail that slowly gains in elevation. A ways along the trail, you can see 2 old train trestles from the old Rollins Pass Road on the mountainside to the left - before Moffat tunnel was built, the trains used to go over Rollins Pass and then it was a road for a number of years before being abandoned. There's also an old crashed car on the mountainside before the first trestle. After the trestles, the trail started getting muddy at spots and I had to hike over a number of small snow fields (it had snowed 2 weeks before I went). After a little bit longer, the trail starts heading up a mountain with a number of switchbacks. At the top was a large rock with snow surrounding it. I couldn't figure out which way the trail went (there was a post nearby, but no sign on it with directions). I took one step into the snow, my foot sunk, and I pulled it out and decided to stop there. I had lunch and enjoyed the views of the large granite bowl I was in before heading back. Ya, I know I was likely at the fork for the King Lake and Bob Lake trails and only 1/2 mile from King Lake, but I was pretty tired (did a 10 hour hike the day before), sick of hiking over snow (not fun) and there was snow everywhere (not blanketed, though), the lake was probably snowed over, I couldn't figure out which way the trail really was, and I was tired. Despite my cutting my hike a little short (had planned on hitting King, Betty, and Bob lakes), it was still a 8 hour and 50 minute hike by the time I got back to the car. Ouch. See the King Lake-Devil's Thumb Loop description below for more details of the King Lake, Betty Lake, and Bob Lake area. Trail Length + Elevation: 1.75 miles, 777 feet (one-way) to Lost Lake (from parking area) 5.75 miles, 2,422 feet (one-way) to King Lake (from parking area) Area: Indian's Peak Wilderness/Roosevelt National Forest: mountains, trees, abandoned cabins, and mines. Picture When I did the hike: September 1999 (short visit), June 25, 2001 Recommendation: Once you get passed the old road (and Lost Lake is worth visiting despite the old road), there are some very nice trails with interesting sights along the way. The fact that it is isolated and there are few parking spots means it's not crowded. A great place to hike (but better with less snow).
Devil's Thumb Trail - Hessie area Directions: 72 to Nederland. 1/2 mile south of Nederland on 72, go west toward the Eldora Ski Area. At the ski area fork, go straight through the town of Eldora (the road will become dirt just after the town. Park at the fork in the dirt road (there's room for a handful of cars). There is a pretty little trail that goes besides the road to Hessie (and the road to Hessie is _definitely_ high clearance vehicles only as it is part creek - there is more parking at Hessie and a few spots at the end of the road). No facilities [nearest is in Nederland] Free Trails: Hessie is the site of an old mining town (there are no building remains at Hessie - just a field). Crossing the bridge over the river takes you to the trailhead for the Hessie trails. The trail starts as an old mining dirt road, but there are more rocks than dirt. A short ways up the road is an abandon cabin that you can roam around. The road starts with a nice climb up a small mountain. The road continues on at a smaller grade and comes to a bridge with a branch for the Devil's Thumb Bypass heading up to the right. You can either can either take the bypass or head across the bridge (the trails meet up later and the distance is the same). Take the bypass - it's a true trail (not the old road) and gives you some nice distance views of your destination. The bypass heads up for a little ways before leveling off and going through a long meadow. From the meadow, you can see the granite peaks ahead. Your destination is at the base of the farthest peak to the right. After the bypass re-joins with the Devil's Thumb Trail, the trail starts heading up (not steep) and varies between the old mining road and a one person-width trail. I encountered lots of snow and water (with streams taking over parts of the trail - my socks were soaked by the time I got to the lake) along the way. From the junction for the Diamond Lake trail, it is 1/2 mile to Jasper Lake. It was an almost pure snow 1/2 mile for me, so I can't tell you what the trail was really like. When I was there, Jasper Lake was 80% frozen over (very pretty, though) and there was no way I was going to continue on to Devil's Thumb Lake with all the snow and threatening clouds rolling in [I didn't get the expected rain or storms on my way down, but it started flurrying 15 minutes after I left Jasper Lake, which was cool]. Back at the branch for the bypass, I opted for not repeating my path and took the Devil's Thumb Trail back. I'd recommended using the bypass both ways as from the branch, the trail is purely the old mining road, there were several stream parts [maybe dry later in the summer], and no interesting views. See the King Lake-Devil's Thumb Loop description below for more details of Devil's Thumb area. Trail Length + Elevation: about 5 miles, 1,805 feet (one-way) to Jasper Lake about 1 mile, 325 feet further to Devil's Thumb Lake Area: Indian's Peak Wilderness/Roosevelt National Forest: mountains, trees, abandoned cabins, and mines. When I did the hike: Saturday, June 11, 2005 Recommendation: Very pretty area. Hiking on the old road isn't that great, but the mountain lakes are worth it. I went too early in the season, though, as there was too much snow. Be fore warned: seeing snow early on the hike is not a good thing as that means there will be lots more to come. A bonus to the area is that it is not crowded (the Lost Lake trail gets the most people), even if the parking area is full.
King Lake - Devil's Thumb Loop - Hessie area Directions: 72 to Nederland. 1/2 mile south of Nederland on 72, go west toward the Eldora Ski Area. At the ski area fork, go straight through the town of Eldora (the road will become dirt just after the town. Park at the fork in the dirt road (there's room for a handful of cars). There is a pretty little trail that goes besides the road to Hessie (and the road to Hessie is _definitely_ high clearance vehicles only as it is part creek - there is more parking at Hessie and a few spots at the end of the road). Note that more people have found the Hessie area and the parking area fills up early on the weekends. No facilities [nearest is in Nederland] Free Trails: Hessie is the site of an old mining town (there are no building remains at Hessie - just a field). Crossing the bridge over the river takes you to the trailhead for the Hessie trails. The trail starts as an old mining dirt road, but there are more rocks than dirt. A short ways up the road is an abandon cabin that you can roam around. The road starts with a nice climb up a small mountain. The road continues on at a smaller grade and comes to a bridge with a branch for the Devil's Thumb Bypass heading up to the right. For my hike, I did the King Lake branch first, but would recommend going to the Devil's Thumb area first [mostly to make sure the Devil's Thumb Pass is not snowed over - it's a steep down from the pass]. The King Lake trail is described in more detail above. So after 2 3/4 hours of hiking with mostly a gentle up (start with a harder up and end with a harder up and mild in the mild), I reached the top of the waterfall and the Y junction for Betty Lake and King Lake. I headed to Betty Lake first - taking a hard right at the junction. The narrow trail heads up for about .5 mile to the tail of Betty Lake. Betty Lake is a long, oblong lake next to a mountainside. Pretty, but Bob Lake is prettier. It's also harder to get to as the trail will keep disappearing on you. Head along the left side of Betty Lake and make your way as best you can for about .5 mile to Bob Lake (it's just above Betty Lake, where you'd expect it to be). Once you find your way there, sit and have a rest and enjoy the smaller lake in a mountain bowl. Back at the Y junction, King Lake is about .5 mile to the left (or straight if you're coming from Betty lake) and some more climbing. With some careful rock hopping, you should be able to cross the stream near the Y junction without getting your feet wet. As you near the lake, you should see a branch to the right while the trail continues up - take the branch to reach the lake. King Lake is also in a bowl, but is not as pretty as one side is pure slate (and maybe snow). After a rest at the lake, you can continue on the trail heading up towards Rollins Pass (it's not as hard as an up as it looks). At the ridge, the trail T intersects with the Continental Divide Trail. Heading left for a very mild quarter of a mile to the ghost town of Corona and Rollins Pass (and the parking area for Rollins Pass for those with 4-wheel drive that came up from Winter Park). There is hardly anything left of Corona, just one foundation and a collapsed roof. But the view from the collapsed roof area down the valley and over to the Y junction area is wonderful. Back at the T junction, the Continental Divide Trail heads up over a mountain and continues for about 2 miles (and the CDT continues passed that) to the Devil's Thumb Pass. However, there is no sign indicating the Devil's Thumb trail branch and it is hard to locate it (I passed it, going over the next mountain, located it looking down into the valley, and had to go back over the mountain (off trail) sticking to the ridgeline and keeping an eye out for the trail headed down) - the 2nd reason to recommend doing this hike the opposite way that I did it. It's a steep down from the pass for about a mile to the small sized Devil's Thumb Lake. There is not really a good lake side resting spot for Devil's Thumb Lake. It's about a mile further at a much milder down to Jasper Lake, a pretty larger lake. There is a wet water crossing along the shore of Jasper Lake, right before the open resting (and camping) area. You can see the Devil's Thumb trail description above for more information for the hike to Jasper Lake. It was a long hike for me, but I wasn't rushing and took long breaks at each lake. Including about an hour for missing the Devil's Thumb Pass and trying to locate it, it was over an 11 hour hike for me. Trail Length + Elevation: about 5 miles, 2,000 feet to the King Lake-Betty Lake Y junction about .5 miles, 400 feet to Betty Lake from Y Junction about .5 miles, 200 feet to Bob Lake from Betty Lake about .5 miles, 422 feet to King Lake from Y junction about .5 miles, 250 feet to Rollins Pass about 2.25 miles from Rollins Pass to Devil's Thumb Pass (not level) about 1 mile, 595 feet down to Devil's Thumb Lake from the pass about 1 mile, 375 feet down to Jasper Lake from Devil's Thumb Lake about 5 miles, 1,805 feet down to trailhead from Jasper Lake [Note: book descriptions describe the King Lake-High Lonesome Trail (CDT)-Devil's Thumb Lake loop as a 13 mile hike, but I think it's a bit longer than that, even without all the side trips I took.] Area: Indian's Peak Wilderness/Roosevelt National Forest: mountains, mountain lakes, trees. When I did the hike: Sunday, July 17, 2005 Recommendation: It's a very pretty, long loop and worth doing (if the pass isn't snowed over). If you have a full day and are in condition, it's worth doing.
Forest Lakes - James Peak Wilderness Directions: Take Rt 72 to the small town of Rollinsville, about 3 miles south of Nederland. In the middle of town take a right (east) on to CR 16/Moffat Road, a signed turn for Rollins Pass. The road starts gravel and soon turns to good dirt. Take the road 7 miles to a T-junction (just over the railroad tracks). Turn left and take the road a mile to the very large parking area in front of a gate. This is the East Portal for the old (built in 1927, but still in use) Moffat Train Tunnel. The train noise isn't too bad on the trails, but the noise from the vent for the tunnel is very loud and lasts about 20 minutes and occurs several times a day (and night). Note: if you have 4-wheel drive (and it is a rough road), you can take a right at the T-junction and drive several miles to a curve in the road (just before the road is closed) and there is a short .5 mile trail that goes from the road to the middle Forest Lake. Vault toilets. Free. Trails: The trail starts to the right of the gate for the Moffat Tunnel area - there is a sign for the James Peaks Wilderness. The trail starts as an old dirt and rock road bed with good bridges over the creeks and streams. The trail heads mildly up the valley for a little over a mile to the first trail junction (in the middle of a meadow). Take a right for the Forest Lakes. The trail is still an old road bed as it heads a steady up through the trees. The trail crosses a creek via a bridge. Note that from this point, they re-did the trail a number of years ago and the map I had still reflected the old route and you'll also spot bits of the old trail and old road bed below as you head up - I also never did find the branch for the Arapaho Lakes (and I was looking for that turn both going and returning). After the bridge, the trail leaves the old road bed and is mostly 1-person width (wider at points) as the trail heads up near (but not next to) the creek. There is a bit of a mild section before the trail resumes heading up - and there is a lot of up to this hike (but not steep). After a while the trail heads a mild down and then crosses a creek and the first Forest Lake is ahead on the right (the old route went around to the right side of the lake). There are some nice logs to rest on and take a short break at this tree-surrounded smaller sized lake before continuing on. The trail continues around the left side of the lake, crosses a creek, and heads up alongside a small waterfall. The trail then goes through a rockier section (still a good trail to follow) as it weaves around and with some up (there were some pretty wildflowers in this area during my visit). Eventually you'll see the lake down to the left and soon reach a narrow path to the left that will take you lakeside to the largest of the Forest Lakes. The lake is tree-surrounded, but you do get nice views of the Continental Divide granite ridge not too far above the lake - find a nice spot lakeside and enjoy the view. There is another smaller Forest Lake above and to the left of this lake, but my map didn't show a trail to that lake and since I was going to other lakes this day, I didn't try to see if there was a route to that lake. Trail Length + Elevation: 4 miles (one-way) Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lakes When I did the hike: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 Recommendation: The lakes are nice, but not stunning; but there are so many lakes in such a small area that you can reach a good number of them in a day or two, which makes it a really nice place to visit.
Crater Lakes - James Peak Wilderness Directions: Take Rt 72 to the small town of Rollinsville, about 3 miles south of Nederland. In the middle of town take a right (east) on to CR 16/Moffat Road, a signed turn for Rollins Pass. The road starts gravel and soon turns to good dirt. Take the road 7 miles to a T-junction (just over the railroad tracks). Turn left and take the road a mile to the very large parking area in front of a gate. This is the East Portal for the old (built in 1927, but still in use) Moffat Train Tunnel. The train noise isn't too bad on the trails, but the noise from the vent for the tunnel is very loud and lasts about 20 minutes and occurs several times a day (and night). Vault toilets. Free. Trails: The trail starts to the right of the gate for the Moffat Tunnel area - there is a sign for the James Peaks Wilderness. The trail starts as an old dirt and rock road bed with good bridges over the creeks and streams. The trail heads mildly up the valley for a little over a mile to the first trail junction (in the middle of a meadow). Continue straight. The old road bed does get rockier and heads more of an up. The way eventually changes from road to a dirt trail. At the signed junction, take a right and immediately start heading up, up, up - it is a huff-and-puff up. The dirt and rock trail is one-person width and does have some switchbacks as it heads up through the trees. And goes up, up, up - nothing mild about this - sometimes with some rock steps. Once you finally reach the ridge, the trail heads a slight down and crosses a creek via rock hop. Just ahead on the left is one of the lakes (and another is just ahead on the right as the trail goes between the two and sidetrips must be made to get lakeside to both). As you approach the area, take a left on a narrow path that will take you to the bottom of the first/middle Crater Lake, for a good view at a small nice resting and feet soaking spot near the outlet stream. The smaller sized lake has a green slope at the far end with the Continental Divide visible above the slope. Back on the trail, you'll find a number of branches heading right (backpackers camp in this area) - pick a branch and make your way to the second/middle Crater Lake. It is a larger tree-surrounded lake, but the setting is not as pretty the first as a ridge blocks the view of the Divide. Back on the trail, the trail heads parallel to the second/middle lake and goes towards the top of the lake and the trail gets confusing there with a number of branches. You want to take the route that will put you directly next to the top edge of the lake (as in a foot or so from the water). Round the lake at the top and the narrow path will turn left as it approaches a pretty waterfall. The trail becomes a goat path and it is a nasty up next to the waterfall (I was expecting there to be more of a true trail). As you head the steep up, jag left and continue up. The path rock-hops across the falls at a safe spot and then there is more up, this time a rocky up - on the return, be careful heading down to the bottom of the falls. At the top is the end of the climb, but you are not at the lake yet. The path makes its way around a pond through the brush (and you'll have to push branches out of your way) and then across some rocks. At the top of a small rock mound you can see the upper Crater Lake. The lake is pretty and set in a rock bowl directly below the Divide, but the lake is brush-surrounded and I couldn't find a way to get lakeside (and I spent some energy trying to) and ended up not staying long and went back and spent some time at the first/middle lake. Trail Length + Elevation: 3 miles (one-way) Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lakes When I did the hike: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 Recommendation: These were the least favorite of the lakes I visited in the James Peak Wilderness. It is a big climb to get to them. I liked the first lake that the trail reaches the best of the 3 (there is a 4th/lower lake that the trail doesn't go to).
Heart Lake and Rogers Pass - James Peak Wilderness Directions: Take Rt 72 to the small town of Rollinsville, about 3 miles south of Nederland. In the middle of town take a right (east) on to CR 16/Moffat Road, a signed turn for Rollins Pass. The road starts gravel and soon turns to good dirt. Take the road 7 miles to a T-junction (just over the railroad tracks). Turn left and take the road a mile to the very large parking area in front of a gate. This is the East Portal for the old (built in 1927, but still in use) Moffat Train Tunnel. The train noise isn't too bad on the trails, but the noise from the vent for the tunnel is very loud and lasts about 20 minutes and occurs several times a day (and night). Vault toilets. Free. Trails: The trail starts to the right of the gate for the Moffat Tunnel area - there is a sign for the James Peaks Wilderness. The trail starts as an old dirt and rock road bed with good bridges over the creeks and streams. The trail heads mildly up the valley for a little over a mile to the first trail junction (in the middle of a meadow). Continue straight. The old road bed does get rockier and heads more of an up. The way eventually changes from road to a dirt trail. At the signed junction, continue straight. It is mostly trail the rest of the way, with a few faint glimpses of the old road bed. The trail continues to head up from the junction. After a bit, the trail is milder and continues with a mixture of mild and up. After crossing the creek on a bridge, the trail heads a sharper up on a rocky and rooty trail. The trail resumes being a mixture of milds and (not hard) ups. After crossing two flattop logs, the trail starts its climb to Heart Lake - not a harsh up, but a steady up. The creek is nearby on the left as it heads up. The trail log crosses the creek at a pretty spot and then heads a harsher up for a short bit. After a rock hop back across a stream, the trail goes back across the creek (on the left after the crossing) on loose logs and shortly ahead is a pretty (and mild) basin with some open meadows where you can see the ridges and peaks of the Continental Divide. (Heading back, you'll see a lower lake off the trail, not really worth the sidetrip to visit that tree-surrounded lake.) The trail goes near a pretty pond (actually one of the Rogers Pass Lakes) with a scenic view behind the pond of James Peak and there were pretty wildflowers in the area when I was there (this was actually my favorite spot for the two days spent in the James Peak Wilderness). Just ahead is the largest of the Rogers Pass Lakes - the lake is tree-lined on the bottom shore and pretty much above the treeline on the other shores. The trail continues to the right of the lake. Near the end of the lake, the trail takes a right and heads a hard up the open slope. At the top, Heart Lake is straight ahead (not right ahead though) and the way to Rogers Pass heads left. To get to the now visible Heart Lake (largest of the area), head straight through the brush and then down the rocks to the lake. The Divide is directly above to the left and there is also a ridge above the lake straight ahead. For Rogers Pass, from the top of the slope, head left and the trail soon starts heading up, up, zig-zag up. There are nice views looking down on Heart Lake and the middle Rogers Pass Lake - going to the pass is worth doing so for these views. The trail goes left around the mountainside before going back to the right around the mountainside and them making a direct angle up to the pass (no false summit). Straight ahead is the Continental Divide and you can then see down the west side to the ski slopes of Winter Park (not that scenic). To the left is a faded Rogers Pass Road sign and you can see more indications of the old road. Again the views down on Rogers Pass Lakes and Heart Lake are very pretty and James Peak is to the right. Trail Length + Elevation: 4.2 miles (one-way) to Heart Lake 4.6 miles (one-way) to pass Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lakes Picture When I did the hike: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 Recommendation: The prettiest of the 3 hikes I did in the James Peak Wilderness. As an added bonus is the sense of history in knowing that Rogers Pass was an old toll road (competing with the Rollins Pass toll road) as a route over the Divide.
Lake Charles and Mystic Island Lake (Eagle) Directions: Take I70 to Eagle (exit 147) and head south - it's going to wiggle you through town so hopefully you'll find the way - follow the signs for Sylvan Lake State Park at the roundabouts and eventually (hopefully) find yourself on Brush Creek Rd as it heads south through farm land (one of my directions says left on Capitol Street, south on Eby Creek Rd to Rt 6 roundabout, right on Rt 6/Grand Ave, .8 miles to next roundabout then 3rd right on to Sylvan Lake Rd, 1.6 miles to Brush Creek Rd). After 10 miles is a White River National Forest information sign. Shortly after that is a Y-junction - take a left and the road turns to dirt (mostly good, some large potholes, 2wd fine). After 6 miles is the Yeoman Campground and the road narrows - some rocks, but easy to avoid (still 2wd, just pray no one comes the other way). A little over a mile ahead is the end of the road and parking area - right next to it is a small (fee) campground. Vault toilet in the campground. Free. Trails: The trail starts at the top of the parking area and goes along the small road. A short ways ahead, take a left at the signed trail and leave the road. The trail heads a not hard up (and widens a little after the grassy area). The trail soon goes near (not next to) the creek and stays that way. The trail heads a short down and then is a bit more of an up (not long) and then it is mostly mild for a ways as the trail heads behind some mounds and next to a pond, then more mild. The trail goes next to the creek (not crossing) and then hooks a left and heads up (this is an up, but not too long). The trail turns right and the required registration box (free) for Holy Cross Wilderness is just ahead. The trail is back to being mostly mild with some small ups. The trail heads up, reaching the base of a rock field (and stays under it) and then is a harder up. The trail is then not as hard of an up (but still an up) and then is a mixture of small ups, small downs, and milds. The trail is pleasant as it heads next to a babbling brook and then is a wooden bridge over a marshy area (and may have some muddy spots before the bridge). After a rock and log cross of a stream, the trail heads a not hard up next to the faster flowing creek. Rock hop across a stream and then easy log cross a wider stream. The trail heads a hard up for a bit. At the top, the trail heads to the left and is more up. Then a harder up as the trail heads up the backside of a huge rock mound. At the top, the trail is mild and heads a slight down. After a second stream crossing (rock hop), take a short side trip up a small rock mound for a pretty view of 2 granite peaks. The trail heads up again near the creek. After the top, the trail is mild for a bit and reaches the beautiful good-sized scenic Lake Charles. There are some nice spots at the bottom of the lake (to the right from the trail) to sit and feet-soak and enjoy the views. The trail continues around the left side of the lake. Towards the end of the lake is an up and down a mound and then another small up. The trail goes through a long meadow (maybe a marshy mess) and eventually heads up (not hard) in the small trees. The trail heads a little towards the right (may be different trail branches, closer to the outlet creek is probably best) and eventually reaches the equally scenic Mystic Island Lake. Lots of places to sit and enjoy the pretty lake that is set directly below Eagle Peak with some small islands in the lake. Both lakes are beautiful, though different from each other. Trail Length + Elevation: 4.4 miles, 1655 ft one-way to Lake Charles 1.1 miles, 273 ft Lake Charles to Mysic Island Lake Area: mountains, mountain lakes Picture When I did the hike: Friday, July 15, 2011 Recommendation: Absolutely. Pretty hike to 2 different beautiful mountain lakes in pretty settings. [Have to admit I was surprised, I definitely wasn't expecting them to be as pretty as they were, especially Lake Charles (1st lakes in multi-lakes hikes are usually fairly blah).]
Mount of the Holy Cross Directions: From the north, take Rt 24 (exit 171 from I70) south for about 5 miles. From the south, take Rt 24 from Leadville for about 28 miles, just past the long switchback down. Turn west on to Tigiwon Road. Drive the bumpy (potholes) dirt road [don't need 4-wheel drive, but very slow going] as it weaves up the mountainside for 8 miles to the parking area at the end. The trail starts at the far end of the parking area. Vault toilet in the middle of the parking area. Free. 14er note Mount of the Holy Cross Summit: 14,005 Trails: The good dirt trail heads up as it weaves through the trees (not a hard up, but an up). It is 1.5 miles from the trailhead to the pass. As you near the pass, you can see Notch Mountain to the left and there are pretty valley views behind you as the trees thin. At the pass, Holy Cross is not visible yet. The trail then heads a mild down in to the trees and then through an open rock field before another tree section. The trail rounds a bend and Holy Cross is the peak ahead to the right - there is soon a great picture taking spot with Holy Cross and the tall waterfall of this valley. Then it starts the hard down as the trail switchbacks down, down, down to the creek. But there are still excellent views of Holy Cross and the falls as you go down until near the bottom when you are back in the trees. The trail does drop 1000 feet from the pass to the creek, so you do have a big climb on the retun hike [I actually didn't find the climb too bad as I took 2 long breaks on the way up and another at the pass - but I wasn't rushing as I was staying the night at the trailhead]. There are backcountry camping spots near the creek (both sides). The trail reaches the creek and it is either a rock-hop or deep wet-water crossing (I didn't like the rocks as they were too widely spaced for my liking and the water came up to my knee to mid-thigh). The trail heads up, but not a hard up yet, as it goes through some rocky sections for a bit. Then comes the harsher up as the trail heads up, up, up through the trees, with some switchbacks - nothing is easy the rest of the way. The trail reaches the treeline and then reaches the ridge (with some pretty views for a good ways down on the valley on the left, with Lake Patricia). The trail turns right and soon reaches the rocks. And it's rocks for the rest of the way. Make your way carefully (and slowly) through the rocks, following the rock cairns where you can, as the way zig-zags to the ridge towards the right - the trail goes slightly below to the left of the point you see. There are some sections of rock scrambling where using your hands is needed for balance and helping yourself along. From below the point, the way is not as difficult until the last climb as it reaches a crest and then heads along the ridge to the last slope for Holy Cross. A little before the slope is actually a bit of trail to follow. At the bottom of the slope, you have a number of options for the way up. It is 600 feet of pure rocks and is all rock scramble and even some climbing (nothing technical) as you make your way up and over the rocks to the summit (good news: no false peaks) I recommend heading left where you can. There are a number of rock cairns pointing out different routes up, use your best judgement and take your time. Once you reach the summit, make sure you head towards the point so that you can look down on the pretty Bowl of Tears Lake. There are also pretty views to the southwest. It took me a little over 6 hours to reach the summit (but I hike slow in the mountains, but I also was only making rest stops as weather concerns kept me moving so I could summit). Trail Length + Elevation: 10.8 miles (round-trip), 5600 feet (includes 1000 drop) Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er When I did the hike: Friday, July 30, 2010 Picture Recommendation: One of the prettiest 14er hikes - along with Handies Peak loop, probably my favorite of the 14ers. A very long day-hike, though.
Tuhare Lakes and Falls Creek Pass Directions: From the north, take Rt 24 (exit 171 from I70) south for about 5 miles. From the south, take Rt 24 from Leadville for about 28 miles, just past the long switchback down. Turn west on to Tigiwon Road. Drive the bumpy (potholes) dirt road [don't need 4-wheel drive, but very slow going] as it weaves up the mountainside for 8 miles to the parking area at the end. The trail starts at the middle of the parking area, just down on the turn for the camping area and on the right - there is an information sign at the trailhead. Vault toilet in the middle of the parking area. Free. Trails: The wide trail heads through the trees at a mild up, with some short more up (not hard) sections. The trail narrows as it heads around the hillside and is a bit more of an up. After an easy rockhop across a stream, the trail is mild for a ways and then is another up as the trail heads around more hillside - you can see a creek down in the valley below. The trail reaches a monster rock and heads a harder up for a bit. At the signed Notch Mountain junction (good resting area), go straight. The trail narrows to one-person width and is mild for a ways (including some down). The trail heads up over a rock ridge and then down the other side (and I played limbo with some downed trees that were across the trail) and continues a mild down to a stream. After crossing the stream, the trail heads a mild up through a meadow and then down to a brook. The trail again heads up as it goes behind a rock-ledge. The trail rounds a bend and heads down and you can see Lake Constantine ahead to the left through the trees. The trail stays to the right of Lake Constantine - make a short sidetrip when the trail reaches the lake to get a good view of the tree and rock-mound surrounded lake (and is a nice resting spot), as the trail does not go next to the lake. After going through the meadow/marsh area before the lake, the trail stays to the right of the lake and is soon a bit of distances from the lake behind the rock mounds. It is a little bit of an up from the lake, but nothing hard, and the trail is surprisingly mild as it heads alongside a creek and eventually reaches the signed Fall Creek Pass- Tuhare Lakes junction. For Fall Creek Pass: head straight-left at the junction and the trail soon crosses the creek via logs. The trail takes a short jaunt to the left and then heads right and starts the long up (and it is an up) - a straight forward up with no switchbacks. The trail goes above the trees and is very pretty with wildflowers, views up the open valley with a waterfall nearby, and views back at Lake Constantine. As you get higher, you can see a waterfall in the distance to the right - that is the way for the Tuhare Lakes. The trail heads up above the pond and marshy basin and then takes a left through some bushes (the bushes overhang the trail and you'll probably have to push branches out of your way as you go through). The trail makes a short zig-zag and then heads next to a pond, on the left and continues up. The trail rounds a bend (don't worry, the way up is not to the right and there are no rock scrambles) and then another bend and makes its way up to the next basin. Once the trail reaches the upper basin, it is fairly mild to the pass, to the right of the low ridge in front of you. The route (not a definite trail at spots) makes a short drop into the basin and then heads right. Going through the grassy field, I took a step and found myself stepping into water in what turned out to be a marshy basin (maybe it dries out in August). And there was another marshy area further in the basin (no way around, have to go through) and I ended up with soaked socks and shoes. The route reaches the end of the basin and makes a short up the slope with a couple of switchbacks and the pass is right there. Go a little down from the pass for a better view of the top two Seven Sisters Lakes. Part of a slope of the Mount of the Holy Cross is above you to the right. It is pretty, but not stunning and not really worth all the effort. For Tuhare Lakes: back at the trail junction, head right and the trail makes a couple of turns in the trees before leaving them and heading up on the right side of the falls/creek. And it is a narrow, rugged, steep up next to the falls with some short rock scramble sections (need your hands to help you up). A bit after that, the trail is not as harsh, but still lots of up. The trail makes another harsh up right next to a very pretty waterfall on a sloping rock - make your way carefully up that section. After the way curves right (away from the falls), immediately take a left as soon as you reach the edge of the rock field and head through and over the rocks to the left and you reach a path just ahead. The lower lake is just ahead. As soon as you near the lake, make your way to the left to the bottom of the lake for great resting spots with full views of the lake and the waterfall at the top of the lake and ridges from the Mount of the Holy Cross above. Spend some time there. To get to the upper lake, continue on the narrow path around the right side of the lower lake as the way up will be to the right of the falls (a lot of up, some steep). As the path nears the end of the lower lake, it heads a little to the left and soon starts heading up. Make your way carefully up, following the path and up the rocks. Near the top is a short, about 8 foot, rock climb (and that really is the best way up and down as I didn't like it and looked for a different way down and ended up going down that way). At the top, you can see the boulder surround lake - make your way across the boulders to get lakeside. I wasn't that fond of the upper lake, but loved the lower lake. Note: if you want to do both the pass and the lakes, you basicly have to do a Y-shaped hike and return to the junction to do the other as the lower basin between the two trails is full of ponds and water and there is no obvious way to cross. Trail Length + Elevation: 4 miles (one-way), 1000 feet trailhead to Lake Constantine 5.5 miles (one-way), 2045 feet TH to Upper Tuhare Lake 6 miles (one-way), 2807 feet TN to Fall Creek Pass Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lakes Picture When I did the hike: Saturday, July 31, 2010 Recommendation: I liked the Lower Tuhare Lake and it is a pretty area. I wouldn't make a specially trip to the area to do this hike - only go if you are there for a Mount of the Holy Cross hike and have an extra day.
Lower Cataract Lake Directions: Rt 9 to the Green Mountain Reservoir area (about 30 miles north of I70). Turn west for Heeney (signed) and the road that goes around the west side of the reservoir (you can access this road either from the north (the way I came) or south (the way most will come)). About midway around the reservoir (south of Heeney), look for a dirt road on the west side with a Cataract Cr street sign - take the turn and the dirt road narrows (but still 2wd) and goes for about 3 miles to the parking area at the end (there is another parking area 1/2 mile before that for the Upper Cataract trailhead). Note that there is a small campground (only 5 spots, $5) just before the trailhead and lake area (there are also larger campgrounds around the reservoir). Vault toilet at end of parking area. $15 per car. Trails: There is a trail that loops around the pretty Lower Cataract Lake, so you can go either direction - I went counter-clockwise. Continue on around the gate and on the road to the right of the toilet. After a bit is a sign on the right for the loop trail - take the right and you are now on a trail. The narrow trail heads a not hard up, staying high above the lake, with pretty views of the lake and the big waterfall above it (note that you never get a good close-up view of the falls) and the peaks far above. The trail heads down (people coming the other way were huffing) and then goes through a meadow area - it may be muddy at spots - and then reaches the creek. Continue a bit to the right to get to the good bridge that goes over the creek (and I sat in this pretty area for a while) - this is as close as the trail gets to the falls and you are in the trees here, so no fall views (but some were trying hard, non-trail ups to try to get closer to the falls). The trail is mild through the trees and then is mostly mild as it comes out of the trees and again has nice views of the lake and (for my visit) hillsides of wildflowers including lots of columbines. The trail is mostly mild with some small ups and downs as it goes along the small hills along the south side of the lake (mostly above the lake). The trail eventually reaches a small beachish area on the east side of the lake where there is a nice shady tree and a couple of picnic tables (went back and had dinner there that night and the next) - a really pretty spot with the full lake in front of you and the waterfall and peaks in the distance. The parking area is a short ways back and up to the right from there. Trail Length: about 3 miles Area: mountains, lower mountain lake, waterfall When I did the hike: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 Recommendation: A very pretty, mild hike. Great for a family outing. The wildflowers were beautiful on my visit.
Upper Cataract Lake Directions: Rt 9 to the Green Mountain Reservoir area (about 30 miles north of I70). Turn west for Heeney (signed) and the road that goes around the west side of the reservoir (you can access this road either from the north (the way I came) or south (the way most will come)). About midway around the reservoir (south of Heeney), look for a dirt road on the west side with a Cataract Cr street sign - take the turn and the dirt road narrows (but still 2wd) and goes for about 2.5 miles to the parking area on the left side of the road (just past the campground). The road continues another 1/2 mile to the parking area for the Lower Cataract Lake (and there's a vault toilet there as well as a vault toilet next to the road at the campground). [This is called the Surprise Trailhead (which confused some), but it is also the way for Upper Cataract Lake.] Note that there is a small campground (only 5 spots, $5) just before the trailhead and lake area (there are also larger campgrounds around the reservoir). No facilities. $15 per car. Trails: The trail starts on the left side at the top of the parking area, next to the info sign and heads a short down and crosses the creek on the good bridge. The narrow trail then heads up the hillside. It is mild for a bit after that, but heads to the left (confusing as I was thinking that it should be heading right). The trail widens a bit when it reaches the trees and then is a mixture of milds and ups (still heading to the left). The trail log-crosses a stream and goes through some greenery. The trail is no longer heading left and starts its steady up. And a steady up (the width varies - narrow in the meadows, wider in the trees). And a steady up. The trail finally calms down (yeah!) and is mild for a good ways. After a short up is a stream crossing and it is back to mild after that (with another stream crossing just ahead). After 2.5 miles, finally reached the signed trail junction - take a right. About 1/4 mile ahead (and not a hard up) is Surprise Lake, a very short sidetrip from the main trail - nothing exciting, just a tree-surrounded oversized pond (but a nice spot for a longer break after the hard hike to get this far). Upper Cataract Lake is 2.5 miles ahead. After log crossing the outlet stream, the trail heads a steady up in the trees. About 1/2 mile from Surprise Lake is a trail junction - take a left. The trail crosses a stream with a 2nd stream crossing just ahead. Shortly after that is another signed trail junction - again take a left. After a mild up, the trail is surprisingly mild for a ways, though it can be muddy at spots, but nothing hard for a long ways as the trail makes its way through the trees. I kept wait for a climb, but instead was surprised when the trail dropped. As the trail heads down, you start seeing peaks straight ahead and then see a lake down to the right (Cat Lake) - good views of both as the (good) trail goes down through and around a rock field. At the bottom, take a left for a 5 minute walk to the pretty Upper Cataract Lake and find a nice resting spot to enjoy the views. Eagles Nest (13,397 ft) is the peak looming directly above the lake. Back where you turned left to reach the lake, the main trail continues straight. A short ways ahead is the right turn for a sidetrip down to the tree surround Cat Lake (didn't do). A bit further on, the trail reaches the outlet stream for Upper Cataract Lake and it is a wet water crossing. I was going to continue on to Mirror Lake, but turned around there as there was still snow in the area (with 2011's extremely heavy snowpack) and I didn't want to do the icy-cold wet water crossing and instead went back and spent more time at Upper Cataract Lake. Trail Length + Elevation: 5.6 miles, 2136 ft one-way to Upper Cataract Lake 1.1 miles Upper Cataract Lake to Mirror Lake Area: mountains, mountain lakes Picture When I did the hike: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 Recommendation: A very pretty mountain lake. The hard part of the hike is surprisingly in the middle, not at the end.
Grays Peak and Torreys Peak Directions: Take I70 to the Bakerville exit (#221) and head south on FR 189 - there is a wide parking area (with a brick chimney post) on the southeast corner of the I70-FR 189 junction (this is the winter parking area). Shortly after the parking area the road turns to dirt. Take the rough dirt road 3 miles up to the trailhead - it is a rough road and sometimes steep heading up, but if you drive carefully you can make it to the trailhead (my sedan made it and so did a number of other non-4-wheel drive cars). As you near the parking area, you'll see the person-bridge over the creek on the right. Turn left into the good-sized parking area. The trail starts at the big information sign across the road (next to the bridge). Note that since the trail is so close to I70 that this is a very popular hike. Vault toilets in the parking area. Free. 14er note Grays Peak Summit: 14,270 Torreys Peak Summit: 14,267 Trails: Cross the bridge and the wide gravel wood-lined trail heads a mild up. The gravel section soon ends, but the trail stays wide and is well developed. The trail turns to the right for a bit of an up and then resumes heading up the valley. Eventually you can see Grays (to the left) and Torreys (to the right) in the distance. The trail is mild as it heads to an info sign, 1.5 miles in [Grays Trail is actually a National Recreation Trail, which is why it's such a nice trail]. From there it is 2 miles and 2000 feet to Grays' summit. The trail heads to the left in front of a ridge mound (rock-hopping across a stream) and then up behind the ridge mound. Then starts the climb as the trail heads up, up, up. There are some rocky sections, but the trail stays good the whole way to the summit. The trail heads in front of Grays and then switchbacks up (some long) up to the summit. There are a number of windbreaks at the summit. From the summit, head to the right and head down to the saddle - the trail is a little more rugged and a harder down, but still nothing challenging. Shortly after reaching the saddle between Grays and Torreys, notice a trail next a rock cairn heading to the right - that is the turn you'll want take on the way back (instead of going back up to Grays). Continue across the saddle and the trail makes a pretty basic up to Torreys' summit, a couple of zig-zags but mostly straight up. The way up to Torreys is rocky and does have some loose rocks, but it is not as hard as it looks (but still huff-and-puff). The views are similar at Torreys' summit to Grays' summit (both nice, but not outstanding). Trail Length + Elevation: 8.25 miles (round), 3600 feet Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er When I did the hike: Tuesday, August 3, 2010 Recommendation: It is pretty and you do get to hit 2 14ers in one hike. Won't find much solitude, though.
Mt. Bierstadt Directions: From the north: Take I70 to the Georgetown exit and head south, go through town and follow the signs for Guanella Pass (a few turns through town). After leaving the town, the road turns to a good dirt road and it is 12 miles to the pass. NOTE: in 2010 the pass road was closed after about 4 miles as the road had been seriously damaged and they were working to repair it. Make sure the road is open before you try to head to the pass from the north (it is a 100 mile detour to go from Georgetown to the south side of the pass). From the south: Take Hwy 285 to the small town of Grant (midway between Fairplay and Denver). In the middle of town, look for the signed turn for Guanella Pass and turn north on to that road. The road is dirt for about 4 miles (mixture of good and bumpy) and then (for some reason) is paved for a good ways. About a mile before the pass, the road is back to dirt. At the pass, look for a turn-in for a parking area on the east side of the road (it's pretty obvious which parking area you want). The trail starts at the end of the parking area, next to the toilet (there is no sign, so people who don't know where the start is located look confused as they try to find the trail). Vault toilet at parking area. Free. 14er note Mt. Bierstadt Summit: 14,060 Trails: A little after the trail starts, it hooks a left and heads down into the open pass basin and heads to the right of the large pond. There are some boardwalk sections where the trail goes through some marsh section, though you may also have to work to avoid some water on the trail if there has been rain recently. Near the end of the basin, there is a wet-water crossing of a large creek (you may be able to rock-hop if the water is low). The trail then heads to the right before heading left and weaving through the bushes as it heads up the slope. There is a rock outcrop that is a nice resting spot and has a great view of the pass basin. The trail soon leaves the bushes (and you're above the treeline) and heads (still up) to the left to the top of the green slope. The trail then curves right and is a wider dirt trail. The trail makes its way across the green slope to the base of the rocky slope. Then it is up, up, up the rocky slope (no scrambles) to the ridge - follow the trail where it's obvious and the rock cairns where it is not. It seems to take forever to reach the ridge. Once you finally reach the ridge, head left, still going over rocks, to the bottom of the final climb. Start towards the right at the bottom of the last climb and it is a rock scramble for the final 250 feet to the top - use your hands to help and make your way the best you can up and over the rocks and boulders, following whichever rock cairns (there is no "one route") looks the best to you. There is no false summit. Enjoy the views down on some mountain lakes in valleys to the south and east. When you get back to the saddle for your return, remember to head along the saddle a bit before starting to head down for the easiest way back. Note that there is a route from Bierstadt's summit to the Sawtooth and then over and up to Mt. Evans (another 14er), but there is some class 3 stuff going over the Sawtooth. Trail Length + Elevation: 3.5 miles (one-way), 2850 feet Area: Picture Rocky Mountains, 14er When I did the hike: Wednesday, August 4, 2010 Recommendation: It is pretty at the summit, but it sure seemed to take forever to reach the top of the rock ridge.
Mt. Evans from Summit Lake Directions: I70 to Idaho Springs (exit 240) and go south on CO 103 for 14 miles to just past Echo Lake. The road curves to the left, but the way for Mt. Evans is straight on to CO 5 - the entrance station is a short ways ahead. Take the paved road for 9 miles to the Summit Lake parking area, on the right. Note: the road goes almost all the way to the summit (134 ft short of the top, about 1/4 mile tourist trail). Vault toilets at Summit Lake and at the summit parking area. $10 per car for 3 days or National Parks Pass 14er note Mt. Evans Summit: 14,264 Trails: The entire route is above the tree line. Go to the end of the parking area and continue on the wide trail past the stone building, going to the Chicago Lakes overlook (lakes are in the next valley below). Just before the overlook, there is a sign on the left for the Mt. Evans trail - take the left and the narrow trail starts heading up. In addition to heading up, you are at a high altitude, so the going is slow. It can also be cold and/or windy on the trail (even if it is not below). The good trail soon is high above Summit Lake. The trail stays on the Summit Lake side of the slope for a ways. The trail gets rockier, but is still easy to tell which way to go. There are some small, not too hard rock scrambles. The trail takes some zig-zags as it heads to the ridge, with cairns to follow. There is an unpleasant 3-foot rock up near the ridge top (that I didn't like - which is one of the reasons I took the road back, weather concerns being the other). Then it is easy walking for a ways, following cairns along the open ridge that angles up. The views are pretty. The trail finally reaches the top of Mt. Spalding (13,842 ft). Take a break and enjoy the many 360 degree pretty views (I actually thought that the views from Mt. Spalding's summit were better than the views from Mt. Evan's summit). From Spalding, the trial heads down to the saddle (if you lose track of the path/cairns, just keep heading to the saddle, towards the left side). Enjoy your last views of Summit Lake until Evan's summit. The trail crosses the saddle (look for marmots) and then heads up to the right - the trail is going to swing around the backside of Mt. Evans, not a direct up - make sure you are now following the bits of path and the cairns marking the way. The trail does have more umph as it head up towards the large rock mound. There is a small scramble (easy) just before the mound and the trail heads down to a notch (view of Mt. Bierdstadt across the way - nice resting spot). The trail drops some to the right and stays below the ridge. From there, the trail is difficult (though not hard to follow) as it makes its way up and along the rocky slope - some small scrambles and you'll want your left hand free to help guide you at times. This goes on for a good ways. When you can see the curve in the road, the trail gets easier (and not as scary) - still a bit to go. As you approach the tourist area, hook a left and the trail soon joins up with the tourist trail - a couple of mild zig-zags take you to the summit. You can either return the way you came or take the tourist trail down to the parking area and walk the road back to Summit Lake (much easier to walk the road, but longer at 5 miles) - if you walk the road, obviously you have to keep an eye out for vehicles and bikers on the narrow road. Trail Length + Elevation: 2.7 miles, 2000 ft one-way Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er Picture When I did the hike: Thursday, July 14, 2011 Recommendation: It is a little rough from the saddle to Mt. Evan's summit, but is scenic with the views of Mt. Bierstadt and the lake below as well as the very pretty views from the Mt. Spalding area.
Pikes Peak Directions: Take Rt 24 to Divide (7 miles east of Woodland Park) and turn south on CO 67 (stop light) and drive 4 miles. Look for a brown sign for Crags Campground and turn on to the dirt road on the left. Take the road for 3 miles to the parking area, baring right at the summer camp about a mile before the parking area. It is a decent dirt road (not great, but you don't need 4wd). For the parking area, you'll see a vault toilet on the left and a good sized parking area on the right - the road continues a little bit further to the Crags Campground (which used to have the trailhead for the Pikes Peak hike). Note that there is a paved road that goes all the way to the top of the Pikes Peak - take the exit on Rt 24 between Colorado Springs and Woodland Park and take the fee road to the top. The actual summit point is in the middle of the rock area that the parking spots surround (not the tourist sign next to the store). Vault toilet at parking area, flush toilets at the store at the summit. Free. 14er note Pikes Peak Summit: 14,110 Trails: The trail starts to the right of the toilets and the good gravelish trail heads up the hillside with a couple of switchbacks for a little bit, then a mild down for a bit to a trail junction (the old trail route is to the right). At the junction, take a right-straight (not left-straight or hard right) and cross the small stream. The trail is now dirt and rocky and heads a steady up (with Devils Playground signs). And heads a steady up. The trail reaches a small meadow and you can tell that you have a good up ahead. The trail turns left and heads a hard up (rocky to gravely) for a bit. The trail turns right and is not as hard of an up (but still up) as the trail heads up the mountainside. After a number of switchbacks, the trail eventually reaches the treeline and it is up, up, up as the trail heads up to the right for a bit before heading up to the gap on the green slope and more hard up to the top of the gap. Once you finally reach the top, you can see Pikes Peak ahead (still a ways away) to the right. Hike the mild trail to the left as it curves and then goes by some neat looking large rocks and reaches the road - this is the Devil's Playground area (called such as lightning likes to jump from rock-to-rock in the area during storms - lots of fun for me as I had two sleet storms come through on the way down (quick weather change from my sunny morning) and was in the area for the 2nd one). You still have over 2 miles to go. Cross the road, step over the wire, and head right on the trail. The trail stays near the road for a bit and is mild. As you round the curve (heading a mild down), you'll see the trail heading to the left of a large mound, while the road goes to the right. As you round the inside of the next curve, you'll briefly walk along the road and then get back on the trail as the trail heads a not hard up. At the top, the trail is mild, then a mild down, then a short up, and another mild down as it rounds the large mound and reaches the road again. Follow the cairns as the (not distinct) trail heads just below the left side of the road. At the curve, the trail heads up for a bit - follow the cairns, but don't worry if you loose the trail as you'll spot it again later. The trail is a bit milder at the top as it goes through a rock field (you'll want to end up close to the road before heading to the left) - you'll see patches of the trial in the small less rocky area up to the left. Follow the trail or make your way there. Then it is a hard up to the summit, but a good route (as long as you keep track of the cairns - if it gets really hard, you lost the trail and need to find it again). The trail zig-zags its way up as it heads through pure rocks. There are some stone steps to make the way easier. If you stick to the trail, it is never a scramble and your hands are needed for no more than to guide. Up, up, up. When you near the road, go along the outside of the rail and back on the trail - not too long to the summit. There are cars, a store, and a restaurant at the summit. The true summit point is in the mild of the large rocky area, which the parking spots surround (surprisingly, most of the tourists do not go in those rocks - I wanted a trophy photo there as it was my 35th 14er, but had to use my camera timer as no one else came to the true summit for over 30 minutes). Trail Length + Elevation: 6.6 miles, 4300 ft one-way Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er When I did the hike: Monday, August 1, 2011 Recommendation: Only if you're looking to add to your 14er count. There are many other more scenic 14er hikes.
Garden of the Gods Directions: From Colorado Springs and I25, head west on Hwy 24 for about 3 miles to the Garden of the Gods exit (signed). Follow the signs in to the park. The tourist store is a little bit past Balanced Rock (at the northwest entrance) - head right at the junction. The visitor center is actually outside of the park, to the central east on 30th Street - go halfway around the center of the park (one-way loop) and turn right at the stop sign and you'll see the visitor center straight ahead. Restrooms at a number of stops. Free. Trails: You can do a tourist visit by driving the loop road around the Central Garden (center) and stopping where you feel like and walking around where you feel like. The trails in the Central Garden go through and around the massive sandstone formations and are all paved - stay on the pavement [yeah, not as fun, but needed with the high usage of the park]. There are a number of longer dirt trails in the areas around the Central Garden that don't receive as much usage. The park is very popular (and for good reason), so don't expect solitude in the afternoons or on weekends. But if you get there early, you can find some solitude and extra enjoyment around sunrise with the morning light turning the sandstone a brighter orange. Trail Length: Short and long. Area: Large distinctive orange sandstone formations. Picture When I did the hike: Thursday and Friday, August 20+21, 2009 Recommendation: One of the prettiest city parks in the US.
Mohawk Lakes (Breckenridge) Directions: (From the north) Rt 9 to Breckenridge. Go through Breckenridge, keeping on Rt 9. 2 miles past the Conoco gas station at the south end of town, turn right on to Spruce Creek Road (just south of where there is a large lake on the east side of the road). Drive 1 mile up the easy dirt road to the obvious parking area with good-sized pulloff areas on both sides of the road (and likely a number of cars already there) - make sure that you pull in to park and do not park sideways so that more cars will be able to park. The popular trail starts in the center left parking area, with an info sign with a trail map just off the road. No facilities. Free. Trails: Follow the blue-diamonds on the trees as the wide trail heads a mild (but constant) up through the thin pines. There is more of an up (but not hard) as the trail approaches a junction. Go straight at the junction and the trail gets more rugged and continues up. At the road (this can be confusing), go on the road and straight and stay on the road as it curves right around a bend and you should see the obvious trail at the upper right edge of the road - there is a trail sign. The trail is a harder up for a while and then an easy walk to the uneventful Mayflower Lake, a short distance to the right from the signed junction. For the Mohawk Lakes, take left at the junction and the trail goes next to an old cabin foundation. The big up is ahead as the trail heads up, up next to the pretty waterfall - there is a maintained cabin a little ways up next to the falls. Take a short sidetrip at the sign to a view for the lower falls. Continue heading up, up as the trail switchbacks up - stick to the trail as it again goes near the falls, heading left (some went right and took the steep, non-trail up next to the falls). At the top is a neat mine relic - the partially standing top junction of a tram tower. The lower lake is a short walk ahead. Take a right near the bottom of the lake and find a nice resting spot - a nice, but not too pretty lake. There are some mine ruins and orange mining mounds at the top of the lake that actually take away from the view. The trail continues along the left side of the lake and, as it nears the top end of the lake, curves left up through some bushes and over some sloped rocks - you can see the route the trail will take as it heads up to the left of the waterfall to your right. The upper/middle lake is right next to the top of the falls. The lake is almost above the treeline (small group of trees to the right of the lake (which I hunkered under while it rained). Supposedly there are a couple more lakes above this lake (the trail heads to the right and up from the lake), but poor weather made this lake my end point for the day. Trail Length + Elevation: 3.5 miles (one-way), 1940 feet to lower lake probably .5 miles further to upper/middle lake Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lakes When I did the hike: Sunday, August 1, 2010 Recommendation: Nah. Skip it.
Quandary Peak Directions: Rt 9 to 8 miles south of Breckenridge. Look for the small street sign for Blue Lakes Road (not well marked) - it's on the inside (west) of a sharp curve and there are some houses in the area - heading up towards Hoosier Pass (on the north side of the pass). Take Blue Lakes Road (west of Rt 9) for just a tiny bit and turn right on to McCullough Gulch Road [you can also drive further up Blue Lakes Road (dirt) to the 2 lakes at the top of the valley (upper is a reservoir)]. The very small parking area (room for about 4 cars) is shortly ahead on the right (large trail info sign at parking area) - and the signed trailhead is just ahead across the road on the left. Due to the small parking lot you may have to park your car along side the road - it's a popular trail and would be difficult to find a parking spot on a nice weekend. [They re-did the trail a number of years ago, the old trailhead was a mile further up the road.] Note that you are allowed to camp at the parking area, but there is no where to set up a tent (and no toilets). No facilities. Free. 14er note Quandary Peak Summit: 14,265 feet Trails: The well defined dirt trail heads a steady up (not a hard up) through the trees (mostly 2-person width - wider at times, narrower at times). At the clearing, you can see Quandary Peak to the left and the old trail along the green slope (they re-did the trail a number of years ago - the new trail heads up around the back of the hillside). The (new) trail is then mild through the trees before it climbs up and around the hillside. The trail soon reaches a rock field and you're above the tree line - and it stays rocky the rest of the way (but no rock scrambles). The trail heads up, up, up through the rock field, with some rock steps. There are pretty views down on the 2 Blue Lakes and be sure to spot the neat mine ruins low on the rock slope of the left valley wall - there is a smaller log shack at the top of a talus slope and then about 20 feet above that (on the rock wall) is an old shaft building - pull out the binoculars for a better view. The trail heads up to the ridge through the rocks, but remains will defined. From below, it looks like there is a dip in the trail at a saddle, but there actually isn't as the trail is angled up the entire way. Once you reach the ridge, the trail simply heads up (and up) the backbone all the way to the summit. There are a number of windbreaks at the top (well used on this windy day) and 2 geological markers (if you look closely, the second (lower) one says "2nd" and has an arrow pointing towards where the first one is). It's pretty at the top with the usual grand 360 degree distance views as well as views down on the valley to the north that contains a number of small lakes (no views of the Blue Lakes in the valley to the south). It took me 4 hours to reach the summit. Due to it being an easier 14er hike and so close to Breckenridge and I70, don't expect solitude. Trail Length + Elevation: 3.4 miles, 3415 feet Area: Rocky Mountains. Picture When I did the hike: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 Recommendation: A good trail, beautiful views, and one of the easier 14ers to hike.
Mt Democrat, Mt Cameron, Mt Lincoln, Mt Bross Directions: Rt. 9 to the smaller sized town of Alma (just south of Hoosier Pass), about 11 miles south of Breckenridge and 6 miles north of Fairplay. In the middle of town (if you reach the end of town, you missed the turn), keep a careful eye out for a very small sign for Kite Lake on the west side of the road - a little north of the Ad-Mart store. Turn west on to the road and wiggle a little through a residential area before the fairly good dirt road leaves the buildings and starts heading up the valley. Drive 6 miles to Kite Lake - the last 1/2 mile is rough, but you should be able to make it to the parking area (my sedan made it fine). Kite Lake is above the treeline (so no shade at all on this hike). Vault toilet. $3 parking fee at Kite Lake; if you're cheap and don't want to pay, park along the side of the road at least 1/4 mile from the parking area. There are some walk-in campsites ($10) at the lake area. 14er note Mt. Democrat Summit: 14,148 Mt. Cameron Summit: 14,238 Mt. Lincoln Summit: 14,286 Mt. Bross Summit: 14,172 Trails: Note that sections of the trail do go through private property, so please stay on the trail - with many thanks to those owners for giving permission for a trail to go through their land (was once a mining area). Mt. Bross is private property and those owners have not given permission to go through their land, so you will have to decided whether or not you are going to go to Bross. From the parking area, walk around the right side of the lake on an old dirt road. Everything is straight forward for getting to the summits (no scenic or meandering side-venues). After the lake, the trail/road starts its climb. Up, up, up. The trail turns right and it is a short mild bit as it goes by some building remains. The trail is then no longer a road as it heads up to the left along a stream (may have to rock-hop some to avoid the water as it uses the trail). The well defined trail is pure rocks the rest of way. The trail makes a switchback and heads up to the saddle between Mt. Democrat and Mt. Cameron. At the saddle is a nice view into the pretty next valley. The trail to the left heads to Democrat and the trail to the right goes to Cameron (so you'll be returning to this spot). Take a left and the trail zig-zags up the rock mound. The trail then heads to the left and then more up, up, up to the ridge, with some switchbacks. And that is a false summit (even knowing that, hard not to give a groan when getting to the top and finding that you are not at the summit). But the way to the summit is fairly mild as the trail heads along the flat top to the mound for the summit and then its a short up to the true summit. Kind of pretty at the summit, but not as stunning as the usual 360 degree 14er peak views (but probably the best views of the 4 14ers of this hike). Go back to the saddle and continue straight for Mt. Cameron. The gravelish trail does head up, but it is surprisingly not as hard of an up as you would expect as it makes its way straight forward (no switchbacks) to the summit. Once you get to the top, you'll wonder which point is the highest as you cross the long summit area - its the small hand-built rock pile near the end with a stick coming out of it. From the Cameron summit, you can see Mt. Lincoln not that far ahead. Make your way down to the saddle between Cameron and Lincoln and cross the wide saddle before heading up the obvious way to Lincoln. And it's surprising not that difficult of an up to Lincoln and there is a trail the whole way - no rock scrambling. The Lincoln peak is the most rugged and distinctive of the 4 summits. Go back to the saddle between Lincoln and Cameron and decide whether or not you are going to Bross. The forest service has tried to reach an agreement for a legal route to Bross' summit, but some of the owners have refused to grant permission for the public to cross their land and the way to Bross is officially closed (the owners seemingly find it easier to do nothing than to be friendly and grant permission, I don't buy the insurance argument of concerns of mines collapsing as roads go all the way to the summit). So if you decide to go to Bross, you are trespassing. If you decide not to go to Bross, return the way you came - the Bross Bypass return to Kite Lake is a rugged narrow little thing of pure rocks, some of them loose, so it is slow going and you don't really get any views that make this a better option than taking the much, much better trail down from Cameron. If you decide to go to Bross, from the saddle between Lincoln and Cameron, head to the left and you'll find a rocky trail/road that makes its way mildly to the saddle between Cameron and Bross. The road rounds to the left and soon you'll see a sign for the Bross Bypass trail on the right (the Bross Bypass trail is legal). For the summit, continue straight on the road and follow the road (staying on the road) as it winds its way to the obvious top. There is a windbreak at the summit. From the uneventful (and not scenic) summit, either return to the Bross Bypass junction (and I'd suggest then actually going back to the saddle between Cameron and Lincoln and taking the better trail back) or take the obvious trail (narrow, rocky) from the summit to the right as it heads down and joins the Bross Bypass trail. The thin, rocky Bross Bypass trail is fairly straight forward as it heads down and around the mountainside. There are a couple of switchbacks down (a nasty little section) and then the trail cross a dry gully and then heads down to the left of the gap. The trail is much better and there are even some rock steps as it makes its final drop and then is next to a pretty, small waterfall. Beware that there are two wet-water crossings before the trail reaches the parking area (the last annoyingly right before the parking area). Trail Length + Elevation: 7.25 miles (total), 3700 feet Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er Picture When I did the hike: Monday, August 2, 2010 Recommendation: It is not that pretty of a 14er hike (Mt. Bross was probably the ugliest peak I've been to), but it does give you a chance to bag 4 14ers in one hike.
Mt. Sherman Directions: Head 1 mile south of Fairplay on Rt 285 (a little south of the Rt 9 junction) and turn right (west) on to County Road 18. After a mile, 18 turns to dirt and it's a very bumpy ride for the next 9 miles (all vehicles can use it, it just has constant small bumps - you won't go very fast (plan for 30 minutes or more)). 8 miles from Rt 285 is a fee campground and shortly after that the area along side the road is private property the rest of the way [I did use the campground, but abandoned my site during the night as there were determined rodents (probably squirrels) making noise trying to get into my car and my attempts to make them go away failed]. 2 miles ahead is the neat looking Leavick mine ruin (private property, so just look at it from the road). Just past that is a large parking area on the left. The trail writeup I read suggested non-4-wheel vehicles park there, so I did; but most vehicles can make it at least 3/4 mile further without too much difficulty - the last 1/4 mile is definitely not for smaller cars (a rocky up), but there is a grassy pulloff area on the right just before that. There is a locked gate at the end of that last 1/4 mile and room for several vehicles to park. No facilities. Free. 14er note Mt. Sherman Summit: 14,036 Trails: As I said, I parked just past the Leavick mine ruin, so I had an extra mile of hiking the road - spent lot of it grumbling about the trail writeup telling me to park there as my car could have gone further and it is not scenic or interesting along the way. After 1/2 mile you do start to get a view of the top of the valley - Mt. Sherman is to the far right, Mt Sheridan is straight ahead. Both mountains are tree barren, but that means you get great distance views of the mine ruins. Up at the road gate, there is again a sign stating that the area is private property, so do your best to stay on the road until you get above Hilltop Mine [there is no sign at the gate saying "No Trespassing", so I assume either the road is public or the owners allow hikers]. The Dauntless Mine is just ahead from the gate. The ruins including a falling down building, some track, and (with 2 short steps off the road to see) a mine tunnel (gated) with a stream coming out of it, as well as other mine junk. The road curves right just past the building and the view becomes dominated by the Hilltop Mine high up on the mountainside, still with the neat tall shaft building. Continue on the road all the way up to the Hilltop Mine (try not to get a kink in your neck from constantly looking up). If you notice, there is also a small old mine to the left (not much relics) with a neat looking old engine a bit to the mine's right. The road goes up and behind the Hilltop Mine, between two old buildings (one neat looking, one not). If you can resist from taking side trip for a closer looking at the Hilltop Mine, then you're doing better than I did (be cautious). From the backside of the Hilltop Mine, a trail branches from the road and heads up to the ridge - it looked pretty clear to me where the branch was, there is a large rock cairn to mark the junction and it's just past the gray rock mound. It is a rocky trail and it's rocky all the way to the top. If you are unsure which way the trail goes, look for small rock cairns and keep in mind that the trail comes out just to the left of the saddle (Sherman is to the right of the saddle). Note the old telegraph pole still standing to the north of the saddle. The summit trail from the other valley joins this trail at the saddle. From the saddle, it looks like there are several options for which way to head up - I took the route ahead and slightly to the right, the grayer trail with short zig-zags. Again, the way is easy to follow and cairns help guide the way. The trail gets steeper where it reaches the white rocks. The trail heads along a narrow ridge and reaches a false peak. A short up from that peak leads to a 2nd false peak next to a snow field (trail doesn't go through the snow). From there it is a mild walk along the wide ridge for about 1/4 mile to the true summit. There is a sign-in sheet at the metal pole indicating the summit, but no geological marker. Although you get the usual distance Rockies views, the view is not all that grand - the wide valley for Leadville is to the west. Also to the west and a little south, you can spot Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive. It took me 3:40 to reach the summit. Trail Length + Elevation: 4.25 miles, 2786 one-way from Leavick Area: Rocky Mountains. Picture When I did the hike: Thursday, August 20, 2009 Recommendation: The hike itself isn't all that pretty, but the 3 mine ruins are really neat.
Crystal City-Lead King Basin Loop Directions: Take Rt 133 to the east turn for Marble (there is an informative historical information sign at the turn). Take the road for 6 miles to the small town of Marble and continue on the main road (with a couple of curves) through town to Beaver Lake. Go around Beaver Lake and (2wd) park alongside the road right before the 4-wheel drive only sign (you really don't want to take a 2wd up that steep rocky first section). If you have 4wd, you can drive the whole way (though the section between Crystal City and Lead King Basin is only for smaller vehicles, and there is a difficult non-bridge creek crossing for the left/direct way to the Lead King Basin). Note that there is no disperse camping within 2wd range (couple of spots further up past Beaver Lake for 4wd) - there is a nice private campground in Marble and a couple of National Forest campgrounds between Marble and Rt 133 (mentioned as camping and lodging in the area is very limited). Free. Trails: Ah to have 4wd and not have to do any of the blah road walking that I did. The rocky road does head up immediately past the 4wd sign (and there is no place to pull over for a while, so if you don't think you can drive up that for a good ways, park at the bottom) and goes up and up and up. Huff-and-puff your way up. Since it's road walking, keep an eye out for vehicles the entire way. The road does calm down some as it nears the fork in the road (only room for a couple of vehicles at the fork, so don't assume you'll be able to park there). There is a sign at the fork with the Lead King Basin to the left and Crystal City to the right - I took the right and the road headed down for a little bit (you can see the bottom from the top) and the road narrows (yes, narrows - if driving, pray no one comes the other way). Cross the bridge at the bottom and the road then heads a milder up and then is mild. Take a right at Lizard Lake (over-sized pond) and the road is mild (and maybe muddy) as it rounds the lake. The road then heads down, down, down and then is mild as it goes next to the river. The road stays near the river all the way to Crystal City - lots of mild and a few small ups and some short downs (and lots of huge puddles). Crystal City is near the end of the mountain to the left - you're close when you reach the small chain fence. There is a neat old mill building on the other side of the creek (visible from the road) right before town. Unfortunately that is the only neat thing about the area. Crystal City was described as a ghosttown, but is a bunch of maintained (and some available to rent) cabins and small buildings - no ruins or foundations or non-habitated area that I associate with a ghosttown. To go from Crystal City to the Lead King Basin, take the road through town and go left at the end of town at the signed junction for the Lead King Basin and head up, up, up (and there is a warning sign that the road is for experienced 4wd'ers only). At the next signed junction, take a left and continue heading up. The road reaches a gap and then heads a mild down and there are soon some pretty views ahead of Snowmass Mountain and pretty views behind. [I had been road-walking for a number of hours and had been thoroughly disappointed and had written off the day was a wasted day, but when I first saw this view I thought, "Okay, that's really pretty" and as I spent more time in the Lead King Basin I thought, "Okay, it's definitely pretty and wasn't a wasted day."] The road heads into the trees and is mostly mild with some small downs and some short (harder) ups. Reach the meadow area and cross the creek (either wet on on a thin pipe). Just ahead, take a left at the junction (Rd 315) and cross the small bridge (with someone's house to the left) and the road heads up to the right - it's not a hard up, but a steady up. Not too far up from the bottom is a small national forest sign and a turn in to a parking area for the Geneva Lake trail. The road heads up, up, up and there are a few wet water creek crossings along the way. And up, up, up with some switchbacks - but what grand views! The Lead King Basin is just stunning, with the pretty Snowmass Mountain (a 14er) the large mountain to the northeast. The road eventually rounds a bend and you loose the views of Snowmass Mountain (though there are still pretty mountain views to the south). The road continues to curve around the mountainside and eventually you can see the pass (across the valley as the road is going to make a U-curve) - still a ways to go to get to the pass. There is a wet-water creek crossing at the inside of the U-curve. Finally, finally reach the pass and then the road heads down, down, down. And down, down, down - you'll get to a spot where you can see the road switchbacking down to the valley floor. There is a wet-water crossing at the bottom and still a ways to go. Eventually the road reaches a large creek and it is a difficult water crossing (there were a couple of vehicles that opted not to water-cross and parked on the other side of the creek) - the wide creek was running high during my visit (with 2011's extremely high snowpack) and came up to my mid-thigh. Not too much further ahead is the junction - take a right and it's another mile back to the 2wd parking. Trail Length + Elevation: 1 mile start of 4wd to junction 4 miles junction to Crystal City 2 miles Crystal City to Lead King Basin 5 miles Lead King Basin to junction [1.6 miles, 1280 ft up, 374 ft down trail from Lead King Basin to Geneva Lake] Area: Mountains, scenic views, blah "ghosttown", ton of blah road walking When I did the hike: Saturday, July 2, 2011 Recommendation: Hard not to recommend since the Lead King Basin area is so beautiful, but it really is a long, long hike of road walking. Definitely skip Crystal City. I would love to go back sometime (with 4wd) and do the 2 mile hike to Geneva Lake (true trail) from the Lead King Basin. Tourist note: The town of Marble is not to be missed. There is a small city park in town (south turn next to the fire station and a block down) with a path through the foundation of an old marble mill (part of the marble for the Lincoln Memorial was processed here) with an information sheet that tells what went on where along the path and lots of big hunks of marble stone along the way. Really, really neat. {Note that there is no marble stuff for the Crystal City-Lead King Basin loop.]
Thomas Lake (Carbondale) Directions: From Carbondale, head south on Rt 133 for 1.4 miles to Prince Cr. Rd (#311) and head east to Dinkle Lake. After about 4 miles, the road turns to (good) dirt. Go 2 more miles to the fork in the road and take a right. The road is rougher, but still okay for 2wd. Go for 4 more miles to the good-sized (fenced) parking area on the left, about 1/4 mile before Dinkle Lake. The trailhead is on the other side of the road from the parking area. Vault toilet in parking area. Free. Trails: Note: it was very buggy the day I did this hike. It is a combo-trail and a number of mountain bikers do use the trail. The trail heads up from the road and soon turns rdight and widdens (old road bed) and heads a steady up through the trees. And heads a steady up. The trail rounds a second bend and is mild and you loose the shade. Go through the gate. The trail is mild as it goes through a large meadow at the top of the valley. At the signed fork, take a right and the trail narrows and heads a steady up, staying in the meadow with trees just to the left. Head a hard up the hill and then the trail is mild a short bit. The trail heads in to the trees and then goes up for a ways. After a few dips, the trail is mild for a ways. The trail is a mixture of ups and milds and gets rockier. Rock-hop or wet-water cross the creek and the trail heads up the hill. At the top are 2 ponds. The trail meanders mildly and then there is a twin creek crossing (log and rock). Eventually reach signs and the lake is to the left with a small shore. You can make your way (no trail) across the rocks and then log and rock cross the outlet stream to better resting spots on the right side of the lake. It can be windy at the lake. Back on the trail, the trail continues at a not hard up and eventually you'll see a second lake on the left (nothing exciting). Trail Length + Elevation: 3.6 miles, 1700 ft to Lower Thomas Lake .4 miles, not hard to Upper Thomas Lake 2.8 miles, 2750 ft Upper Thomas Lake to Mt. Sopris Area: mountains, mountain lakes When I did the hike: Sunday, July 3, 2011 Recommendation: Na. The lakes simply weren't that pretty. Now if you are up for a mountain hike (still snow covered on my visit with 2011's heavy snowpack), supposedly there is a very good trail that goes to the top of Mt. Sopris (12,953 ft).
Capitol Lake Directions: Take Rt 82 to the Snowmass area - look for mile marker 27. At the stop light (with a gas station on the southwest corner), turn south on to Snowmass Creek road - note that this is not the turn for the Snowmass Ski Village (that turn is a couple of miles east of this turn). Take the paved road 1.5 miles to the T-junction. Turn right and take the road to the end (or parking area before the steep part of the road). The road turns to dirt after about 6.5 miles (easily traveled dirt). About 2 miles short of the end of the road is a sign for horsetrailer parking - if you are in a non-4-wheel drive vehicle and don't want to try the steep section of the road, take a right there and park in the wide open area near a creek and road-walk the rest of the way. From that point, the dirt road is steep (but not too rough - there are bumps and dips so unless you have really good clearance, you'll likely scrape the underside a couple of times) and there are no places to park along the way (everything is private property). In 2011 I took my poor sedan up to the top (there are 2 disperse campsites at the top) and I "only" touched bottom twice - and others were impressed that my car made to that spot (on my 2nd visit in 2011 (still too much snow to reach lake on 1st visit), I left my car at the lower lot). After the steep up, the road turns right and levels and soon reaches the parking area. The trail down into the valley starts at the near end of the parking area and the Capitol Ditch trail starts at the far end of the parking area [there are info signs at both spots]. No facilities. Free. Trails: I opted to head down the valley trail and then take the ditch trail on the way back - the two trails meet up about 2.5 miles in. For the valley trail, the narrow dirt trail immediately heads down the open slope. At the valley floor, make a wet-water crossing of the creek (icy cold in the morning) and the (still narrow) trail then heads to the right into the Aspen trees. The trail is mild for a ways (mostly up, but some small downs). The trail reaches a grassy meadow near the creek and you get your first "Oh, wow" look of Capitol Peak in the distance. Unfortunately you lose that view as the trail goes back into the trees and the trail heads at more of an up. After a rock-hop across a side-creek, the trail heads up a green slope and then goes back into the trees. After a small down is the signed junction for the ditch trail - continue straight. The (still dirt) trail is mild for a ways and there is a nice resting spot with a good view of the top of the valley with Capitol Peak the tall mound to towards the right. The trail heads up through the trees and then goes through a mild section as it goes through another meadow. The trail heads up through the trees and reaches a gate (cows are in the area between the parking area and this gate, but there are not a lot of them and they stay together). The trail reaches a large meadow and heads up towards the left - you can see a tough up ahead as there is a ridge. After getting to the top of the ridge with a couple of switchbacks (back in the trees), a short ways ahead is a creek crossing via logs, rock-hop, or wet-water (depending on how high the creek is and your comfort level with the logs). After a small up and down, the trail cross the creek again (rock-hop or wet water). The trail heads up towards the left through a long meadow (filled with pretty wildflowers for my hike). The trail makes a right and crosses the stream and then heads up alongside the stream. The lake is where you'd expect it to be. As you go through another open meadow (and signs for the backpackers camping sites), you'll see a thin trail heading to the left and that goes up to the ridge (continue straight for the lake). Once you reach the camping area, you still have a little more work to do as the lake is boulder surrounded and you can't see the lake until you get to the top of the boulders (good trail to follow to that point). From there you can either follow the trail as it stays above the lake, rounding the to right and heads up the green slope at the end to a pass, or make your way carefully over and down the boulders and rocks and find a nice comfy spot lakeside to enjoy the precious lake with the magnificent view of Capitol Peak looming directly above. For the way back, I took the ditch trail at the ditch-valley junction (take a left). It is a wet-water crossing of the creek next to the junction. The trail then heads a mild up and is mostly in the open - that means little shade but also means great views looking back at the top of the Capitol Peak valley (and, thus, I'd recommend going the ditch trail instead of the valley trail). At the fork in the trail, take a right (continue straight if you are going the other direction). The trail eventually goes into the trees. Later (earlier) there is a Y-junction where you continue straight as the trail heads down (take the right from coming from the parking area). After the Maroon Bells Wilderness sign, the trail rock-hops a creek. The trail eventually joins an old road (there is a trail sign for the other direction at this point) and then you take the mild road back to the parking area - this is where I encountered the cows (though only a couple were actually on the road and they moved when I shooed them). The way up for Capitol Peak (14,130 feet, class 4) is the left thin trail heading steeply up to a ridge shortly before the lake (and then taking a right at the ridge). It's 2.5 miles and 2060 feet from the lake area to the summit. Trail Length + Elevation: 6 miles (one-way), 2570 feet from Capitol Ditch trailhead to lake (bit more elevation if you take the valley trail) Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Friday, July 23, 2010; Monday, July 4, 2011 (partial hike, heavy 2011 snowpack); Saturday, July 16, 2011 Recommendation: Absolutely. Very beautiful lake in a scenic setting. Take the ditch trail both ways - skip the extra work and less scenic valley trail.
Williams Lake Directions: Take Rt 82 to the Snowmass area - look for mile marker 27. At the stop light (with a gas station on the southwest corner), turn south on to Snowmass Creek road - note that this is not the turn for the Snowmass Ski Village (that turn is a couple of miles east of this turn). Take the paved road 1.5 miles to the T-junction. Turn right and take the road to the end (or parking area before the steep part of the road). The road turns to dirt after about 6.5 miles (easily traveled dirt). About 2 miles short of the end of the road is a sign for horsetrailer parking - if you are in a non-4-wheel drive vehicle and don't want to try the steep section of the road, take a right there and park in the wide open area near a creek and road-walk the rest of the way. From that point, the dirt road is steep (but not too rough - there are bumps and dips so unless you have really good clearance, you'll likely scrape the underside a couple of times) and there are no places to park along the way (everything is private property). In 2011 I took my poor sedan up to the top (there are 2 disperse campsites at the top) and I "only" touched bottom twice - and others were impressed that my car made to that spot (on my 2nd visit in 2011 (still too much snow to reach lake on 1st visit), I left my car at the lower lot). After the steep up, the road turns right and levels and soon reaches the parking area. The way for Williams lake continues up the road to the right - if you have 4wd (and this is 4wd only), you can drive further up the road to the end of the road (there are some disperse camping spots along the road). No facilities. Free. Trails: From the Capitol Lake upper parking area, continue on the road to the back right and it then heads left and is a huff-and-puff up. At the top, the road thankfully calms down and is a mild up. It soon heads into the trees and you loose the pretty views of the Capitol valley. When you reach the parking area (end of the road), there is a nice view of Capitol Peak (stop and catch your breath). The now trail continues straight and is back in the trees. It soon heads a steady up. Skip the 5 to 10 minute sidetrip to Hardscramble Lake (signed junction to the right) as it's just an tree surrounded oversized pond with no pretty distance views. The trail was very buggy on my hike and I had to use a lot of Off (and even put my light jacket on for a bit to keep the gnats off [weird since I had no bug problems on the nearby Capitol Lake hike]). The trail has some milds, but is mostly a steady up. As the trail heads along the ridge it is a mixture of ups and milds. Then at the bottom of a good-sized down (before the trail heads up the other side) is the junction on the right for Williams Lake (the sign was nailed to a fallen tree). Take the right and the trail heads down for a bit and then is mild and crosses a couple of wood bridges. The trail soon starts heading to the left and is a not too hard up next to the creek. And it continues up next to the creek. The trail heads a little away from the creek and makes a switchback up the hillside. At the top is a little more up, but the lake is not far ahead. It is a wide, shallow, tree surround lake with a red-rock ridge above - nice, but not stunning. Trail Length + Elevation: 3.5 miles, 1300 ft from Capitol Lake upper parking area Area: Mountains, mountain lake When I did the hike: Tuesday, July 5, 2011 Recommendation: This is one of those hikes that seems like a good idea since you are already there for the Capitol Lake hike, but really isn't that pretty of a lake (especially knowing how stunning Capitol Lake is) nor worth your time and energy. Absolutely not from the lower lot.
Snowmass Lake (Snowmass) Directions: Take Rt 82 to the Snowmass area - look for mile marker 27. At the stop light (with a gas station on the southwest corner), turn south on to Snowmass Creek road - note that this is not the turn for the Snowmass Ski Village (that turn is a couple of miles east of this turn). Take the paved road 1.5 miles to the T-junction. Take a left at the junction and continue on Snowmass Creek road for 10 miles (there is a left turn option a little ways ahead, continue straight). Later the road curves right goes past some farms as it heads up the valley floor. The road turns to dirt (a good dirt road). After about 8 miles from the junction, the road turns left and goes over a bridge. The road is now narrower and rougher (but still drivable in non-4-wheel drive). At the T-junction a short ways ahead, take a right and stay on the road to the parking area in front of a gate about 1/2 mile ahead (there is an earlier trailhead along the road for a different trail, go past that). Although room for a number of cars, it is not that large of a parking area and the lot does fill. The trail starts on the far left side of the parking area. No facilities. Free. Trails: After a short up from the parking area, the trail turns right and reaches a gate - there is a lever/U-shaped metal that has to be lifted before you can open the gate. The trail enters private property, so since they are nice enough to let hikers pass through, return the favor and make sure the gates are closed once you go through them. It is also a cattle range area - I did encounter cows on the trail on my first attempt to hike to the lake (rain cut the hike short) and had my first ever cow-delay then, but they weren't on the trail on my second visit. After the gate, the trail heads up for a little bit and then is mild for a good ways. After about 1.5 miles is a 3rd gate (just a metal ring up top to keep it closed). And just ahead is a trail junction, continue straight as the trail varies between being near the creek and further away. The trail also varies between being in open areas and aspen trees. Say hi to the monster rocks as you pass them and wonder how they got there. Eventually the trail hooks a left in the trees and heads up for a bit before turning to the right. When you get a glimpse of the impressive waterfall across the valley, wait to take your picture as much better views are ahead. After an up to a rock ledge, take a rest and enjoy the great views of the falls. The trail continues heading up the valley and you soon lose the views of the falls as the trail makes its way between the two mountainsides. After going through a second rock field, the trail rounds a bend and you have a pretty view of the beaver ponds and distant red ridge. The trail goes around the left side of the beaver ponds through the brush and is mild. Before a large pond, the trail takes a right and it is the famous log jam crossing - the way across is over the many logs blocking the outlet stream (or, turn right a little before the log jam and make a wet-water crossing through the creek (this was actually much faster for the cautious me)). If you have to use the logs and the water is high (was it was for me in 2011), putting on watershoes for the crossing may make it easier as you won't be making extra effort to keep your shoes dry. After the log or water crossing, the trail heads left and is mild as it heads along the right side of the large pond. The trail reaches the evergreen trees and it is the end of the mild (but only 1.5 miles to go). The trail heads up into the trees a short ways before switchbacking to the right and it is a good bit (going out of the trees) before it switchbacks back to the left. Once the trail is back in the trees, it stays in the trees all the way to the lake. After a while, you will hear the sound of running water as the trail nears Snowmass Creek, but the trail does not go next to the creek for a while. It is a steady, but not hard, up. The trail opens up briefly and you get a glimpse of the tall peaks through the tree tops. At the signed junction, continue straight as the trail heads up next to the creek for 1/4 mile to the lake. It is a larger sized mountain lake with a half-sheer slope towards the right and Snowmass Mountain a little in the distance straight ahead - absolutely gorgeous. It is a long tree-lined shore where the trail meets the lake, so you can explore and chose which spot you like best - I liked heading to the right for a ways (almost to the end) and then sitting on a comfy rock and feet soaking and enjoying the grand view. The shore area is also the backpackers camping area. The way for Snowmass Mountain (14,092 feet, class 3) crosses the outlet stream and heads up and around the left side of the lake. It's 2.75 miles and 3092 feet from the lake to the summit. Trail Length + Elevation: 8 miles, 2600 feet one-way to lake Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Sunday, July 25, 2010; Wednesday, July 6, 2011 Recommendation: Absolutely beautiful lake. Even with the long distance, well worth a visit.
Crater Lake - Maroon Bells (Aspen) Directions: Rt 82 to just west of Aspen. From the west, at the roundabout after going through town, take the 2nd (I think) right - just past the turn for continuing on Rt 82. From the east, at the roundabout as you reach Aspen, take the 1st right. Head up the paved Maroon Creek road all the way to the end at the Maroon Bells. Note that there are restrictions for using the road during the day (8:30 am to 5 pm) and there is a bus that goes to the Bells. If you go really early, you can avoid the crowds. Vault toilets right end of lot, flush toilets and water middle of lot $10 or bus fee or National Parks Pass Trails: From the top parking area, head next to the vault toilets and information sign and then take your pictures at Maroon Lake with the 3 peaks of the Maroon Bells in the distance before continuing on the level trail around the right side of the lake. Someone said that the Bells are the most photographed mountains in Colorado. Take a right at the signed junction for Crater Lake and the wider sized trail begins its rocky up - a steady up, but not too hard. After a ways, the trail curves to the left and there is a nice view down on Maroon Lake (nothing as scenic as seeing the lake from the other direction with the Bells above). The trail does a small zig-zag and then heads to the right, heading up to a small ridge. After the trail reaches the ridge, it heads down and goes through a rocky old moraine (rocky area left by a receding glacier). The trail rounds a bend and there is a junction with an information sign for the backcountry camping area - continue straight and the lake is just ahead. The first sight of the lake didn't seem too exciting to me, just an over-sized pond in a grass setting. I made my way on the narrow path to the left and reached the left side of the lake and was just stunned by the amazing views. Crater Lake was mirror still and the Maroon Bells were reflected clearly on the lake. I made my way lakeside and simply sat for 30 minutes and enjoyed the awesome scenery. I was also surprised that no one else was at the lake - it is a tourist spot. Turns out I had simply headed up earlier than the crowds as I must have passed at least 20 people heading up as I was heading back from the lake at around 8 am and the parking lot was already full. Note: there are 2 longer trails that head out from the Crater Lake area - the West Maroon Pass trail and the Buckskin Pass/Willow Pass trail. West Maroon Pass goes about 13 miles to the Crested Butte area (actually, need 4wd to reach the other end of the trail) - if you want to do a little bit more than just Crater Lake, but not as hard as Buckskin or Willow Pass, take the trail that stays near the right side of Crater Lake (and the backcountry camping area) and go along that trail as far as you feel like - some very pretty views directly below the Bells. Trail Length: 2 miles one-way to lake Area: Rocky Mountains, lower mountain lakes Picture When I did the hike: Monday, July 26, 2010; Thursday, July 7, 2011; Sunday, July 17, 2011 Recommendation: The Bells are absolutely beautiful with a still Crater Lake. Go early to try to avoid the crowds, though (plus it's even more scenic with the morning light).
Willow Pass and Buckskin Pass - Maroon Bells Directions: Rt 82 to just west of Aspen. From the west, at the roundabout after going through town, take the 2nd (I think) right - just past the turn for continuing on Rt 82. From the east, at the roundabout as you reach Aspen, take the 1st right. Head up the paved Maroon Creek road all the way to the end at the Maroon Bells. Note that there are restrictions for using the road during the day (8:30 am to 5 pm) and there is a bus that goes to the Bells. If you go really early, you can avoid the crowds. Vault toilets right end of lot, flush toilets and water middle of lot. $10 or bus fee or National Parks Pass Trails: Take the trail for Crater Lake (see above for trail description) for 2 miles. Right before reaching lake (or after a visit to the lake, go back a tad), where the trail takes a hard left to the lake is another trail branching to the right - take the right at the signed junction for Maroon-Snowmass Trail [if this is your first visit to the area, you absolutely must first go to Crater Lake and make your way around to the left side of the lake before continuing on your hike]. The trail heads a steady up as it weaves up the hillside filled with aspen trees (so no good views). The trail is a little milder as it heads through some bushes and small trees - you do get some short scenic views here. The trail angles up for a ways. And heads up. The trail makes a right and starts heading up the valley - some very pretty side-views of the Bells along this section. After a bit is a series of switchbacks - huff-and-puff your way up. Rock-hop across a small stream and the trail continues up to the right and it is rocky and open. Not too much further ahead, the trail makes a right with a rock-hop or log crossing of the creek and then the trail continues heading up. And up - the scenery is very pretty, though. After a short bit through the trees, the trail heads up along side a stream and is back to being more dirt than rocks. The trail soon reaches the treeline and a very scenic area and you can see Buckskin Pass up to the left. The trail rounds the low end of the valley and then heads a not hard up next to the falls with some switchbacks. At the signed junction, Buckskin Pass is to the left and Willow Pass is straight. For Willow Pass: continue straight at the junction. The trail narrows and heads a not hard up through the greenery to the bend. At the bend, the trail zig-zags up (and this is an up) to the lower green ridge. At the top is a pretty, small basin and you can see across the basin where the trail makes a hard up the red rock slope to Willow Pass (so, take a rest at the basin edge and enjoy the view before continuing). Rock-hop across the stream and the trail heads up towards the left and then curves to the right (and this slope was full of flowers for my visit) before coming to the base of the climb. There is a good path up the talus slope, but it is a huff-and-puffer. The views are grand at the top and you can see Willow Lake down to the left. Sit and enjoy the views for a bit. I turned around there due to weather concerns and deciding to also go up to Buckskin Pass. For Buckskin Pass: take a left at the junction. The trail is not too hard as it heads to the left for a bit before making a couple of zig-zags up the green mound. At the top is a short mild and you can see how the trail is going to take 4 switchbacks up (and up) the open slope to the pass. There was still a huge snow patch under the slope in 2011 (with 2011's extremely heavy snow pack) and I did have to do a small rock scramble to get around it and reach the pass, but that shouldn't be an issue for most years. At the pass, you can see Snowmass Mountain (a 14er) and Snowmass Lake in the distance. Trail Length + Elevation: 4.5 miles, 3020 ft parking lot to Willow Pass 1.7 miles, 760 ft down Willow Pass to Willow Lake 4.8 miles, 2882 ft parking lot to Buckskin Pass [Don't know the distance and elevation to the junction for Willow Pass and Buckskin Pass, probably about 1.5 miles before Buckskin Pass so a Y-shape hike with both passes would (guestimate) be about 12 miles, 4000 ft.] Area: mountains, mountain lake, mountains When I did the hike: Thursday, August 4, 2011 Recommendation: The Maroon Bells are one of the prettiest areas in Colorado. I did like Willow Pass better than Buckskin Pass as the wildflowers were better (on my visit) for Willow Pass and I didn't really get to sit and enjoy Buckskin Pass as I got to the pass and saw a huge storm over Snowmass Mountain and immediately turned around and made a very quick down instead of sitting for a while and enjoying the distant view at the pass of Snowmass Mountain and Snowmass Lake. Lots of people, though (more went to Buskskin than Willow).
Castle Peak Directions: Rt 82 to just west of Aspen. From the west, at the roundabout after going through town, go almost all the way around and take the last right before you complete the circle (I think 3rd turn). From the east, at the roundabout as you reach Aspen, take the 2nd right. Stay on Castle Creek Road to a little ways past where it turns to dirt, about 12.5 miles. At the Y-junction a little past the bridge, there is a parking area to the right. If you want to go further on the road, go right and the road is pure rocks (I made it about 1/2 mile along the road to the first camping spot, but would have stopped at the junction if I knew the road was rocks). A little past the first campsite, there is an up to the road that is kind of rough. There are a number of rough campsites over the next 1/2 mile. About 1.3 miles from the Y-junction is a creek crossing - there is a human bridge to the left, but you need 4-wheel drive if you are in a vehicle. Road-walk or drive for over another mile, heading up the valley. You'll see a waterfall ahead (if you are still in a vehicle, you may want to park before the falls as the road gets rough and parking is limited). There is a bridge over the falls and just ahead is a junction (and room for a couple of vehicles to park) - continue straight. At the switchback just ahead, there is room for about 4 vehicles to park (and this does fill). Only experienced 4-wheel drivers should continue past this point. [I was impressed with the two small Jeeps that actually made it all the way to the trailhead.] Keep in mind that there is a ton of up to the road-walking. No facilities. Free. 14er note Castle Peak Summit: 14,263 Conundrum Peak Summit: 14,060 Trails: Note that this is a difficult class 2 14er hike. Continuing with the road-walk from the switchback (since most will be road-walking at that point), the rough, rocky road heads up to another switchback (and just past that is a nasty section of the road, if you are still driving) and then another turn left. Ahead the road goes through a shallow but wide stream - you should be able to rock-hop around and across the stream. You can now see the top of the valley you are heading up (Castle and Conundrum are not visible until you round the top of the valley). The road makes a couple of jags up to the right (and there are a couple of camping spots) and then you are above the tree line. Then it is one more jag and still a long way to go as the road heads along the right side of the valley to the top of the valley. Soon after passing the old mining area (no neat relics), the road curves to the left and you can now see the fun snow slope you likely have to go up (don't know if it is a permanent snowfield, but there was a ton still there in late July and I wasn't encountering snow on other hikes during that time frame). The road finally ends (and there is a large area for vehicles to park) and, at the parking area, take a right up the rocks a little bit before heading left and make your way over the rocks to the snowfield on the left. You actually want to hit the snowfield a little later in the morning so that the snow is not hard and you can use boot prints to make your way up (and it is an up - in late July the snow was almost to the upper basin) - and you really do have to use the snow as the rocks around the snow are loose rocks and it's even slower going up the rocks [but, for some real fun, other hikers had made a snow chute and you could fairly safely slide down the snow instead of trying to walk down it - wheeee!]. At the edge of the basin, turn left and the narrow trail heads still steeply up the to the ridge (some loose dirt to add to the nastiness - just as slow going down as going up). The good news is that you have a great view of the precious glacial lake in the basin below. The bad news is that it actually gets tougher from the ridge - I call this section "Have you hugged a rock today?" The way heads to the right directly along (sometimes slightly below) the ridge and you make your way the best you can, following rock cairns at times and other times simply sticking to the ridge. There are many rock scramble areas where you'll need your hands to help guide yourself over and around big rocks (no true rock climbing, though). When in doubt, go left - there are two spots along there ridge where going left up a mound is the easier way, even if it doesn't look that way as you approach. You'll reach a short down and you are almost there. After the down, head the steep, rocky up (again go towards the left) (lots of fun going down) and all of the sudden you are at Castle Peak (no false peaks). Stay awhile (you've earned it) and enjoy the wonderful views 360 degrees - the views are truly great. For Conundrum Peak (I didn't go as Castle was enough fun for me), make your way carefully down to the saddle between Castle and Conundrum - still a rugged and rocky route the whole way. And make your way carefully up to Conundrum. The usual return route from Conundrum actually skips going back up to Castle Peak and instead takes a down near the Conundrum side of the saddle and makes its way down to the snow slope and then down the snow slope (glisglading) to above the glacial lake in the basin and then going over the rocks in the basin and joining up with the Castle trail at the end of the basin (where you took a left up to the ridge) - going down the ledge and snow slope looked scary as can be and not something I'd ever do, but I saw 8 people take that route during my hike. Trail Length + Elevation: 6.5 miles (one-way), 4600 feet Y-junction to Castle Peak 7.3 miles (one-way), 4870 feet Castle and Conundrum 5.5 miles (one-way), over 3000 feet from the Y-junction to the trailhead [2 miles, 1600 feet from the junction past the falls to the trailhead] 1 mile, 1463 trailhead to Castle Peak less than 1 mile, 473 feet down, 270 feet up Castle Peak to Conundrum Peak Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er Pictures When I did the hike: Saturday, July 24, 2010 Recommendation: Way out of my comfort zone - my least favorite 14er hike. But the views at Castle Peak are grand. If you decide to go, be prepared for the snowfield and a tough hike.
Cathedral Lake (Aspen) Directions: Rt 82 to just west of Aspen. From the west, at the roundabout after going through town, go almost all the way around and take the last right before you complete the circle (I think 3rd turn). From the east, at the roundabout as you reach Aspen, take the 2nd right. Stay on Castle Creek Road to the tiny town of Ashcroft, about 10 miles in. A little past the town, look for a trailhead sign on the right side of the road and turn right on to the narrow dirt road (rough, but short - my sedan made it okay). Take the road a short distance to the parking lot at the end (and pray no one comes down while you are driving up). No facilities. Free. Trails: The one-person width trail heads up the hillside at an angle through the tall grass and bushes in aspen woods. The trail goes near (but not next) to a creek as it heads up the valley. The trail eventually becomes rocky and there are some evergreens in the area. The trail switchbacks up, up (and it is an up) near a cascade waterfall (mostly not visible). After that section, the trail is mild for a bit. The trail rounds a bend with an open view and then resumes heading a steady up. The trail goes through a rockfield (easy path) and you can see where the trail makes a harsh zig-zag up to a ridge. Shortly after the last zag is a trail junction - take a left and the trail heads a mild down for a bit (with a short up). Cross the creek via logs and you are still a little bit away from the lake. The trail makes its way through the brush before reaching the pretty lake in a rugged half-bowl. Explore the shoreline and find nice spot that you like - I liked the far left end of the lake best with some rocks to sit on and feet soak with a great view of the lake and peaks and some wildflowers in the area (plus most of the people stayed near where the trail reached the lake). Trail Length + Elevation: 2.8 miles (one-way), 2000 feet Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 Recommendation: Its a pretty lake for a shorter outing. Nice for a family hike. Note that the trail is popular.
American Lake (Aspen) Directions: Rt 82 to just west of Aspen. From the west, at the roundabout after going through town, go almost all the way around and take the last right before you complete the circle (I think 3rd turn). From the east, at the roundabout as you reach Aspen, take the 2nd right. Stay on Castle Creek Road almost to the tiny town of Ashcroft, about 10 miles in. Just after the road goes over the bridge, look for a trailhead sign on the right and take a sharp right and the parking area is right there. No facilities. Free. Trails: The narrow trail heads up the grassy and bushy green slope with 6 long switchbacks in the thin aspen trees - this is the hardest part of the hike and there are few resting spots. The trail widens and is pretty as it heads in to the evergreens and is mild for a ways before resuming heading up (with some more milds and even some downs). At the ridge, the trail heads down (not steep) with an open valley to the left and the trail then heads to the right. The trail then heads up (not hard) through grass slopes and tree sections. The trail goes through the bottom of a rockfield (easy path) and the lake is a short ways ahead. The small sized lake is nice, but nothing stunning. Trail Length + Elevation: About 3 miles (one-way), 1965 feet Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake When I did the hike: Thursday, July 22, 2010 Recommendation: Not unless you are bored and looking for something else to do or have a poor weather day. Go to Cathedral Lake if you are looking for a nice lake hike in the area (or, for a longer outing, go to Capitol Lake or Snowmass Lake).
Mineral Belt Bike Trail (Leadville) Directions: At the south side of Leadville on US 24, park in the large dirt parking area on the east side of the road, right where you see the black bike path perpendicular on both sides of US 24 (just to the north and on the other side of the road from the Super 8 motel). There is a large info sign about the trail and this is the official start and end of the loop trail, though you can access the trail at a number of different points. Note: if you'd rather use a bike for the trail but don't have one, there are a couple of stores in town that rent bikes - stop at the Visitor Center and ask for which stores. Port-a-pottie at the trailhead, flush toilets in the Ice Palace City Park near the north end of town (which the trail goes next to). Free. Trails: The paved trail was designed for bikers, but others are allowed to use it as well - just keep an eye out for the many bikers and be courteous. Traffic is two-way, so keep to the right. The lowest elevation of the trail is at the start at 9900 ft and the highest elevation is near mile 5 at 10600 ft, but there are a number of ups and downs to the trail so the total elevation gained on the trail is more than the simple 700 feet difference. There are many, many interesting mine ruins and mine relics along the path (some of which are not far from a road and some are only accessible via the trail) and a number of historical information signs [though there are long stretches with neither] and mile markers every mile. There are mine relics around miles 3.5 to 4.5, mile 6, mile 6.5, mile 7.5 (also a rain shelter), and mile 11.5. Most of the trail is along old railroad grades that used to service the mines. So on with the hike... Heading counter-clockwise (opposite of the mile markers), the trail soon goes by your first mine relic (a small shack with a mine cart) and then curves to the left (heading away from US 24) and heads a steady up, mostly in the trees, but there are some distant (to the west) mountain views early on. The trail heads a mild down around mile 7.5 and then resumes a steady up as the trail stays to the right of the road [CR 2] for a ways. The trail heads down to the road around mile 6, where there are a ton of old mines and some relics (just a neat area), crosses the road, and heads up the other side - but it is not a hard up and looking at all of the mine relics distracts you from the climb. The trail is mild after the up and is mild as it reaches the high point of the trail at mile 5. The trail stays mild, heading a slight down and there are more neat mine stuff between miles 4.5 to 3.5. After about mile 4, the trail heads more of a down until about mile 2.5, where the trail (bridge) crosses the creek again and then heads a short up. The trail is then a mild down as it heads through an open area (now on the northeast side of town) for a bit. At the road junction, with the animal shelter to the right, take a right and walk on the road for a little bit - over the railroad tracks and then back onto a trail at mile 2 (now in town). Carefully cross (no signal, hopefully traffic will yield, but may have to wait for an opening) US 24 and trail makes a short left and then back straight, going next to some houses. A little ways ahead is the Ice Palace City Park - a nice resting spot with a couple of trees and picnic tables (and toilets). The trail is fairly uneventful as it curves its way along the west side of town and eventually completes the loop - not much in the way of mine relics and I think there was only one info sign between the park and the trailhead (I was going to recommend simply walking through town back to the trailhead, but it looks like from the map that it is shorter to use the trail). Trail Length + Elevation: 11.6 mile, 700+ ft loop Area: mining stuff, hills, mine relics, some trees, info boards, hills, and more mining stuff. When I did the hike: Friday, July 8, 2011 Recommendation: Absolutely. You don't have to do the whole loop, but the many mine relics and info signs are just neat. Kudos to Leadville for this wonderful trail! Tourist note: Leadville is the place to see mining stuff (there even is a mining museum in town). Not to miss is the Route of the Silver Kings car drive - stop at the Visitor Center in the center of town (on US 24, westside) and ask for that brochure and it will tell you which roads to drive (all near town, most 2wd) and what mining ruins you are seeing and some of the history. I can't imagine going through Leadville without doing at least part of the drive. Just neat, neat, neat!
Windsor Lake Directions: From the south end of Leadville on US 24, head west on CR 37 (near the Super 8 motel, follow the signs for Sugar Loafin Campground). Take a right on to CR 4 and stay straight on CR 4 as it goes around the south side of Turquoise Lake. A little before midway around the lake, at the signed junction for Hangerman Pass, bare left and continue on CR 4 as it turns to a good dirt road and heads up the valley (after 2 miles, the road does narrow, but is still good dirt). After 3.5 miles from the junction, reach an open area to the right and park there [the road continues straight and then curves right and is then 4wd only]. The trail starts on the left side of the road, next to the info sign. No facilities Free. Trails: Cross over the water ditch and the trail weaves a little and reaches the registration booth (free, required). The trail heads a steady up next to the creek for a bit and then takes a left and crosses the small creek on logs. The trail heads away from the creek and heads a steady and then hard up. The trail passes a mine hole as it heads up. And up. The trail finally stops heading up and reaches a small lake. The trail heads around the left side of the lake and it is then not a hard up to the large Windsor Lake, not much further ahead. The Continental Divide is above the lake. Trail Length + Elevation: 1.6 miles, 850 ft one-way Area: mountains, mountain lake When I did the hike: Saturday, August 6, 2011 Recommendation: It is a short hike and the lake is pretty, but not stunning.
Mt. Elbert Directions: On Hwy 24, 5 miles south of Leadville, turn west on to Colorado 300. Drive .7 miles and turn left on to CR 11. Drive 1.2 miles and turn right on to Halfmoon Creek Road. Drive the well graded dirt road (passable for all vehicles) for 5 miles to the signed turn for the Mt. Elbert parking lot - it's a large parking lot. Camping note: there are a number of free disperse camping spots (no facilities) along the Halfmoon Creek Road. There are 2 fee campgrounds along the road - one just past the Mt. Elbert parking lot. You are allowed to camp in the parking lot, but if you want to set up a tent, it's best to use one of the disperse spots or campgrounds. Vault toilets. Free. 14er note Mt. Elbert Summit: 14,433 - Colorado's tallest, 2nd tallest Continental US Trails: Don't expect solitude as it's a very popular trail with many wanting to peak Colorado's tallest - that's the bad news, the good news is that the trail is in very good condition and easy to follow. The trail starts next to the information sign (top of the parking lot). Head a short ways up from the parking area to the T-junction with the Colorado Trail and take a left (be careful not to miss the junction on the way back; if you do, just take a right when you hit the road and walk the road back). The 1 1/2 person width dirt trail heads a steady up, with some switchbacks, to the ridge. After rounding the ridge bend, the trail is mild as it stays slightly below the ridge and the signed Mt. Elbert junction is not too much farther ahead. Take a right at the junction (leaving the Colorado Trail) and the trail remains mild for a little ways (enjoy it, because that's the last of the mild) before resuming heading up. The up is not too bad to start with, but soon you'll be huffing and puffing as the trail gets steep (still in the trees). I eventually started calling this the trail of a thousand pauses. After a while, the trail does calm down a little, but still remains heading up. There is a short section where the trees thin and you get your first view of Mt. Elbert (can't see the real summit, just one of the false summits). A little further ahead is a short clearing with a better view. The trail goes back in to the trees for a bit before reaching the tree line (a good resting spot). There's lots of up still to go. The trail narrows and gets rocky as it heads up the slope with some switchbacks (rocky the rest of the way, no rock scrambling though). The trail rounds the ridge and is milder for a short bit - there is a view of a small pond in the valley down to the left (and you may see people on the ridge across the valley as that is another trail to reach Mt. Elbert). Ahead is the long final up - keep an eye out for the trail on the steeper sections (it rounds the mound to the right); I didn't have trouble following it, but encountered a trio that had lost the trail and were making a more difficult rock scramble up. Also, a hiking stick will make this section much, much easier. Be aware that you are heading to a false peak - and once reaching the false peak, there is another false peak ahead (even knowing that, I still groaned reaching the 2nd one). The true summit is not much farther from the 2nd false peak. There is a log stick a geological marker at the summit. There are also a number of windbreaks at the top, which were very popular as it was a cold and very wind day when I was there. At the top, you get 360 degree views of the Rockies. It took me 6 hours to reach the peak (I was going at a slow pace - only took 4 sit-down breaks, but had a ton of short leaning-on-my-stick breaks). Trail Length + Elevation: 4.5 miles, 4393 feet one-way Area: Rocky Mountains. Picture When I did the hike: Sunday, August 16, 2009 Recommendation: It's an accomplishment hike (both "I did it!" and "I hiked Colorado's Tallest/2nd Tallest in Continental US!"). Although it has the usual grand 360 degree views at the top, I didn't think it was all that pretty of a hike [I thought Mt. Massive was a much prettier hike].
Mt. Massive Directions: On Hwy 24, 5 miles south of Leadville, turn west on to Colorado 300. Drive .7 miles and turn left on to CR 11. Drive 1.2 miles and turn right on to Halfmoon Creek Road. Drive the well graded dirt road (passable for all vehicles) for 5 miles to the signed turn for the Mt. Elbert parking lot. The road gets rougher (but still passable) just past that turn and it's .5 miles further to the smaller Mt. Massive parking area on the right (don't turn in the overflow lot on the left) [2011, they fixed the large pothole that was right before the turn]. Camping note: there are a number of free disperse camping spots (no facilities) along the Halfmoon Creek Road. There are 2 fee campgrounds along the road - one just past the Mt. Elbert parking lot. You are allowed to camp in the Mt. Massive parking lot, but if you want to set up a tent, you'll need to use one of the disperse spots or campgrounds. No facilities (but vault toilets at the Mt. Elbert parking lot). [This is the longer route to Mt. Massive: the shorter (4 miles) route is 2.5 miles ahead on the rougher road (definite 4-wheel drive last 1/2 mile).] Free. 14er note Mt. Massive Summit: 14,421 - Colorado's 2nd tallest, 3rd tallest Continental US Trails: The trail starts in the trees on the Colorado Trail, and stays on the Colorado Trail for about 3 miles. The 1 1/2 person width dirt trail heads up to a ridge to start and then is mild for a ways - first as a mild up, later as a mild down. After crossing a stream, the trail heads more down to a creek crossing (rock hop). Then it is a mild up from the creek. The trail stays mild to the 2nd creek crossing (again easy rock hop) and just ahead is the signed Mt. Massive junction - take a left. The trail heads up for a bit (not steep) and eventually comes out of the trees and you can see Mt. Elbert to the left and a bit of Mt. Massive straight ahead. [The trail you see heading up the green hill is the old trail.] The trail is now above the tree line for the rest of the way. The trail heads up the hill with switchbacks, going in and out of the waist-high shrubs. Once past the end of the old trail (2nd "rehab" sign), it's a steady up through the rock-strewn mountainside (still a well-defined trail) - you can see the saddle (where the trail goes) ahead and slightly to the left, you can also see several of Mt. Massive's peaks (there are 4), but it's hard to pick out the true summit (the 3rd). Once you see the saddle, it's a long, long, long way to reach it. They re-routed the trail so it curves a little more to the left as it approaches the saddle and is not quite as steep of an up (though definitely still an up) to the saddle as it used to be. It took me 5 hours to reach the saddle and another hour to reach the summit. There are good views to the southwest from the saddle and, walking around the rock mound (nice resting spot), of Mt. Elbert. There is only 500 more feet to gain from the saddle, but it's a steep up with rock scrambles along the way. The trails heads up from the saddle to the right, with some stone steps to start. Then it is a rock scramble most of the rest of the way (some mild sections, though) - you'll need your hands free for balance (it can be challenging at spots, but nothing too difficult or scary). Once the trail reaches the ridge, there are some nice views to the left down on the pretty valley that contains several lakes. On the ridge, head to the right. The trail reaches the 2nd "peak" (the 1st peak is to the left of the saddle) and then heads a slight down before heading up and reaching the true summit - there is a long wood stick marking the summit, but no geological marker [stick not there in 2011]. Enjoy the grand 360 degree views of the Rockies including more views down on the valley with some lakes. The large, tree surrounded lake in the distance to the northeast is Turquoise Lake. It took me 6 hours to reach the summit (again, I was going at a slow pace - the weather was beautiful and the hike way my day, so there was no need to rush). Trail Length + Elevation: 6.7 miles, 4500 feet one-way Area: Rocky Mountains. Picture When I did the hike: Monday, August 17, 2009 Recommendation: It's a long hike and a rock scramble the last 1/2 mile, but I thought it was very pretty, especially at the peak with the views down on the lakes below.
Mt. Massive from the west Directions: On Hwy 24, 5 miles south of Leadville, turn west on to Colorado 300. Drive .7 miles and turn left on to CR 11. Drive 1.2 miles and turn right on to Halfmoon Creek Road. Drive the well graded dirt road (passable for all vehicles) for 5 miles to the signed turn for the Mt. Elbert parking lot (vault toilet in the Elbert parking area). The road gets rougher (but still passable) just past that turn and it's .5 miles further to the smaller Mt. Massive parking area on the right (don't turn in the overflow lot on the left) - it you are doing Massive as a loop, you'll want to park here and road walk to the west trailhead. The road continues for 2 miles (baring left at junctions) to the upper/west trailhead. Although there is no warning sign, it is recommended to have 4wd to continue on the road to the west trailhead (the road isn't too bad but there is a steep rock up near the trailhead - but there was a 2wd car at the trailhead when I arrived and I told him that I was impressed that he made it). No facilities Free. 14er note Mt. Massive Summit: 14,421 - 2nd tallest in Colorado Trails: Since I did it as a loop, I'm including the road-walk for the start. The road is mild for a ways as it stays near (sometimes next, sometimes farther away) to a creek in the trees. At the road junction, continue straight. The road is not bad (there is a high clearance warning, but it's not much worse than the road up to the lower lot, with some more bumps and potholes). After a bit of an up, the road is back to mild (a pleasant walk in the morning) and not too much further ahead is the small parking area on the right (with a Halfmoon TH sign and an info sign in the parking area). Register at the sign-in sheet (free) and start the trail portion of the hike. The trail heads a not hard, steady up with some milds mixed in through the trees with sounds of a creek (trail is mostly not near the creek). Reach a long open area and continue through the open area with a short rock up and small stream crossing. The route is going to head up on the far side of the green mound ahead to the right. Near the end of the meadow, just before it reaches the trees, reach a signed trail junction and take a right and start heading up. And up, up, up - nothing easy on this section. The trail heads up through trees with some rock steps. An up, up through a long rock field with stone steps (good route) which takes you above the treeline. The trail continues up with a couple of zig-zags and then is not as hard of an up (though still up) to the right on the dirt trail - I saw lots of marmots (including some blond marmots) and some pikas in this area. The trail goes by a couple of "No shortcuts" signs and a small rock area (nice resting spot) and into a short greenery, where the trail switchbacks and starts heading a hard up towards the green gap (but not reaching it). After forever and a day, the trail heads towards the left and goes through a rock field (good path) for a bit before zig-zagging up to a rock point (above the left side of the gap - the gap is the saddle for east route). The trail is a mixture of rock and dirt with some rock steps. You don't get your first view of the north Halfmoon Lakes until you are semi-close to the junction - still lots of up to go. The trail rounds under and then around the rock mounds and then it is a bit more up to reach the trail junction with the east route (note this junction if you are looping as you'll want to take a left there on the way back - see the above trail description for the east route). The rock route is not as harsh/steep, but there are some small rock scrambles (nothing difficult or too scary) and a few false summits as it heads along the ridge. There is a short down before reaching the true summit (note: the large stick that used to mark the summit was gone in 2011). Rest and enjoy the scenic views. Trail Length + Elevation: 3.4 miles, 3900 ft one-way from west to summit Loop: 12 miles, 4500 ft Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er When I did the hike: Friday, August 5, 2011 (loop) Recommendation: It is a long hard hike, with some difficult spots (but nothing really scary), but I find Massive a beautiful mountain with scenic views (much better the Elbert) - as seen by the fact that I repeated a visit to Massive (though with a different route) and would consider repeating the loop in future trips. The views along the west route are prettier than the east route, but the west route is harder (though shorter).
La Plata Peak (Rt 82) Directions: Hwy 24 to Rt 82 (about 15 miles south of Leadville). Drive 13 miles west on Rt 82 and keep an eye out for the La Plata Trailhead road sign (on the right side of the road) and the small parking area is on the left side of the road. [Note that you are not allowed to camp at the parking area.] No facilities. Free. 14er note La Plata Summit: 14,336 feet - Colorado's 5th tallest Trails: Head up the dirt road for 1/4 mile (private property along the road, no parking on the road) to the signed trailhead on the left. The trail soon crosses a bridge - go right after the bridge. The trail meanders through the forest and comes to a creek crossing (log crossing). The 1 person width trail then heads up (and it is an up) next to the creek. Soon there are log steps to help with the steep climb. After the steps, the trail varies between mild and hard ups as it makes its way up and around the hillside. The trail finally calms down and is mild for a ways as it goes along a wider valley, with some nice views of the small peak to the right. The trail eventually reaches an area where you can see La Plata ahead and to the left - the valley you are in is also pretty with a distinctive orange mountain to the right. The trail resumes heading up near the end of the rock field - and it's up, up, up to the ridge, starting with a steep zig-zag up the grassy slope (dirt and rock trail - my least favorite section of the hike) that takes you above the tree line. At the end of the zags, the trail heads up to the right through the top edge of a rock field. After a bit, the trail resumes the zig-zags as it heads up to a grassy meadow with a large square boulder at the end of the zags. The trail heads a milder up through the meadow and then it's more up (word of the day) as the trail goes through the rock field with some switchbacks and a number of natural rock steps up to the ridge. At the ridge there are nice views both of the valley to the left (which you came up) and to the right. Also, to the north you can see Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive in the distance (if you know what they look like) - it's a nice resting spot (and needed as more hard up is still to come - 1500 feet still to gain in 1.5 miles)). The trail is somewhat easy to follow as it heads up through the rocks (rocky the rest of the way), but it's also easy to lose or to take a harder "shortcut" branch - keep an eye out for rock cairns and follow them for the easiest route. There is some rock scrambling (hands for balance, not to pull up), but not much - a hiking stick will make going through the rock fields much easier. After a short green area, the way becomes trickier as you make your way up the ridge as best you can, going from one (widely spaced) cairn to the next [lots of fun going down with several "Now what?"s as in "Now what way do I go?"]. The way is a little more defined ahead with loose dirt and rock heading up - the trail stays that way the rest of the way up (starting steep and then getting more moderate). At the saddle, head left (the other route joins the trail from the right). The peak ahead to the left is, of course, a false peak - but the real peak is just ahead. There is a windbreak at the summit, but no geological marker. The views at the top are grand 360 degrees, including pretty views down on a couple of lakes in the valley to the south. It took me 5 hours to reach the summit [due to weather concerns, I did go at a little faster pace than I did on my other 2009 14ers (I was prepared to turn around, but the distance clouds never looked stormy until I reached the peak - so I only stayed 10 minutes, and even then the storms were kind enough to miss me on the way down (did get flurried on and it was very windy))]. Trail Length + Elevation: 4.75 miles, 4336 feet Area: Rocky Mountains. Picture When I did the hike: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 Recommendation: It is a tough hike, especially with all the rocks above the ridge, but it's pretty most of the way and at the top.
La Plata Peak from Winfield Directions: Take Hwy 24 to 2 miles south of the Rt 82 junction (17 miles south of Leadville, 17 miles north of Buena Vista) and turn west on CR390, going next to the Clear Creek Reservoir. The road is bouncy dirt (easily, but slowly traveled in non-4-wheel drive). Take the road all the way to the tiny town of Winfield, over 11 miles in. At Winfield at the fork in the road, the way for La Plata is to the right, but to park turn left and a short ways ahead on the left is a nice large disperse camping area with a vault toilet. If you have 4wd, take a right at the fork and go as far as you're comfortable (2 miles to the road branch on the right - don't take your vehicle up that branch as it is narrow and steep and parking is extremely limited and you'll have a difficult time turning your vehicle around and you don't gain enough to make it worth the difficulties rather than just parking at the junction and walking up). No facilities. Free. 14er note La Plata Summit: 14,336 feet - Colorado's 5th tallest Trails: For those walking the road, the road is mild to mild up all the way to the trailhead. After 1/4 mile from the fork in the road is a small cemetery - just past that is a sign warning for high clearance vehicles only (but the road isn't worse than the bit up to the cemetery for a while and there are places to park along the way - the first section is rocky and rough and I wouldn't take my sedan up it). At any road branches, continue on the main road (obvious which is the main road). It is 1.5 miles from the cemetery to the trailhead. After rounding a bend, rock hop across a stream (nice parking/camping spot just after) then cross 2 more small steams and head through a meadow. At the end of the long meadow, the road heads more of an up (and has some serious bumps and dips if you are still driving). Reach a small meadow and see a road heading right (if still driving, park here) - take the right and it is not too far up the narrow, rocky road to the trailhead - there is a gate to the right and a sign-in kiosk (free) to the left. The narrow trail heads up to the left in the tress and soon crosses a creek (easy log cross). The trail rounds a bend and heads a steady up next to a gully and then a harder up next to the creek. The bushes and trees overhang the trail and may brush against you. And continue up next to the creek. The trail goes a little ways away from the creek, still heading up. Reach the treeline and enjoy the grand views (if you are not going to the summit, this would be a nice turning around spot for a pretty, shorter hike) at the edge of the large open basin. The trail gets muddy and wet as it makes its way mildly through the willows (again brushing against you). Rock hop across the stream and go through another muddy section - the trail goes to the right of the basin and then curves to the left near the top of the basin and goes up to the ridge to left. The trail crosses a creek on a log and heads to the left and you can see the trail heading up to the ridge (1500 feet to go). There is short marshy section before the climb starts. And then it is up, up, up - at times nasty where the trail is very steep and loose dirt. The trail goes near an old mine (nothing exciting, not much there) while heading up to the ridge. After finally reaching the ridge (and catching your breath), enjoy the views of the pretty next valley over. The trail heads to the right. After a short up over the rocks, the trail is surprisingly mild for a little bit as it heads along the green slope before reaching the base of the final (long) rocky climb. I turned around at that point due to weather concerns (and having a good idea how long it would take me to summit and get back to a safe spot, plus having summitted La Plata before from the other route). Trail Length + Elevation: 5.5 miles, about 4000 ft one-way from Winfield 3.5 miles, 3636 ft one-way from bottom of branch Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er When I did the hike: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 Recommendation: LaPlata is one of the prettier 14ers. Due to the marshiness in the basin, I'd recommend doing the hike from Rt 82 instead of from Winfield.
Lake Ann Directions: Take Hwy 24 to 2 miles south of the Rt 82 junction (17 miles south of Leadville, 17 miles north of Buena Vista) and turn west on CR390, going next to the Clear Creek Reservoir. The road is bouncy dirt (easily, but slowly, traveled in non-4-wheel drive). Take the road all the way to the tiny town of Winfield, over 11 miles in. At Winfield, turn left. A short ways ahead on the left is a nice disperse camping area with a vault toilet. The road turns right and a little ways ahead is a large pulloff area on the right with a 4-wheel drive warning sign just ahead. You can actually go a bit further in non-4-wheel drive to where there is room for about 3 cars to pull over on the left and then 3 to pull over on the right - and that's as far as non-4-wheel drive vehicles should go. If you are in a 4-wheel drive, continue on the road for less then 2 miles (and there are some nice rugged camping spots ahead) - stay straight on the main road (there is a left turn along the way). When you see two old log buildings on the left, the trailhead parking area is just ahead - the road deadends at the signed trailhead. For the road walkers, the road doesn't not gain a lot of elevation. No facilities. Free. Trails: At the information sign, go straight. The one-width trail is an easy walk up the valley in the trees with Granite Mountain to the right and the long slope (summit not visible) of Huron Peak on the left. After about 20 minutes, the trail reaches an open meadow with a good view of the scenic Three Apostles mountains straight ahead [worth going just for this view]. At the signed Y-junction (another good view of the peaks), take a right and the trail soon crosses a creek over logs and then it is a bit of an up in the tress - some milds, but mostly ups (not too hard). After the trail goes above (with a couple of switchbacks) a long meadow (trail still in the trees), the trail hooks a left and heads down a bit and crosses a couple of streams via rock-hop. The trail then heads up the left side of the valley. The trail reaches the treeline then takes two switchbacks up a green slope and rounds a bend. At the junction, go left to reach Lake Ann just ahead - to the right heads up to a pass. It is a pretty, smaller size lake in a half-bowl. Trail Length + Elevation: 3.5 miles (one-way), 1260 feet from trailhead Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Sunday, July 18, 2010; Tuesday, August 2, 2011 Recommendation: Very pretty. If you are going to hike Huron Peak, take an extra day and go to Lake Ann. If you don't have time for an extra day, at least go up the Lake Ann trail for about 20 minutes for a great view of the Three Apostles mountains.
Huron Peak Directions: Take Hwy 24 to 2 miles south of the Rt 82 junction (17 miles south of Leadville, 17 miles north of Buena Vista) and turn west on CR390, going next to the Clear Creek Reservoir. The road is bouncy dirt (easily, but slowly, traveled in non-4-wheel drive). Take the road all the way to the tiny town of Winfield, over 11 miles in. At Winfield, turn left. A short ways ahead on the left is a nice disperse camping area with a vault toilet. The road turns right and a little ways ahead is a large pulloff area on the right with a 4-wheel drive warning sign just ahead. You can actually go a bit further in non-4-wheel drive to where there is room for about 3 cars to pull over on the left and then 3 to pull over on the right - and that's as far as non-4-wheel drive vehicles should go. If you are in a 4-wheel drive, continue on the road for less then 2 miles (and there are some nice rugged camping spots ahead) - stay straight on the main road (there is a left turn along the way). When you see two old log buildings on the left, the trailhead parking area is just ahead - the road deadends at the signed trailhead. For the road walkers, the road doesn't not gain a lot of elevation. No facilities. Free. 14er note Huron Peak Summit: 14,003 Trails: At the information sign (for the Gunnison Spur), take a left and the trail heads up for a little ways. Then it is surprisingly not hard for a ways as it heads through the trees. After rock-hopping a creek, the trail switchbacks up, up, up, and more up the mountainside. The trail has a longer length between two switchbacks and you get a brief glimpse of the Three Apostles peaks ahead to the right. The trail reaches the treeline and then heads up the green slope with some stone steps - excellent views all around, including of the Huron Trail as it heads east in front of Huron. After a mild up across the shelf for a ways, the trail makes a mild down next to a pond and that is the end of the easy stuff. You can pretty much figure out the rest of the way. From the end of the basin, it's a steep up - a good trail with some stone steps. The trail switchbacks up, up, up to the ridge. From the ridge, it is only 1/4 mile further to the summit but still 550 feet to gain. The trail heads to the right before swinging left up the pure rocky slope. The way is easy to follow, but steep. The views at the summit are great. Trail Length + Elevation: 3 miles (one-way), 3500 feet from trailhead Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er Picture When I did the hike: Monday, July 19, 2010 Recommendation: I liked this 14er hike - it's not that long of a hike, a nice easier section in the middle, and pretty views.
Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford Directions: Take Hwy 24 to 2 miles south of the Rt 82 junction (17 miles south of Leadville, 17 miles north of Buena Vista) and turn west on CR390, going next to the Clear Creek Reservoir. The road is bouncy dirt (easily, but slowly, traveled in non-4-wheel drive). Take the road about 7.5 miles to the left turn in for the good-sized parking area for Missouri and Belford - if you miss the first turn in, catch the second (the turn wasn't signed). Note that they don't allow camping in the parking lot, but there are a few rugged pull in spots along the road (though you have to keep an eye out for them). Vault toilet. Free. 14er note Mt. Belford Summit: 14,197 Mt. Oxford Summit: 14,153 Trails: After the information sign, the trail has a bridge across the creek and then immediately starts to climb. The trail switchbacks up, up, up through the trees as you huff-and-puff along. After the last switchback, the trail still heads up for a while. The trail finally does calm down as it heads to a creek crossing (nice resting spot). After log-crossing the creek to the left, the trail heads right and resumes heading up on a rockier trail. The trail zig-zags some as it goes through a section of shorter trees and soon reaches an old fallen down cabin (and a backpackers campground). The trail reaches an open meadow and you can see Mt. Belford ahead to the left (Missouri Mountain is not visible yet, but will be ahead to the right, Mt. Oxford is east of Belford and not visible until you reach Belford's summit). The trail is not too hard as it heads alongside the creek to a signed junction. Take a left for Belford - the way is obvious as you can see the trail making it's way up the open ridge. The trail soon leaves the bushes and you are above the treeline. It is not an easy up as it gains 2300 feet. Up, up, and up you go. The trail is well defined with some stone steps [and there were actually some people working on improving the trail when I did the hike]. There are also a ton of switchbacks as you go up, up, huff-and-puff up. The trail hits a final switchback and then heads to a ridge (pretty view). And then yet more up as the trail heads to the left. At the top, you can see the summit to the right, a short easy way ahead. There is a small rock scramble to reach the summit. To continue on to Mt. Oxford: head to the right from the Belford summit (again, small rock scramble down) and the trail is mild as it goes along the ridge. Watch for an unsigned left turn after a rock mound and take that left for Oxford. It is a steep, rocky down (but still easy to follow trail) to the saddle (and a huff-and-puff back up). And then a straight, surprisingly not too hard up from the saddle to Mt. Oxford's summit - a sign-in container and geo marker signals the not-distinctive summit. I had poor weather at this point and opted to take the longer loop down from the Oxford-Belford junction instead of going back down the shorter but much steeper Belford ridge that I came up (which wouldn't have been fun with wet rocks). It is a little longer (don't have a distance info), but easier on the knees and gives you a different view - take a left at the Oxford-Belford junction and the trail heads along the ridge and then a mild down to the saddle between Belford and Missouri Mountain (Elkhead Pass). There is a pretty view at the saddle into the valley to the south. At the saddle, take a right and the trail heads down the valley you originally came up. After a ways, the trail reaches the signed Missouri Mountain junction. Continue straight. The trail eventually heads down and goes through some bushes. Not much further ahead is the signed Belford junction. Continue straight and go back down the way you came up. Trail Length + Elevation: 4 miles (one-way), 4500 feet to Mt. Belford 1.5 miles (one-way), 700 feet down, 600 feet up to Oxford Area: Rocky Mountains, two 14ers Picture When I did the hike: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 Recommendation: It's a slog to go up the ridge to Belford, but this is a chance to hit 2 14ers in one hike. Somewhere in the middle for my ranking of prettiest to not pretty 14ers. If you have a really nice day (no rain clouds) and are in great shape, you could also do Missouri Mountain in one hike (but you need to head up for Missouri from the valley turn, not the saddle between Belford and Missouri as there is some class 3 or 4 stuff if you go up from the saddle - take the trail to the saddle and then turn right and head down the valley to the signed turn for Missouri).
Missouri Mountain Directions: Take Hwy 24 to 2 miles south of the Rt 82 junction (17 miles south of Leadville, 17 miles north of Buena Vista) and turn west on CR390, going next to the Clear Creek Reservoir. The road is bouncy dirt (easily, but slowly, traveled in non-4-wheel drive). Take the road about 7.5 miles to the left turn in for the good-sized parking area for Missouri and Belford - if you miss the first turn in, catch the second (the turn wasn't signed). Note that they don't allow camping in the parking lot, but there are a few rugged pull in spots along the road (though you have to keep an eye out for them). Vault toilet. Free. 14er note Missouri Mountain Summit: 14,067 Trails: After the information sign, the trail has a bridge across the creek and then immediately starts to climb. The trail switchbacks up, up, up through the trees as you huff-and-puff along. After the last switchback, the trail still heads up for a while. The trail finally does calm down as it heads to a creek crossing (nice resting spot). After log-crossing the creek to the left, the trail heads right and resumes heading up on a rockier trail. The trail zig-zags some as it goes through a section of shorter trees and soon reaches an old fallen down cabin (and a backpackers campground). The trail reaches an open meadow and you can see Mt. Belford ahead to the left (Missouri Mountain is not visible yet, but will be ahead to the right, Mt. Oxford is west of Belford and not visible until you reach Belford's summit). The trail is not too hard as it heads alongside the creek to a signed junction for Mt. Belford. Continue straight and the trail turns right and there is a rock-hop across the creek. The trail goes through the bushes and then swings left around the outside of the bushes and then takes an up to a ledge and you are above the treeline. Missouri Mountain is the tallest point (though hard to tell which is the tallest) towards the end of the long ridge above to the right. The trail heads up the open valley to a signed junction for Missouri Mountain - take a right at the junction. From the junction, the trail heads up the green slope with switchbacks - not easy, but not as hard as it looks from Belford. The trail reaches a small basin and then heads to the right (not straight, as you might expect) and then heads left going up the rocky slope at an angle (keeping above the gap) - the trail is well defined but slow going. After finally reaching the ridge, the trail heads to the left with more up. After that climb, the trail is fairly mild as it heads along the ridge. After a small peak, the trail takes a short steep down (nasty little section) with some rock scramble (hands needed) and then a narrow loose dirt steep up to the summit - there is a geo marker at the summit. Trail Length + Elevation: 5.25 miles (one-way), 4500 feet Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er When I did the hike: Thursday, July 29, 2010 Recommendation: The trail is more rugged than for Belford, but if you are in the area, it's probably to hike 14ers and this is another notch for your 14er belt.
Mt. Harvard Directions: Rt 24 to Buena Vista. In town, turn west on CR 350 (Crossman Ave) - about 1/2 mile north of the stoplight. Go for 2 miles to the T-junction and turn right on to CR 361. After a mile, turn left on to CR 365 (as the CR 361 curves right). The dirt road goes all the way to the trailhead for Harvard and Columbia, about 5 miles in. It is a fairly good dirt road - I didn't encounter any rough spots in my sedan until the parking area where there was one spot on the right that I wouldn't want to go over (and heard another vehicle scrape), but that can be avoided by going to the left. There is a vault toilet 3.5 miles in on the road at a Colorado Trail parking area, but no facilities at the end of the road. Free. 14er note Mt. Harvard Summit: 14,420 - 3rd tallest in Colorado Trails: The trail starts next to the info sign (no map). Cross the bridge a short ways ahead and sign in at the registration kiosk (free). The trail is surprisingly mild for a good ways as it heads along side the creek. After 1.5 miles the trail reaches a good bridge and crosses the creek. At a trail junction, a little bit ahead, continue straight. The trail narrows some and has rocks and roots (still a good trail) as it heads a mostly not hard up for a bit and then is surprisingly mild for a ways. You'll see Mt. Columiba up to the right (Mt. Harvard is not visible for a good ways). The trail goes through a small meadow and then heads a steady up. Along the way is an unsigned trail junction (Mt. Columbia branch) - continue straight. Not too much further is the pseudo-treeline (still a group of small trees ahead) and great views 360 degrees, including Harvard straight ahead. The trail is fairly mild as it goes through the bushes (some will brush against you). Rock hop or wet water cross the creek and the trail heads up to the left. There are some milds mixed in with the ups, After a steady and then hard up, reach the signed Bear Lake junction (if you have time and energy, you can make a 1/2 mile sidetrip to that open lake to rest and feet soak on the way back) - continue straight. You are about 5 miles from the trailhead, but still have 2000 feet to go. The trail heads up to the small basin and then goes a short bit to the left of the basin before starting the up, up, up to the ridge to the left - the Mt. Harvard summit is the 3rd rock point in the group ahead to the left. The trail is rocky and there are some stone steps. Huff-and-puff your way up to the ridge. There is a nice view and rest spot at the ridge, take a rest as there is still a lot of work to go (it is incorrect to think that you are almost there). The trail is not as hard as it heads to the right, but still up. And up, up, up the green slope. And then is the last miserable 30 feet - it is a not easy rock scramble to reach the summit (outside my comfort zone). It is a very small summit, so if it is a heavy hiker day you may have to wait for some to come down before making the final summit. Note: you can do Harvard and Columbia as one hike by hiking the class 3 ridge between Harvard and Columbia (it's recommended going to Harvard first) - but it is a difficult ridge and you need to know what you are doing and understand how hard it is for that route. Trail Length + Elevation: 6.7 miles, 4600 ft one-way Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er Picture When I did the hike: Friday, July 29, 2011 Recommendation: One of the prettier 14er hikes (though I didn't like the very last 30 feet to the summit). This is one that I would consider repeating.
Mt. Columbia Directions: Rt 24 to Buena Vista. In town, turn west on CR 350 (Crossman Ave) - about 1/2 mile north of the stoplight. Go for 2 miles to the T-junction and turn right on to CR 361. After a mile, turn left on to CR 365 (as the CR 361 curves right). The dirt road goes all the way to the trailhead for Harvard and Columbia, about 5 miles in. It is a fairly good dirt road - I didn't encounter any rough spots in my sedan until the parking area where there was one spot on the right that I wouldn't want to go over (and heard another vehicle scrape), but that can be avoided by going to the left. There is a vault toilet 3.5 miles in at a Colorado Trail parking area, but no facilities at the end of the road. Free. 14er note Mt. Columbia Summit: 14,073 Trails: The trail starts next to the info sign (no map). Cross the bridge a short ways ahead and sign in at the registration kiosk (free). The trail is surprisingly mild for a good ways as it heads along side the creek. After 1.5 miles the trail reaches a good bridge and crosses the creek. At a trail junction, a little bit ahead, continue straight. The trail narrows some and has rocks and roots (still a good trail) as it heads a mostly not hard up for a bit and then is surprisingly mild for a ways. You'll see Mt. Columiba up to the right (Mt. Harvard is not visible for a good ways). The trail goes through a small meadow and then heads a steady up. Along the way is an unsigned trail junction - keep an eye out for the branch as that is the way for Columbia. Take the right and stick to the trail as it goes by some backpackers camping spots - go right where there is a trail that branches to the left and there is a short steep up in the trees. At the next branch, take a left and the trail soon reaches the treeline. I missed the trail branch midway through the gully and ended up just going up the gully and continuing straight up the talus slope (found the "trail" on the way down - don't know if it is any easier than the way I went as it was still steep and loose rocks). What you want to do is make your way as best you can to the base of the rock mound ahead to the right - it gets more difficult the closer you get as it gets steeper (tons of fun coming down). And then make your way up to the left of the mound as best you can (I went up a little further to the left, but others went up near the right). Once you (thankfully) make it to the top of the rock mound, you get a false sense of relief as the trail is easier for a little bit. But then it goes back to a very hard up, with loose dirt on steep sections of the trail as it makes its way up directly along the ridge (a few short zig-zags, but mostly just up) (again fun going down). There is a trail to follow, though. After the very hard up, the trail reaches the rocks and continues up through them - follow the cairns and bits of path. Once you are above the rocks, the trail still heads up, but not as nasty (still 1/2 mile to the summit) - head to the left. Head a not hard up to the next point and then a not hard over and up to the false summit a little ways ahead. Continue across the grass slope near the ridge and then make a not hard rock cross/scramble up towards the mound. The route goes between 2 mounds and you can the real summit just ahead. Going back is just as hard - for the section down near the rock mound on the talus slope, I actually sat down and butt-walked a good distance as it was just too steep for me to do standing (others who were more daring rock-skied/slid down). Note: you can do Harvard and Columbia as one hike by hiking the class 3 ridge between Harvard and Columbia (it's recommended going to Harvard first) - but it is a difficult ridge and you need to know what you are doing and understand how hard it is for that route. [I was impressed when a couple and their big dog arrived from that route while I was at Columbia's summit.] Trail Length + Elevation: 6.7 miles, 4600 ft one-way Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er When I did the hike: Friday, July 29, 2011 Recommendation: Yuch. Just a nasty trudge.
Mt. Yale Directions: In the town of Buena Vista, from Hwy 24, turn west at the stop light on CR306 (sign for Cottonwood Pass) and drive 12 miles to the Denny Creek/Mt. Yale parking area, on the right. [Note that with the paved road to the trailhead, it's a popular hike on a pretty weekend.] Vault toilet. Free. 14er note Mt. Yale Summit: 14,196 Trails: The wide, rocky dirt trail heads up to start and after a bit it is a milder up. Where the trail becomes mostly dirt, it is even milder. A mile in is a log crossing of Denny Creek. It is a little more of an up from the crossing and the trail is rocky. The signed Mt. Yale junction is 1/4 mile ahead - take a right at the junction. The trail narrows as it heads up through the trees - some mild areas and even some slight downs, but mostly up. The trail is pretty as it goes along Delaney Creek and then is a log crossing of the creek. Back to the work as the trail starts heading up, up, switchback up a hillside. The trail reaches the treeline and is mild as it rounds a bend with some pretty open views (and a cabin foundation). Take a break as it's then back to a very hard up on loose dirt. The trail does get a little better with more rocks and better traction, but it is a very long way up to the ridge and this is the big elevation gain of the hike (750 feet). Once you finish with the harder up right before the ridge, take a break at the ridge - I actually found this spot nicer and prettier than the summit. From the ridge, you head right as you make your way carefully over and around the large rocks - there are some cairns to guide the way and you may have to backtrack while mis-thinking one way is better than another - keep a little bit below the ridge as it is not easier to go along the ridge and do your best to follow the rock cairns. You'll need to use your hands a couple of times to get around some difficult spots. After the false peak, the route does get easier and the real summit is just ahead. There are pretty 360 degree views of the Collegiate Peaks. There were a lot of gnats at the summit when I was there, so I didn't stay long. Trail Length + Elevation: 5.5 miles (one-way), 4300 feet Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er When I did the hike: Saturday, July 17, 2010 Recommendation: A pretty hike and pretty views (and, rare for a 14er, a paved road to the trailhead).
Hartenstein Lake Directions: In the town of Buena Vista, from Hwy 24, turn west at the stop light on CR306 (sign for Cottonwood Pass) and drive 12 miles on the paved road to the Denny Creek/Mt. Yale parking area, on the right. Vault toilet. Free. Trails: The wide, rocky dirt trail heads up to start and after a bit it is a milder up. Where the trail becomes mostly dirt, it is even milder. A mile in is a log crossing of Denny Creek. It is a little more of an up from the crossing and the trail is rocky. The signed Mt. Yale junction is 1/4 mile ahead - continue straight. The trail narrows after a rock-hop across the stream and the width of the trail starts to vary. It is a harder up to a ridge. Just past the up is the Browns Pass junction, take a left for the lake (only 3/4 mile ahead). The trail heads up to a small ridge and then heads to the right. The trees thin some and the trail is mild for a ways. The trail reaches another patch of trees and you're at the lake (the lake is below the ledge you might of thought it would be located at). If you round to the top of the lake, there is a very nice view of Mt. Yale. The lake itself is not that pretty and is marshy at spots and tree surrounded. Trail Length + Elevation: 3 miles (one-way), 1550 feet Area: Rocky Mountains, lower mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Friday, July 16, 2010 Recommendation: Na. Though the view of Mt. Yale at the lake is pretty, the lake itself is not pretty and there are no good resting spots lakeside.
Mt. Princeton Directions: From Nathrop on Hwy 285, turn west on CR 162 and drive 4 miles to a junction in a small town. Turn right on CR321 and drive for 1.2 miles. Turn left on CR322 (not the 1st early sign for CR322). The large lower Mt. Princeton parking lot is less than a mile ahead (there is a private party ranch down to the left) - the roads are paved to the parking lot. If you do not have 4-wheel drive, park here (no camping spots, but you can car-camp). If you have 4-wheel drive, continue straight through the parking area and drive 3 miles on the narrow, rough dirt road up to the radio tower (there are no pulloff areas between the parking lot and the radio tower) - there is room for a few vehicles at the tower curve and then several camping spots past that. There really isn't any where to park between past the camping spots and the real trailhead. No facilities. Free. 14er note Mt. Princeton Summit: 14,197 Trails: Hopefully you have 4-wheel drive because walking the road adds nothing to your hike but a lot of extra work. After you finally make it to the radio tower (either via foot or vehicle), you continue along the road as it makes 3 switchbacks up the mountainside before rounding the mountain. Once it rounds the mountain, you are above the treeline and you can see the road as it curves the top of the valley over to the next ridge - you don't want to go that far. The unsigned trailhead is shortly past the first left curve at the top of the valley - there is a large rock cairn marking the trail start. It's about a mile from the radio tower to the trailhead. The dirt trail heads up the green slope towards the right and then has a switchback to the left. Mt. Princeton is the peak in the distance straight ahead and slightly to the left. A short ways ahead, the trail leaves the green slope and it is pure rock the rest of the way. It is not yet a hard up as the trail weaves in and out along the mountainside, but it is slow going as the rocks are loose and you have to have one foot firmly planted before moving the other - and it is that way all the way to the summit. When you reach a small rock-wall, hook a left (the old route went straight) and it's a steep up with some loose dirt to the ridge. Once you reach the ridge, the trail heads up along the ridge all the way to the summit - still very rocky and slow going - follow the rock cairns as best you can. After forever and a day, you reach the false summit - but the real summit is just ahead. I know I'm slow and cautious, but I couldn't believe that it took me 9 hours to reach the summit from the lower parking lot (but fortunately had a beautiful day). Because of the loose rocks, going back to the road is still slow going. Trail Length + Elevation: 6.5 miles (one-way), 5400 feet from the lower parking area 3.2 miles (one-way), 3200 feet from the radio towers Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er When I did the hike: Thursday, July 15, 2010 Recommendation: Until Castle Peak, my least favorite 14er hike. I still can't believe how long it took me to summit. The views are almost the same at Mt. Yale's summit and that's a better trail and prettier hike.
Mt. Antero Directions: Rt 285 to Nathrop, just south of mile marker 54, turn left (west) on Chaffe CR 162. Drive through the hot springs area and continue on the road for 12.5 miles from Rt 285 (the last 2 are good dirt). There are a couple of pull off areas on the right side of the road and a jeep dirt road turn on the left (CR 277) - that is the start of the route for Mt. Antero. There is an large info sign at the turn for CR 277. If you are not in a 4wd vehicle, you'll be parking there. If you have a 4wd vehicle and don't mind a single-lane rough, rocky road, you can drive 3 miles further to the non-bridge creek crossing. And if you are in a small jeep or ATV, you can drive to less than a mile from the summit. No facilities. Free. 14er note Mt. Antero Summit: 14,269 Trails: So for the suckers (cough) those starting at the bottom, start heading up the rocky, dirt road - the good news is that since it's such a long day hike you have to start really early so hopefully the many vehicles won't start arriving until well after you've crossed the creek. The road starts at a sharper up (probably trying to scare those who shouldn't from trying the road) before becoming a steady up for over a mile. The road rounds a bend and is mild for a bit (there is a road junction to the right, but you'll continue straight). The road is then not a hard up as it goes near the creek. The road heads a bit more of an up and not much further is the signed junction for the creek crossing, 3 miles in. Put on your water shoes as it is a wide (but not deep) wet water crossing and take a left and cross the creek. There are dispersed camping spots on the other side of the creek (for those still in a vehicle, this is probably where you'll want to stop). The road gets rockier and heads a harder up for a bit. Rock hop across a small creek continue up. The road reaches another camping area and there is an open slope on the left and the road heads a hard up. The road curves to the left [and now only ATV and small jeeps should continue] and reaches the treeline. The road takes a short switchback to the right as it heads up. The road heads to the left for a bit (not as hard of an up, but still an up) and then you can see above you how the road goes eventually up to the ridge to the right. You may think it would be better to simply go up one of the gullies instead of the longer road, but you'd be wrong - stick to the road. The road is now more dirt than rock. Finally, finally reach the ridge and a junction - catch your breath - you can now see Antero's high point, up to the left (well, you could spot it earlier if you knew where it was at). Go left at the junction and take the road to the next junction. At that junction, take a left and you can see how the road will zig-zag up to Pt. 13800 - huff-and-puff your way up. Go to the right at the top and then to the left to the small parking area. The now trail continues to the top right of the parking area. There is a path, but there is also some not too hard rock scrambles. You should be able to follow the path up to the bottom of the climb up to the summit. For the last pure rocky up to the summit, you can either head directly up (harder) or curve to the right and follow bits of trail up (becomes a better path a little ways ahead) as it loops below the summit and then reaches the summit from the east. Trail Length + Elevation: 7.5 miles, 5200 ft one-way from the bottom 4.5 miles, 3415 ft one-way from creek crossing Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er When I did the hike: Thursday, July 28, 2011 Recommendation: Only reason to do this one is to add to your 14er list. Not only are there many prettier 14er hikes, several of them are not far from Mt. Antero (Shavano, Yale, Harvard). But Antero is the 10th tallest mountain in Colorado.
Mt. Shavano and Tabeguache Peak Directions: From Hwy 285, about 1 mile north of the Hwy 50 junction, turn west on CR140 (sign for Mt. Shavano). Drive about 2 miles and turn right on CR250 at the stop sign. From Hwy 50, about 1 mile west of the Hwy 285 junction, turn north on CR250. Continue on CR250 as it turns left and turns to dirt (not too smooth at spots, but can make it to the trailhead in non-4-wheel drive vehicles). At the Y-junction, bare left for FR252. Continue on FR252 all the way to the parking area. The trail starts to the right of the toilet. There is a camping area just past the parking area. Vault toilet. Free. 14er note Mt. Shavano Summit: 14,229 Tabeguache Peak Summit: 14,155 Trails: From the trailhead, take the spur trail a short ways to a signed junction for the Colorado Trail and go right. Less than 1/2 mile ahead, take a left at the signed junction for Mt. Shavano. The wide, rocky trail heads up, up, up. After about 3/4 mile the trail does calm down a little (and there's a camping spot nearby) and narrows to more of a dirt trail. The trail criss-crosses a stream and then heads up along side the stream in the trees (pretty area). The trail again criss-crosses the stream and heads a milder up for a bit. Then it is back to more of a rocky up. The trail heads up and then around a hillside (to the right), rounds a bend, and then there are some switchbacks up. Just when you think you are almost to a ridge, the trail backtracks and heads up the other way rounding the mountainside. When the trail finally reaches the treeline (only 2000 feet to go), you can see where the trail reaches the ridge - Shavano's summit is not visible up to your right. Huff and puff your way up the open valley to the ridge. It was very windy at the ridge when I did this hike. At the ridge, the trail heads to the right, mild for a short ways and then starts heading towards the summit with a rocky up to the right - there are a number of ways up, with multiple rock cairns, chose which way you like best. Eventually you should be rounding the mountain top towards the right (with the valley you came up directly below you) and there are a couple of harder (but not too difficult) rock scramble spots where you'll need your hands to help you get up right before you reach the summit. There are a number of large rocks at the summit, so you'll be guessing which spot is the tallest. Find a nice resting spot (there are plenty) and enjoy the great views. With my slow pace, I had the summit to myself and the marmots came out to sun themselves and keep an eye on me. For Tabeguache Peak, continue straight from the Shavano summit, staying just to the right of the ridge crest - there isn't much of a path or cairns to follow, simply make your way the best that you can. You'll stay near the ridge all the way until you approach the saddle down to the left. The rocky slope is slow going as it drops 529 feet to the saddle. Closer to the saddle, you will see a bit of a trail and you can take that to the saddle. Cross the saddle and head up the rocky Tabeguache slope - it doesn't matter which route you take (there are a number of cairns marking different ways) as long as you are heading up. Make your way the best that you can. You'll probably want to head just to the left of the false summit (but you can go over it). There is a windbreak at the true summit. It's 455 feet from the saddle to Tabeguache Peak. When returning along Shavano, it's best to go back towards the summit (even though you might think it would be better to loop below it, you'll likely encounter rougher spots than if you return to the summit) and then take a more defined route down. Trail Length + Elevation: 5.75 miles (one-way), 4500 feet to Shavano 1 more mile, down 529 feet, up 455 to Tabeguache Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er Picture When I did the hike: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 Recommendation: There are some pretty areas heading up and the views at Shavano's summit are pretty. But it is a hard hike with that much elevation gained.
Humboldt Peak Directions: CO 69 to Westcliffe. Go about 4.5 miles south on CO 69, to near mile marker 54, and turn right/west on to Colfax Lane. The first 3 miles are paved and the next mile is good dirt road. But, after the road curves to the right, the next 1.5 miles are bumpy/washboard dirt road and the last bit is full of small rocks and even slower going. The lower parking area is on the right, just before the 4wd warning sign (the area is open farm land, no trees until a bit further up the road). If you have 4wd, you can drive almost 3 miles on the rough road to the upper parking area (and the first 2 miles are private property with no parking). No facilities and camping is not allowed at the lower parking area (although I and another car-camped and no one bothered us). If you are in 2wd, I do recommend the lower parking area, but if you have high clearance with your vehicle and are comfortable on rough roads and don't love your car, you can go further on the road - there are 2 parking/camping spots about 1/2 mile after the National Forest sign (there are some rougher road spots ahead where rocks and dips would be difficult in non-4wd). Another parking spot is at the Rainbow Trail sign - but if you made it that far, go ahead and go to the end. No facilities. Free. [Note there were signs in 2011 saying that they may add a fee and permit only to the area in the future, so you may want to double-check to make sure that there is no restrictions (the proposal wasn't being well received so hopefully it doesn't occur).] 14er note Humboldt Peak Summit: 14,064 Trails: For those starting at the lower parking area, walk up the rocky and dirt road with a mixture of milds and ups - nothing exciting and is in the trees after the first bit. Just walk the road for ages. At the Rainbow Trail sign, the road has a little bit of down to it (while it has been mostly not hard up to that point). When you see some walk-in campsites down to the right, you are almost to the upper parking area - a good sized circular lot. There is an info sign at the top of the parking area and the trail starts next to the sign. Just ahead is the (free) sign-in kiosk. The trail crosses the creek on a good bridge and then re-joins the (now closed to vehicles) old jeep road. The old road is very rocky and heads a steady up for a good ways. Then the road is mild with some slight downs for a while. After 2 easy rock hops across a stream, the road is a mostly mild up (Humboldt is up to the right). And continue on the old road. Finally reach a wider area and there is a sign on the right saying Upper South Colony Lake and Humboldt that way (this is a newer route - the old route continued on the road and then headed up near the outlet creek). Take the right and finally leave the road as you are on a true trail. The dirt trail heads down for a short bit through the trees and then is a steady up as it wiggles up a hillside with some rock steps (it's a good trail). The trail remains good through a rocky section and then is a short mild before resuming heading up. Just past a closed for restoration sign is a thin trail to the left - you can take that for a short sidetrip to the Lower South Colony Lake (and join the old trail near the lake and then take that to the right and with a couple of zig-zags up re-joins the newer trail) or continue straight on the main trail. It is a pretty valley with the lake and the distinctive Crestone Needle above [Crestone Needle is also a 14er, but the usual route for that hike is from the west and it is a class 3 hike]. At the treeline, you can spot a bit of trail as it makes it's way up to the green saddle ahead to the right. The trail continues through the bushes (sometimes brushing against you). The trail goes between rock mounds - as you see the right turn for the trail up to the saddle, first take a short left for a view of the upper lake and good resting spot before starting the hard up. The trail is good as it zig-zags up the open slope with lots of stone steps - huff and puff your way up, up, up to the ridge. Take another rest at the top as you still have a mile and 1000 ft to go. The trail heads up along the right or slightly to the left of the ridge as it heads towards the false summit (lots of marmots and some pikes in the rocky area). The trail does head a hard up, but not a rock scramble yet (but slow going, including on the way back) - follow the rock cairns for the best route. The trail reaches some not too hard scrambles and heads towards the right side of the ridge [I went to the left some as that seemed an easier route, but ended up with a harder scramble as I had to get back to the right side for the correct way]. The route rounds just under the right side of the false summit and then you can see the real summit ahead - the way is actually easier with bits of trail and no scrambles until just below the summit. You can find a way up to the summit without a climb if you head under the summit and then take a left at a cairn for an easier scramble up. There is a windbreaker at the top (but no geo-marker). Pretty views 270 degrees. Trail Length + Elevation: 9 miles, 5350 ft one-way from the lower parking area 6 miles, 3600 ft one-way from the upper parking area Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er, mountain lakes When I did the hike: Monday, July 25, 2011 Recommendation: It is a nice 14er hike with including going through a pretty valley and pretty good trail with no really hard sections. [There are prettier 14er hikes (include some about 30 minutes to the north west in the Collegiates) but there are definitely much uglier and nastier 14er hikes. It's pretty in the valley with the 2 mountain lakes and the Crestone Needle above. Just try to go in a vehicle that can get to the upper parking area so yo don't have to waste time and energy with the worthless roadwalk from the bottom (and 18 miles, 5350 feet is on the outside limits of what you should try for a day hike; you have to be in great shape and start very early to head up from the lower lot).
Copper Lake and East Maroon Pass Directions: Rt 135 north to Crested Butte. Continue straight through Crested Butte to the Crested Butte ski town. Continue on the main road through the ski town. At the end of town, the road curves left and turns to dirt (not rough). Continue on the road to the tiny town of Gothic. Go through Gothic and about a mile past is a road on the right with a parking area (a signed turn) - park there if you are not in a 4-wheel drive vehicle, else head up the rough road 1/2 mile to the upper parking area and the trailhead is at the gate at the top of the parking area. 2011 road update: part of the road to the upper parking area got washed out, so they closed the road about 1/4 mile up from the lower lot - there is room for a few vehicles to park near the closure, but it is easier just to park at the lower area and walk up. 2 Port-a-pottie in the lower parking area (there is no longer a port-a-pottie in the upper lot). Free. Trails: The trail starts as a rocky dirt road, but that doesn't last long. The way then turns to a rocky one-person width trail and heads a mild down to Judd Falls, .5 miles in from the trailhead. The falls are pretty, but nothing special. The trail is back to a dirt road and heads up near (but not next) to the creek, not a hard up. The required (but no fee) registration stand is a little ways ahead. Over a mile from the falls is the first wet-water crossing of Copper Creek (brrr). The trail is still an old road bed and again heads above (not next) to the creek and not a hard up. About 1/2 mile ahead is a log crossing the wide, shallow stream. There is a bit of an up after the crossing, but the trail soon resumes going at a milder up. A little over 1/2 mile further is the 2nd icy cold wet-water crossing and 5 to 10 minutes ahead is the last creek crossing, this one using logs to cross. The trail (still an old road bed) then heads a harder up and is rocky. At the Copper-Conundrum junction, take a left. It is a hard up for a ways, but the lake is not much further ahead. When the trail (and it is now a true trail) finally calms down (after a camping sign), it is a short walk to Copper Lake. The lake area has shrubs and is marshy. It was also buggy when I was there and I was unable to find a spot lakeside to sit. The lake didn't seem very pretty lakeside to me (but I had recently been to some stunning lakes) and I decided to head up to East Maroon Pass, about 1/2 mile further. The way to the pass is back on the trail and heads to the right above the lake - you can see the pass trail from the lake. The pass trail is soon above the treeline as it heads a not hard up along the talus slope. The views down on Copper Lake are actually very pretty (surprising to me as I didn't find the lake that pretty lakeside). As you head up to the pass, the views just get better and better. As the trail goes through the gap, the trail hooks a right and the pass isn't much further ahead. At the pass, hook a non-trail right and go up to the ridge towards the left and enjoy the fantastic 360 degrees view. Find a nice spot to sit and enjoy the views for a while. Looping from the pass: if you are up for a longer hike, you can head down from the pass and then go up to Copper Pass and then down the trail to where it re-joins the trail you came up, about a mile before Cooper Lake. So for the loop, head down on the good trail from East Maroon Pass. The rocky trail heads a steady down with great views. When you reach the trees, you will want to take a short side-trip to the left (with the trail continuing to the right) for a very pretty view [I'd actually recommend turning around and going back the way you came from this spot as I didn't find the views up Cooper Pass to be worth the effort and lack of a good trail, and I didn't like the trail on the other side of Cooper Pass]. The trail is now more dirt than rocks and soon crosses the bottom of a long meadow (that you can see from the pass) and rock-hop across the creek. You loose the distance views in the trees. At a 2nd (larger) creek crossing, wet-water cross the creek and stay to the right - this is an unsigned junction - and you'll have bits of trail to the right before it takes a right turn to start up the valley; if you get too far away from the creek and are not yet heading to the right, you probably missed the branch and are still on the East Maroon Trail (which goes all the way to the Maroon Bells) (note that this is a "newer" branch as some maps may show the trail branching before the creek crossing and there is a faint trail, but it peters into nothing and you eventual reach the creek with no obvious trail paths around). The narrow trail continues through the trees and willows - it doesn't see much use, so may be hard to follow. The trail heads up to the left of a thin waterfall and is now above the treeline. The trail heads around a rock field (avoids going through it) and there are some rock cairns in the area. The trail heads down around a bend and then a bit to the left down to a stream and rock-hop across. The thin trail heads up the green slope (still avoiding rock fields). The pass is ahead at the far end of the valley, to the left of the brown mound. The trail gets rocky as it heads up with a few zig-zags and then takes a more direct up (but not as bad as you'd think) to Copper Pass. At Copper Pass, you'll see Conundrum Pass up to the left (and be glad you're not going there). From Copper Pass, go left slightly and a steep short down to the Conundrum trail and then a right on to that trail. It is a pretty valley, but the trail is really rocky. The open trail heads a mostly steady down and curves around the bend to the right. There are times when it is more narrow and a little more harrowing. As the trail gets lower, there are some bushes that will brush against you. After a last harder down, the trail reaches the treeline and there is a trail junction just ahead. The trail to the right heads to Copper Lake (but a different trail from the one you came up) - continue straight. The trail is wide and rocky, but not hard, as it heads for a ways around the hillside and eventually (not a short distance) T-junctions with the Cooper Lake trail. Take a left at that junction to go back the way you came. Trail Length + Elevation: 4 miles (one-way), 2010 ft to Copper Lake .5 miles further to East Maroon Pass about 4 miles (plus guestimate another 1000 ft gained) from East Maroon Pass over Cooper Pass and back to the Cooper Lake trail (and then another 3 miles back to the trailhead) Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Monday, July 12, 2010; Sunday, August 7, 2011 (with loop) Recommendation: Copper Lake wasn't that impressive to me, but East Maroon Pass was beautiful (a not that hard of a hike from the lake). Skip the loop portion.
Chasm View Trail - Black Canyon of the Gunnison (North Rim) Directions: From the north/west: Hwy 50 to Delta and east on Rt 92 for 30 miles to the town of Crawford. From the south/east: Hwy 50 to the north turn for Rt 92 (just to the west of Sapinero, about 40 miles east of Montrose and 25 miles west of Gunnison) for 41 miles to the town of Crawford. In the small town of Crawford, turn west onto the North Rim Road (brown sign for the Black Canyon of the Gunnison). Take the North Rim Road 11 miles to the end - the road is paved for 8.5 miles and the rest is unpaved (but passable for all vehicles). Stop at the ranger station to the right to pay the entrance fee or show your park pass. Continue on the road to the right and loop (one-way) through the campground. At the end of the loop is the trailhead on the right, room for about 2 cars to park along the side of the road. Note: the road is closed in the winter. Vault toilet at ranger station. $15 per week per car or National Parks Pass Trails: You can pick up (and return) a nature guide for the trail at the trailhead. It's a short loop to two viewpoints of the narrowest part of the canyon. Trail Length: .3 miles loop Area: Small trees, scrub-like area on the rim; massive but narrow canyon When I did the hike: Monday, July 28, 2008 Recommendation: Worth the short hike.
Exclamation Point - Black Canyon of the Gunnison (North Rim) Directions: From the north/west: Hwy 50 to Delta and east on Rt 92 for 30 miles to the town of Crawford. From the south/east: Hwy 50 to the north turn for Rt 92 (just to the west of Sapinero, about 40 miles east of Montrose and 25 miles west of Gunnison) for 41 miles to the town of Crawford. In the small town of Crawford, turn west onto the North Rim Road (brown sign for the Black Canyon of the Gunnison). Take the North Rim Road 11 miles to the end - the road is paved for 8.5 miles and the rest is unpaved (but passable for all vehicles). Stop at the ranger station to the right to pay the entrance fee or show your park pass. The trail starts to the left (as you face the ranger station) of the parking lot, between the toilet and building. Note: the road is closed in the winter. Vault toilet at ranger stations. $15 per week per car or National Parks Pass Trails: The trail heads through the shrubs and then through the shrubs and small juniper and pinon pine trees - not much shade. It is fairly level, with a small down as you round a bend. Skip the sidetrip to the "overlook" - it's not much of an overlook and the views are just as good from the trail. After a slight up (the trail is not hard), take a left at the trail junction for Exclamation Point - you can continue straight for 2 miles to the top of Green Mountain (more of a big hill), but I've read that the view isn't that pretty. For Exclamation Point, the trail loops to the rim, so you can go either direction. At the point, there is a nice canyon view to the east. Note: be sure to take the scenic rim drive to the east and stop at the many viewpoints, including the neat looking Kneeling Camel rock. There is another trail near the end of the scenic drive, which is actually an old service road - it goes for 2.5 miles one-way (didn't do). Trail Length + Elevation: 1.5 miles to Exclamation Point 3.5 miles, 840 feet trailhead to top of Green Mountain Area: Small trees, scrub-like area on the rim; massive but narrow canyon Picture When I did the hike: Monday, July 28, 2008 Recommendation: The view from the point is pretty and if you have to time and/or desire, do it. If you don't, the overlooks from the rim drive will satisfy any needed canyon views.
Warner Point - Black Canyon of the Gunnison (South Rim) Directions: From Montrose, head east on Hwy 50 for 8 miles to Rt 347 (brown Black Canyon of the Gunnison sign). Turn left/north for 6 miles to the park entrance. Continue straight and take the South Rim Road as it winds its way along the rim to the end of the road. The trailhead is at the top of the small loop parking area. Note: there are no trails down into the canyon from either the rim in the park. Vault toilets. $15 per week per car or National Parks Pass Trails: The wide, dusty trail heads down and then up through the shrub and pinon pines to Warner Point. No canyon views until the point. Note: There are lots of short walks (from just off the road to .3 miles) to the rim from parking spots along the scenic rim drive road. Note: Be sure to take the windy, steep drive down Portal Road, a right turn next to the entrance station. The road goes down to the river and you can walk a short ways alongside the river - it's really pretty down there. Trail Length: .75 miles one-way Area: Small trees, scrub-like area on the rim; massive but narrow canyon When I did the hike: Monday, July 28, 2008 Recommendation: Na. It is a pretty view at the point, but the hike to the point isn't pretty and the point view isn't as impressive as some of the views you get from the shorter viewpoints along the drive.
Pine Creek Trail - Curecanti National Recreation Area Directions: Hwy 50 to the Pine Creek turnoff, about 35 miles east of Montrose and 25 miles west of Gunnison, and about a mile west of the Rt 92 turnoff - keep a look out for the Pine Creek sign. The short road soon turns to dirt and heads down, with one curve, to the parking area. Vault toilets. Free. Trails: The trail heads down 232 wooden steps next to a creek (fun coming up). At the bottom is the river (actually the middle of the 3 reservoirs of the river, but it looks like a river and not a lake). From there the wide trail is level as it heads along the river. About 1/2 mile ahead is the launch for the boat tour (see below), with two picnic tables near by. The trail continues for about another mile. The trail is an old railroad bed (the later part of it was flooded when the reservoir was created). Note: The park system does offer a 1.5 hour boat tour along a section on the river. Pre-paid reservations are required (you can't simply show up at the boat dock and try to get on) and it was $15 in 2008. It is very pretty and well worth your time and money. Pick up a park magazine or ask at a visitor center (either Black Canyon of the Gunnison or Curecanti) for more information. Trail Length: About 1.5 miles one-way Area: Massive, but narrow canyon; some trees Picture When I did the hike: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 Recommendation: The river area is really pretty and worth a visit.
Mesa Creek Trail - Curecanti National Recreation Area Directions: Hwy 50 to Cimarron. Turn south at the Cimarron Visitor Center (some railroad cars at center) and bear left to take the (paved) road down to the parking area at the end (going by an old train engine and some cars on a trestle near the lot). Vault toilets. Free. Trails: The trail starts the in the center-left of the lot - or you can walk the gated road towards the dam to the right [restricted area at the end] and (after taking a closer look at the large dam) walk the dirt road down to the river and then along side the river back to the bridge. From either way, go across the bridge over the Gunnison River and the dirt trail heads to the left. The trail has small ups and downs (not hard) next to the river in the pretty canyon. The trail narrows towards the end. It ends where I hoped it would - next to a rock/curve in the river with a small shore where you can sit and feet soak with a nice view. Trail Length: less than a mile Area: Gunnison River, tall and narrow canyon Picture When I did the hike: Thursday, August 20, 2009 Recommendation: Very pretty area.
Hope Lake - Telluride Directions: Take Rt 145 to about 11 miles south of Telluride. You'll see Trout Lake from Rt 145 to the east. At the north end of Trout Lake (mile marker 61 on Rt 145), turn east on to the (good) dirt road that heads down and goes to the left of Trout Lake - stay on the road for 2 miles. At the road sign for Hope Lake Road, turn left and either park there or drive up the rough road for 2.5 miles to the trailhead, at a switchback on the road with an info sign (my sedan made it to the trailhead, but was not happy). No facilities. Free. Trails: The nice trail heads a mild up through the trees. Make a rock hop across a stream and a short ways ahead is 2 switchbacks down to avoid some rocks. There are then grand views in an open area of the Trout valley and peaks; it is early, but take a short break to enjoy the views (and/or stop there on the way back). The trail remains mild and crosses a couple more streams as it heads around to the top of the valley - it doesn't start the climb until the switchback next to the creek. And then it is a climb as the trail weaves (short switchbacks) its way up, up, up through the trees towards the ridge - the trail does not reach the ridge directly above like you might think it is going to do. The trail leaves the trees and continues to weave through bushes (still a good trail) heading towards the gully to the left and then heads more of a direct up to the right of the creek in the gully. The trail jags to the right and then resumes heading towards the gap in the ridge ahead. The lake is just past the gap. Make your way down the rocks to get lakeside (don't just stay above the lake, like most did). The lake is above the treeline and is very pretty in an orange bowl with a distinct ridge to the right. Even the fact that the lake was about 10 feet shallow when I was there didn't detract too much from its beauty (there is a dam at the end of the lake, around the small hillside/mound - my guess is that they take water from the lake to keep Trout Lake at a certain level (with Trout Lake's tourist homes and cabins)). The trail does continue up and around the left end of the lake and then makes its way up (surprisingly not too hard) the open slope to the pass up to the left. The views along the way looking back at Hope Lake are stunning. The view at the pass into the next valley is nothing exciting. Trail Length + Elevation: 3.5 miles (one-way), 1645 ft Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Sunday, August 18, 2010 Recommendation: It is not too hard of a hike and a beautiful lake.
Blue Lake - Telluride Directions: In Telluride, take the main road through town and continue on the road for a couple of miles. Park at the parking area at a curve in the road past the mining facility - the road is 4-wheel drive (and truly 4-wheel drive) past that point. The scenic Bridal Veil Falls is visible above to the right. If you have 4-wheel drive, you can drive up to next to the top of the falls and park alongside the road there (not room for many vehicles)- the road is one-way the other direction above that point. No facilities. Free. Trails: Hike or drive the road up to the building above Bridal Veil Falls - you get get pretty views of the falls to the right on the way up and can spot a number of mine relics on the left (though you have to look carefully for them). At the curve in the road, take a right and go through the gate and walk the road to behind the old electric building (private property) at the top of the falls. The dirt road turns left directly behind the building and the (still) dirt road starts heading up the valley - a mild up to start. Not much further ahead is the unsigned junction for Silver Lake (take a right and then wet-water cross the creek for the steep, narrow trail up to Silver Lake) - continue straight on the road for Blue Lake. As the road goes past a tall thin waterfall (falls on the right side of the valley, trail on the left), the road then makes 2 switchbacks up and then heads more of an up. The road goes next to a creek falls and then makes 4 switchbacks as it heads up to a ridge, with a mine relic just past the ridge. Stay on the main road (there are some road branches along the way) as it weaves its way up the hillside. At the end of the weave (with the road now heading up the valley to the left) is a small shack. You can see big pipes ahead and to the right and the lake is where you'd expect it to be (not visible until you are close). As you head up to the top of the valley, you'll see a building down to the right (nothing interesting). Round the bend and go over and down the rock mound to reach Blue Lake. The lake is set in a bowl and would be pretty, but it was about 20 feet shallow and there is a ton of mining junk (not interesting relics, but pipes, metal, glass, and ceramic pieces) in the area. Some time needs to be spent cleaning up the lake area. Trail Length + Elevation: 2 miles, 1200 ft roadwalk to top of falls about 3 miles top of falls to Blue Lake Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Sunday, August 18, 2010 Recommendation: Na. The mining junk and low water level mar the view at Blue Lake too much.
Blue Lakes - Mt. Sneffels Wilderness Directions: Take Rt 62 about 8.5 miles east of Ridgeway and turn south on to CR 7 (East Dallas Creek Road) - note that the turn is on the east side of the valley, there is a Dallas Creek Road on the west side of the valley. Drive the good dirt road for 8 miles; at a Y-junction 2 miles in, go right. After about 8 miles, the road turns rougher (but still drivable in non-4-wheel drive) and take the road about another mile to the small parking area at the end. No facilities. Free. Trails: Note that horses do use the trail. From the parking area, the well defined trail heads mildly near the creek for a short ways to a trail junction, take a right and the trail starts heading up through the trees. About 30 minutes in, the trail reaches some switchbacks (some short and some long) as the trail heads up the hillside. At the end of the switchbacks, the trail is then mild with some slight down. The trail soon resumes head up (not hard). At the wilderness sign, the trail becomes mild for a bit and then heads down to a creek crossing (rock hop and log). Just after the crossing is a nice view of Dallas Peak straight ahead. After going through a meadow, the trail has a couple of switchbacks and then reenters the trees, heading up around the mountainside to the left. The trail rounds the bend and is actually mild for a ways. The trail goes through an open avalanche slope with nice views of the top of the valley. The trail heads more of an up as it nears the creek and then makes 2 short switchbacks and then is mild and the Lower Blue Lake is just ahead. There are bushes where the trail reaches the lake, so you don't get a good view of the lake unless you continue straight along to the right side of the electric blue lake or (best) cross the creek and then go to the left side of the lake. Just before the lake is a signed trail junction - straight is the lake and to the left is the creek crossing via a slanted flat-top log (go left). After crossing the creek, the trail weaves through the trees a bit (to avoid where the creek has claimed the trail) and then goes next to the creek before heading to the left. Before taking that left, rock-hop across the creek to the right and then make your way a short distance to the left side of the stunning Lower Blue Lake with with the rugged ridge and Dallas Peak above the right side of the lake - just beautiful. Either take a long break now or stop there on the way back and stay for a while (or both). If you like to fish, there were big trout in the lake (visible while I was just sitting there feet soaking). Back on the trail, head left from the creek and the trail goes a short distance before curving back to the right and heading up (and it is an up) the open rock slope (good path) - which starts the big climb of the hike. The trail crosses the creek (rock hop) and leaves the rocks as it heads (still an) up the partially open slope (some trees) and you'll get a crick in your neck looking down at the stunning views of the Lower Blue Lake. There are some switchbacks and zig-zags heading up the slope. At the top is a rock outcrop, which makes for an excellent resting spot with its great view of the lower lake and ridges. You are now above the treeline. From there the trail is surprisingly mild and just ahead is the uneventful Middle Blue Lake (both the middle and upper lakes are disappointments after the stunning lower lake). The trail stays above the middle lake as it goes around the right side of the lake. And just past the lake and over the small ridge is the Upper Blue Lake (again, nothing exciting). The trail makes a small drop to the upper lake and then rock hops the small outlet stream. If you go up the small green mound to the left, you do have a very pretty view of the middle lake with the distinctive Dallas Peak behind it. Although the middle and upper lakes are not that exciting, going to the rock outcrop is definitely worth doing for the views down on the lower lake (and then the middle and upper lakes are almost right there and not much work to get to them, so you might as well make a visit). It is about a mile and 1270 ft from the upper lake (the upper lake is at 11,350 ft) to the pass, up the open slope on a narrow rock path. From there you can go up to Mt Sneffels (14,150) - it is a class 3 climb from the pass to the left directly up to the summit, but there is a difficult class 2 route if you head down the other side of the pass and after a bit turn left at the trail junction (reportedly there is a 10 foot chimney climb on this route) [the difficult class 2 route is the standard route for Mt. Sneffels and that trail starts from the Yankee Boy Basin]. Trail Length + Elevation: 3.3 miles, 1600 ft trailhead to lower lake 1 mile, 670 ft lower lake to upper lake Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Sunday, August 18, 2010; Friday, July 1, 2011 (lower lake); Thursday, July 21, 2011 Recommendation: The Lower Blue Lake is absolutely beautiful.
Ironton-Colorado Boy Mine Directions: US 550 to north of Red Mountain Pass (between Silverton and Ouray). Just south of mile marker 85, look for a small dirt road on the east side of the road (trees surround the road) and a small "Ironton Townsite Trailhead" sign. You can pullover alongside US 550 and park there or (with 4wd) you can take the narrow, rutted dirt round down 1/4 mile and park there. Free. Trails: From US 550, walk the dirt road down (so there is a bit, though not hard, up for the return) to the open area - the old Ironton townsite. There are few interesting houses in the area to look at. Take a right at the sign for Colorado Boy and take the narrow dirt road about .2 miles to the next sign - another old building is along the way. At that sign, take a left and cross the good bridge over the creek and just ahead is the registration box (free). It is 1/3 mile from the box to the mine. The narrow dirt trail heads a sharp up for a bit and then heads to the right (there are a number of paths in the area, take the lower one) and soon crosses the stream on logs and it is clear where the trail is. The trail is mild to the shaft, with some blue diamonds on trees marking the trail. The 1893 Colorado Boy Mine Shaft was re-fortified in 2002 and is neat to look at and has an info-sign on an inside wall. The trail does continue (and is part of a system of cross-country ski paths in the area) from the Colorado Boy Mine and about 1/2 mile (not easy) ahead is a large, orange and yellow old mining area - but this is not neat as all mine builds and relics have been removed and it's now just an ugly open area. Trail Length: about a mile one-way Area: Mountains, old houses, standing mine shaft When I did the hike: Thursday, June 30, 2011 Recommendation: Well worth a short visit.
Ice Lakes Basin Directions: Hwy 550 to Silverton. About 2 miles north of Silverton, turn left/west on to CR 585, South Mineral Creek road. Take the well-graded dirt road for 4 miles to the parking area on the right - the South Mineral Campground is on the left. Vault toilets in campground. Free. Trails: (Trail #505 in Uncomphagre National Forest) The one-person width trail starts switchbacking through the trees, with some short meadow sections, almost immediately. Not too far in, the trail crosses a creek (easy log crossing) with a pretty waterfall above. The trail continues switchbacking up, with occasional short views of the falls. At the spot where there is a trail to the right, take the right a very short bit to near the top of the falls - though early for a rest, it is a very pretty spot and I stopped there both going and coming back; it's also the trail from CR 12 (4-wheel drive only), but that side trail has a dangerous looking wet water crossing through the falls. Back on the real trail, the trail is mild for a bit and you'll see a mine ruin down to the left. Soon after, the trail heads into a large, open meadow (from the peaks down, probably an avalanche slope). The trail heads up through the meadow and then turns into the trees, still heading up - it stays mostly in the trees to the ridge. Shortly before the ridge, is a short meadow, then a short section of trees, and then a larger meadow full of pretty wild flowers when I was there, including the largest columbines I've ever seen. The trail rounds a small rock section (nice resting spot) and then it's a mild (not climbing) hike through the pretty Lower Ice Lake Basin. There is a small lake in the lower basin, but there is no access from the trail and the trail doesn't go near it. The trail goes to the far end of the basin and there is a rock-hop across a creek (another pretty resting spot) - you are now above the tree line for the rest of the way. It's a huff-and-puff from there as the trail heads above the waterfall at the top of the valley. And it continues as a huff-and-puff to the ridge. After the falls, the trail heads almost a direct up and then takes a right turn and continues to the right (the small ridge ahead is not the top). Once you finally reach the top, the trail turns left (if you are going to take the Island Lake sidetrip, you turn right through the meadow shortly after this point) and it is a mild walk to the lake. The good-sized lake is a stunning electric blue with pretty, rugged peaks above - just a beautiful area. There isn't really a trail access to the lake, just take a side trip through the meadow (try to stay on rocks when possible) - I liked to sit and enjoy the views from the outlet area. It took me a little less than 3 hours to reach the lake. I walked around the left side of the lake to the inlet and then went over the rocks heading up and to the left - saw several marmots on my first visit and none on my second (more people). There is a small lake/pond on the other side of the rocks and the real trail goes over the small hill between Ice Lake and the pond and then heads up, up, up the open ridge. The views along the way down on Ice Lake are stunning. After lots of huffing-and-puffing, the trail reaches the ridge. It's then a mild walk, and sometimes muddy, as the trail makes it's way over to the unimpressive Fuller Lake. There is an old mine cabin (metal siding) next to the lake, but it isn't very interesting. It's less than a mile from Ice Lake to Fuller Lake. Side trips from Ice Lake: Above lake: Head around the left side of the lake to the inlet stream. Head up the inlet stream a little bit to where it is narrower and rock-hop across. Head up the gap along the green slope - there may be a faint trail from where others have headed, try to use that where possible. At the top, enjoy the view of the many ponds and closer ridges of the upper-upper basin. Take a hard right and head up the mound. Find a nice resting spot and enjoy the stunning views down on Ice Lake. I made my first side trip up here in 2010 and it will now be part of my future visits to Ice Lake. It's not too long or hard of a side trip and the views are grand. For Island Lake: Immediately after reaching the ridge before Ice Lake (past the green mound), turn right (no trail) through the alpine meadow and head straight to the Ice Lake outlet stream. Make a cold wet-water crossing through the stream and head straight - you should soon encounter a path that heads to the right, this is the "trail" for Island Lake. As you reach the mountainside, the narrow trail starts angling up. It's a hard up and at times harrowing as the trail rounds the mountainside. In 2008, I made it though the rocky section, but only got halfway through the orange mound (the not-flat trail goes through near the bottom of the mound, over loose dirt) before my nerves gave out and I turned around a carefully made my way back. I tried again in August 2009 and actually made it through the orange mound (still harrowing, but slightly better than 2008 as it was a little later in the summer and more people had been along it). That's actually the end of the hard part as the trail is then mild as it rounds the bend and you soon get a view of Island Lake, a small lake with an island in the middle in a bowl. It's kind of pretty, but nothing stunning. The trail heads down to the left of the lake and soon fades away - you can non-trail make your way down to the lake and walk around it (no real resting spots, though). There is an old mine to the right of the lake - no relics, just the orange mound remains (the hole is covered too). Keep in mind that afternoon storms are common in the summer in the Rockies. Trail Length + Elevation: 4.5 miles, 2420 feet to Ice Lake Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lakes. Pictures When I did the hike: Wednesday, 7/30/08; Saturday, 8/2/08; Tuesday, 8/11/09; Wednesday, 7/7/10; Tuesday, 8/24/10; Tuesday, 6/28/11 (lower basin); Tuesday, 7/19/11 Recommendation: Absolutely. A top 10 hike. I liked the hike so much that I went back and did it again 3 days later. Try to go when the wild flowers are in full bloom.
Clear Lake Road Walk (Silverton) Directions: Hwy 550 to Silverton. About 2 miles north of Silverton, turn left/west on to CR 585, South Mineral Creek road. Take the well-graded dirt road for over 3 miles to the junction for CR12 - you park shortly before the junction, pulling to the side of the road. CR12 is a 4-wheel drive only dirt road (one lane) - if you have 4wd, just drive up, else walk the road. No facilities. Free. Trails: I was the only hiker on road during my visit, but didn't have to watch out for vehicles until the return hike as they didn't start arriving until around 10 am (and I was at the lake then). The rough dirt road heads a sharper up to start, in the trees. It calms down some after the curve (where the shortcut start for Ice Lake is located). In this section, you can see pretty views through the trees of the lower Mineral Creek Valley and its pretty southern mountain. After a bit is another switchback and the trees thin some, so more views of the valley. The road rounds a corner and there is a gap in the trees and you're presented with, as one person called it, "The Money Shot" - just a stunning view of the Ice Lake area (though the lakes aren't visible). The road is soon above the treeline and the views stay grand. You may notice a road way high above you that has you concerned, but don't worry, that's not your road - the way is through the saddle straight and above. Continue enjoying the views. At the hard turn, take a very short side trip straight up the small mound. The waterfall doesn't look like much from the road, but from the mound it is very pretty as the falls fan out into about 12 different branches (and it is a nice rest spot). The road gets very rocky and heads up to switchback (this section to just past it is the roughest part of the road, for those in vehicles). At the switchback is an uneventful old mine, not worth more than a glance. The road then heads to the saddle and then through the saddle next to the creek - the rest of the way is mild. The road rounds a large pond (and I got some good pictures there and saw a fox) and Clear Lake is just ahead. The road goes all the way to the lake. I walked a little around the lake, but liked the view best from the south side, rock-hopping the outlet stream and sitting on some rocks. The smaller-sized lake is in a granite bowl and is a pretty blue, but not the electric blue of Ice Lake and Columbine Lake. Trail Length + Elevation: 4 miles (one-way), 2149 feet Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake Pictures When I did the hike: Thursday, July 8, 2010; Wednesday, June 29, 2011 Recommendation: Very pretty, either as a hike or drive. Worth a visit.
Columbine Lake (Silverton) Directions: From Silverton, head about 4 miles north of town on Hwy 550 (before the switchback heading up). Look for an unsigned dirt road turn on the west (left) side of the road - there is also an unsigned dirt road to the right in the area - if you reach the curve in the road, you missed the turn (it is hard to spot the turn when heading north; make a u-turn and then it will be a sharp right down for the dirt road). After leaving Hwy 550, take a right at the T-junction and continue along the not too rough dirt road to the creek crossing (no bridge). There is room for about 2 vehicles to park at the creek - this is where I park my sedan. If you have 4-wheel drive, cross the creek and head up and pull over and park at one of the 3 switchbacks on the open slope (going further to the uneventful Imogene Mine (just a hole in the wall) is difficult with an old mudslide across the road and there really isn't any where to pullover between the last switchback and the trailhead - 2011 they cleared the mudslide, but parking is still extremely limited after the switchback open slope). You can also approach the trail from the south by turning from Hwy 550 at the signed Ophir Pass Road (another dirt road), crossing the creek over the bridge and then either pulling over on that road or (with 4wd) taking a right on the first road on the right (narrow, rocky) and going about a mile to the unsigned trailhead - but parking on that road is an issue and, for walking, you're a mile away from the trailhead and the road does not stay level (downs and ups) (where as with from the north, you're less than 1/2 mile from the trailhead). No facilities. Free. Trails: This is a local favorite hike and not known by the tourists, so (unlike Ice Lake) you may have it all to yourself (there was no one else on the hike the first time I did it and I only encountered a small group just starting as I was finishing the hike the second time). If you park next to the creek, you start the hike with an icy cold wet water crossing that may numb your feet (only lower thigh deep, but wide). Cross the creek and head up the road as it makes 3 switchbacks up (not a steep up). The road then heads left and is mild as it goes past the uneventful old mine (just a hole in the wall with a stream coming out of it) and continue along the road. After crossing under the electric wires, keep an eye for a small rock cairn on the right and a faint trail heading up - that's the trail (actually a little before the true (unsigned) trailhead). Then take a right and the narrow trail starts switchbacking up, up, up right away. It's a tough up and the narrow trail doesn't give you spots to sit and rest. The trail heads up the mountainside in the trees - not scenic, just pure work. After forever and a day (over a mile), the trail reaches a small ledge and is mild for a short ways before resuming heading up. Not too much further ahead is the treeline (and a nice resting spot). Take a moment to catch your breath as there's still a lot of up to go - the lake is not in the bowl ahead, but the trail does go to the top of the bowl and crosses the ridge to the top right. Up, up, up to the top of the open valley - this time a straight up with no switchbacks. The trail heads to the left of the valley and then rounds to the right at the top to reach the ridge. There is likely to be a snow patch at the ridge (a large one when I went in early July and a small one in late August) - but it's a wide ridge and not too much of a slope so crossing the snow is not too difficult or scary. Take a short bit of time to look back at the valley you came up and pull out the binoculars to look at the many mine ruins visible on the mountainside on the east side of Hwy 550. But don't spend too much time as the view on the other side of the ridge is prettier and more worthy for your needed longer rest. That was all the work of the hike as the trail is fairly mild heading up this valley to the lake - though the lake is still aways ahead. The trail maybe faint at spots - if you lose it, head towards the creek and follow the creek up to the lake (you can also do this if there is still lots of snow in the valley (as there was when I was there in early July, but all gone in August) and you reach a snow patch that you'd rather go around than cross). It is a very pretty valley, but nothing compared to the lake. The electric blue larger size lake is stunning - I gave a verbal "Oh, wow!" when I first saw it. The lake is surrounded by rugged peaks and ridges that add to its character. I sat for about an hour on both visits at the lake (with some wandering around and stopping at different spots lakeside), just sitting and enjoying the splendid views and the various shades of blue of the lake as the clouds moved - I would have stayed longer, but weather was a concern both times. Keep in mind that a good chunk of the hike is above the treeline, so keep an eye on the weather and give yourself enough time to get back to the treeline if there is a possibility of storms. Trail Length + Elevation: 5 miles (one-way), 2600 feet Area: Mountains, trees, rugged ridges, stunning lake Pictures When I did the hike: Friday, July 9, 2010; Sunday, August 22, 2010; Wednesday, July 20, 2011 Recommendation: Absolutely stunning lake. I loved the lake and it will be a place I hike to whenever I go to Silverton. My second favorite place in Colorado (behind Ice Lake).
Silver Lake Directions: Go through the town of Silverton and bear right for CR 2 (spur of the Alpine Loop road). Just past the Alpine Loop info sign area (on the right) and just before the Mayflower Mill, turn right onto CR 21 and the one-lane dirt road immediately heads a sharp steep down to the river. I wasn't sure about the road for Arrastra Gulch with my sedan and ended up parking my car near the bridge and walking the rest of the way (with a number of detours as there were no road signs). But the road was fairly well graded (until later) and you can drive further. Cross the bridge and the road heads up. Stay on the main road (there are a couple of side-branches early). At the 3-road branch, take the high one (the low one dead-ends shortly, the middle one reaches private land after .5 miles). At the next fork (straight is signed for 21A), turn right - if not in 4-wheel drive, you probably want to park near the fork as the rest of the way is pure rocks. The road crosses a gravel stream and then stays level to the switchback (the Mayflower Mine is now visible above). At the switchback, park your car if not in a 4-wheel drive vehicle (room for about 2 cars) - if in a 4-wheel drive, engage it as the road is loose fist-sized rocks and it's a steep up. The road switchbacks 2/3rds of the way up and then ends at the Mayflower Mine (2 entrances cemented up, above the wooden relics), with room for several vehicles to park. It looks like a rusting junkyard at the mine as lots of mine relics were simply left there. Mine note: (From 2010 visit) unfortunately the wooden mine building has mostly collapsed and it isn't as neat to see as it once was. Tram note: there was a tram between the mine and the mill and the towers are still there. The wires and some tram cars are still up on the lower section of the road, but not near the mine - definitely neat to see. No facilities. Free. Trails: For the drive/walk up from the river crossing (bridge) to the mine area, the tramway (with some cars still suspended) is really neat (and I got a better view with my walk than if I had driven) and the mine junk around the Mayfield Mine itself is neat. For the Silver Lake trail, the narrow trail heads out from the back left of the mine area, making your way over the junk. When I tried this trail in 2008, there was still a snow patch just past the mine and I didn't go far. I tried again in 2010. The nasty little trail heads a sharp up and hugs the rock at times, with some scary spots. After the trail passes some bushes (the mine area is above the treeline), the trail widens and you can see that this was an old rocky road bed. The trail then makes 5 switchbacks up to below the rock ridge and then heads over to the right. At that point you'll (hopefully) see a rope coming down through the rock gap up to the left and the way is up that rock gap, with the rope to help (about 20 feet). I took one look at it and said "No way" (I don't like rock climbs at all) and that was my turning around point. So I have no idea what Silver Lake actually looks like. The lake is just over the ridge. Trail Length: 1 mile, lots of up from the mine area Pictures Area: Rocky Mountains, mine ruins, mountain lake When I did the hike: Sunday, August 3, 2008; Monday, August 23, 2010 Recommendation: Not unless you can deal with a narrow trail and a rock climb. There is neat mine stuff to get to the trailhead, though.
Highland Mary Trail Directions: Go through the town of Silverton and bear right for CR 2 (spur of the Alpine Loop road). After 2 miles, the road turns to dirt (passable with all vehicles). Go for 3 miles to the ghosttown of Howardsville (you'll see a wooden mill ruin on the left). Take a right, just past the 2nd bridge - there is a sign for Hundred Mine and Storm Pass. The road is a little rougher, but still passable. Take a right at the unsigned road junctions as you head up Cunningham Gulch (2 or 3 junctions). You'll see a sorry excuse for a toilet on the left and there may be some campers to the right. Continue on. I parked at the mine ruins (foundations, nothing exciting to look at) at the top of the valley and walked the road to the trailhead (about 3/4 mile walk), but you can probably take your car further, going up the hill and then park your car at the top of the orange mound just past the fork in the road. If you have 4-wheel drive, take a left at the fork, cross the creek (no bridge), and just ahead to the right is grass parking area for the trailhead. For those on foot, it is a wet water crossing of the creek - you'll want to have watershoes as the creek has a gravel base and it is painful to cross barefoot. There is an info sign at the trailhead. The trail (#606) is in the Wenninuche Wilderness, part of the San Juan National Forest. Note: there are a number of interesting mine ruins visible from the road (both next to the road and high up on the mountainsides), but none (besides the pipes) along the hike. No facilities. Free. Trails: The trail starts heading up to start - it's a wider trail and looks to be an old mining rough road bed. There are lots of unsightly old mining pipes near the trail early on, but they eventually go away. There are also some pretty steep sections early on, including to the top of a gorge (the trail is in the trees near the creek for the first couple of miles) and is rocky at times. The trail narrows some and continues a hard up. After log-crossing the double-stream (near the Highland Mary's sign), the trail goes out of the trees (bushes, not meadow) and continues heading up. The trail drops slightly into a basin (now above the treeline) and is mild for a bit, though it can be muddy at spots. If you look carefully, you can spot the trail as it heads up next to the stream cascading down to the left. And up it is, steep. The trail reaches a rockfield and it is difficult to figure out which way to go - you'll want to head straight through, keeping close to the creek and eventually crossing it, even though it looks like a trail to the right that goes beneath the large rocks (if you do go that way, you'll eventually have to make a more difficult crossing of the rockfield and then through a marshy area before reconnecting with the real trail). There is a pond in the small bowl of the rockfield, but the trail doesn't go near it as the trail hooks a left over the small ridge to the left. Just past that ridge is a small lake with an island in it. It's pretty, but not stunning as the backdrop is green mounds and not rugged peaks. The trail continues around the right edge of the lake (a short bit of negotiating over and around larger rocks) and then near the top of the lake hooks a right over a small ridge and the middle Highland Mary Lake is right there - you can rest on the ridge and view both lakes. The middle lake is a larger lake and I thought the prettiest of the 3, with a more interesting background to the right. The trail continues halfway around the lake to the left then a small up and fairly mild for a bit before finally reaching the far corner of the upper lake - you'll be able to see the lake to the left long before the trail reaches it. The trail continues straight and over the green ridge is Verde Lake - I didn't do that it was a very marshy area at the top tip of the upper Highland Mary Lake and I wasn't overly impressed with the area. I did walk around the left side of the upper lake and found a nicer view of the lake and then took an off-trail trek to re-connect with the real trail for heading back. Trail Length + Elevation: 4 miles, 1690 feet from trailhead Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lakes. Picture When I did the hike: Thursday, July 31, 2008 Recommendation: This was a hike where my impression of it was damaged by the fact that I did a stunning hike (Ice Lake) the day before - I probably would have liked it more if I had done this one first (my reaction of the lakes was "oh").
Crater Lake - Silverton Directions: Hwy 550 to Silverton. On Hwy 550 about 5 miles south of Silverton, just to the south of Molas Pass, look for a signed turn for Andrews Lake Day Use area (mile marker 63). Drive the narrow, paved road to the lake. The trail starts around the right (south) side of the lake. Vault toilets. Free. Trails: After heading along the right side of the lake, locate the dirt trail to the right and hop on it instead of curving around to the top of the lake. A short ways ahead is an information sign for the area. The trail soon starts the long switchbacks heading up the hillside in the trees. The trail reaches the top and then heads to the right, going mildly through the meadows with some ponds to the left. The trail heads down some for a ways, switching between going through open meadows and in the trees. After rock hopping across a creek, the trail heads up and goes into the trees. At the top, the trail heads down the other side. The trail reaches another open area and is mild through it. You have now been hiking for some time (and not all that scenic) and are no where near the lake. The trail heads up in the trees and then is mild as it takes a left and somewhat parallels the mountain across the wide valley. The trail crosses a couple of streams and then heads up through a fallen tree area (good path). The trail starts heading towards the right and eventually comes to a marshy area (thankfully, not the lake). The trail turns to the right in front of the marshy area and, not too much further, finally reaches the uneventful lake. Trail Length + Elevation: 5.5 miles (one-way), 800 ft Area: Mountains, trees, lakes When I did the hike: Thursday, August 21, 2010 Recommendation: Blah. Maybe a short visit to Andrews Lake, but skip the long hike to Crater Lake. Ice Lake, Clear Lake, and Columbine Lake are much worthier of your time and energy in the Silverton area.
Uncompahgre Peak Directions: Rt 149 to Lake City. In the middle of the small town of Lake City, look for the signs for the (north) Alpine Loop Road (CR 20) and take that turn (2nd Street) and go a couple of blocks to the T-junction and turn left and the road is dirt. The road curves to the right and heads up the valley near a creek for a while and then a ways above the creek (okay for 2wd). Go past the tourist mine and the neat old Lake City mining area with buildings (info sign at the west end of the area). After 5 miles from the town of Lake City is the right turn for Nellie Creek Rd - and it is a jeep road. For those in 2wd, there is room for a couple of cars to pull over along the side of the road just past the turn (still on the Alpine Loop Road). If you have 4wd (and it is 4wd only), turn on to Nellie Road and drive 4 miles to the trailhead. There is a vault toilet just to the west of the Nellie Creek turn (at the Pike Snowden Cabin) and a vault toilet near the trailhead. Free. 14er note Uncompahgre Peak Summit: 14,309 - 6th tallest in Colorado Trails: I started at the bottom and with it being such a long hike, I started early (4:15) with a headlamp for the first 2 hours. After a rocky start to the road it does become more of a normal dirt road (still some rocks, but mostly dirt). After an hour or so is a wet water crossing (fun to do via headlamp and icy cold in the morning). The road then curves to the left (and there is a road branch to the right (which I didn't even notice when heading up) - continue to the left) as the road heads more of an up and then switchbacks to the right. After a short mild section is the 2nd creek crossing - there is a log you can use, but it is a over a foot above the creek and I went with a wet water crossing. The road has some more switchbacks as it heads up. The road reaches a mild section and an open area and pretty much stays mild to mild up to the trailhead. When you see a little hut (vault toilet), you've finally reached the trailhead. There is an info sign and sign-in sheet (free) at the far end of the parking area and the trail starts next to the sign. The trail heads a steady up through the trees for 1/2 mile, near a stream. The trail reaches the treeline and you can see Uncompahgre Peak ahead to the right, all alone, and it will remain in sight almost all the way to the summit. The trail heads along the creek and then makes a couple of switchbacks up to a small ridge. Then the good trail heads a mostly steady up (some milds mixed in) in the green open area to directly in front of Uncompahgre. The trail swings to the left, going under a small brown mound, and heads a harder up to a ridge to the left. The trail reaches the ridge and there is a trail junction - take a right. The trail heads along the ridge for a bit. Up and up (hard) and then over along the ridge to the switchback climb up the slope. At the top, the trail rounds to the left under a rock and then it gets nasty as you try to find the best way up the hard rock scramble (hands needed). Most did head up the first rock notch and one hiker set up a rope for another who couldn't handle that route without assistance - I made it halfway up that notch before turning around as I knew it was not something I could do (more concern for coming down than going up). While I was taking a rest before heading back, a pair came around the next rock curve and said that notch was a bit easier and I decided to give that a go - it was still a hard rock scramble (and I regretted doing it as coming down was as awful as I feared it would be), but there were some rock cairns and bits of trail (and multiple ones). The best route for the 2nd notch is to stay more to the right and go up to the top of the mound to the right and the true trail is at the top. At the top (which ever direction you go up), you'll find a trail that takes a not hard walk to the large summit for Uncompahgre. On the way down the rock scramble, I sat down and butt-shuffled down to the curve around the rock mound (and it took me 20 minutes to get that short, scary down). [All though this was classified as simply a Class 2 hike, I would say that with that hard rock scramble (even though it wasn't very long) that it was definitely a difficult Class 2 (and it was my 36th 14er, so I say that from experience).] Trail Length + Elevation: 8 miles, 5505 ft from the Alpine Loop Road 4 miles, 3000 ft from the Nellie Creek trailhead Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er Picture When I did the hike: Monday, August 8, 2011 Recommendation: Definitely not from the bottom (really long). I really, really did not the rock scramble near the summit - not something I would repeat.
Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak Directions: Rt 149 to just south of Lake City (46 miles south of Hwy 50, 74 miles north of Hwy 160 (South Fork); mountain driving both ways). Head west on the south section of the Alpine Loop Road (CR 30) - the turn is signed for Lake San Cristobal. The first 4 miles are paved, the rest is dirt. The next 8.3 miles to the fork in the road is well-graded dirt, passable by all vehicles. Bear right at the fork (left is Sherman Valley) and the road heads up a little bit and it gets rough with some rocks and it is narrow and you won't be happy if a car comes the other way (keep an eye out and one of you will have to pull over and stop at a wider section) - they say it is still passable by most vehicles (no trailers), but the higher clearance you have, the better (my sedan wasn't happy). From the fork it is 4.2 miles to the trailhead (it took me 30 minutes to go about 8 miles from the Mill Creek Campground to the trailhead). There is a small parking area to the right and an old wooden building to the left. There is an info sign at the parking lot (but not informative) and the sign-in sheet is a little ways in to the trail. Note: you are permitted to camp at the parking area. Vault toilets next to the road. Free. 14er note Redcloud Summit: 14,034 feet Sunshine Summit: 14,001 feet (smallest 14er) Trails: Here is a chance to hit 2 14ers (mountains over 14,000 feet) in one hike. That's the lure for this trail. The reality is it is not that pretty of a hike and the last mile is really nasty. The trail starts wide as it heads through the trees (an old road bed, sometimes 2 trails with grass in the middle). It is a steady up to start - not hard, but constant. The trail narrows later. After about 30 minutes, the trail drops a bit and is then surprisingly mild for a little while before continuing up alongside at times and above at times a creek - you are now above the treeline. Redcloud Peak is the orange mountain to the right. There were still 2 large snowfields on the trail when I went at the beginning of August (heavy winter) - there was a path above the first, but I had to go over the second (very unpleasant, but I don't like hiking on snow) [note: there were no snow patches in July 2010]. The trail leaves the main creek and heads a harder up to the left along a small creek. After a rock-hop across the creek, the trail continues up for a short bit and then it is again surprisingly mild (though still angled up) through the green valley. Take a break at the small pond next to the trail, you might hear the pikas (small mouse-like animals) squeak. The trail rounds the top of the valley and starts it's climb. It's up, up, up with a couple of switchbacks. The trail is loose dirt, so take your time so you don't slip. After reaching the ridge, take a longer rest and enjoy the views. As hard as that up was, it's nothing compared to what's ahead. The rest of the way is just nasty as the trail is loose dirk and loose fist-sized rocks - not stable footing. And it heads up very steep. I nearly turned around near the peak as I was so unhappy with the trail, but managed to talk myself into peaking. It is a pretty 360 degree view of the Rockies at the peak. It took me 4 hours to reach the peak. Redcloud Peak is at 14,034 feet. I wasn't going to Sunshine Peak (someone said it was about 2 hours away and there was a concern for afternoon storms), but after a 30 minute rest at Redcloud, I did head towards Sunshine. The trail drops down to the saddle, still loose rocks so not fast going (note: there is no trail or route down the valley of the saddle and there are signs warning not to try going that dangerous way). I reached the point where the climb up to Sunshine started after 30 minutes and let my mind (not heart) rule and turned around - I figured it would take me another hour to peak and I'd still have to return to Redcloud and there were clouds in the area. Sunshine Peak is the shortest 14er at 14,001 feet. On the way down from Redcloud (and to and from Sunshine if you go there), take your time as it is more dangerous descending on that loose rock crap (I actually crab-walked twice through two very steep short sections). So on my 2nd attempt for Sunshine Peak, I made it the peak. From the saddle between Redcloud and Sunshine, it is pure rock (fist-sized, sometimes loose) and steep up to Sunshine - going down is just as slow as going up. As you head up, make your way as best as you can as there is no one true path up and sometimes multiple cairns mark different ways. If you reach Redcloud and decide to go on to Sunshine, keep in mind that it takes 2 to 3 hours to get to Sunshine and back to Redcloud (make sure there is no threat of storms). Trail Length + Elevation: 4.8 miles, 4300 feet to Redcloud Peak 1.3 miles, down then 500 feet up Redcloud to Sunshine Area: Rocky Mountains. Pictures When I did the hike: Friday, August 1, 2008; Saturday, August 15, 2009 (to pond [weather]); Saturday, July 10, 2010 (Sunshine) Recommendation: Unless you want to add to or start your list of 14ers, skip it. It's an accomplishment hike ("I did it") as the trail is difficult and not all that pretty. The view from the peak are pretty, but you can get that with easier hikes and better trails.
Handies Peak Directions: Rt 149 to just south of Lake City (46 miles south of Hwy 50, 74 miles north of Hwy 160 (South Fork); mountain driving both ways). Head west on the south section of the Alpine Loop Road (CR 30) - the turn is signed for Lake San Cristobal. The first 4 miles are paved, the rest is dirt. The next 8.3 miles to the fork in the road is well-graded dirt, passable by all vehicles. Bear right at the fork (left is Sherman Valley) and the road heads up a little bit and it gets rough with some rocks and it is narrow and you won't be happy if a car comes the other way (keep an eye out and one of you will have to pull over and stop at a wider section) - they say it is still passable by most vehicles (no trailers), but the higher clearance you have, the better (my sedan wasn't happy). From the fork it is 4.2 miles of rough road to the trailhead. There is a small parking area to the right and an old wooden building to the left. The trailhead is across the road (south side) and to the right of the toilets. Note: you are permitted to camp at the parking area. Vault toilet next to the road. Or for a shorter hike/non-loop, you can continue on the road for 4 more miles and turn left at the American Basin branch (and 4-wheel drive road heading straight) - if you are not in a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you'll need to park soon after the turnoff as there is a creek crossing just ahead (no bridge), else you can drive a mile ahead to the parking area. No facilities. Free. 14er note Handies Peak Summit: 14,048 feet Trails: The trail starts to the right of the toilets, goes over a small bridge, and the sign-in sheet is just ahead. The trail starts in the trees for about the first 45 minutes, with a couple of short meadows and a rock field. Enjoy the mild sections as they are usually followed by a harder up. The trail goes through the shrubs and past a solitary tree and is mild for a bit and you get good views of the top of the valley and Handies Peak (the rounded one straight ahead). Once past the small cluster of trees next to the creek (nice resting spot), the trail is above the tree line the rest of the way. After the last trees, the trail resumes heading up. Trail crosses the creek (with "Trail" sign) and zigs back as it heads up towards the side ridge. Eventually the trail zags back towards Handies and continues the hard up to the ridge. Just ahead is a large rock field (with pikas) and some nice resting spots. Past the rock field, the narrow trail gets steep (can be harrowing at spots) as it switchbacks up to the ridge. There are some nice views from the ridge (including seeing some of the Alpine Loop dirt road and the American Basin parking lot) - take a moment to enjoy the view as the next 1/4 mile is really hard. It's a hellacious up and you're going to need your hands free to help you as it's part rock scramble up the steep slope - try to follow the rock cairns for the best route up. If you are doing the loop, you'll be glad you are as you wouldn't want to go down that rock scramble. After finally getting to the top of the rock scramble, it's a short mild walk to the summit (with a short rock up at the end). The views at the top of the small summit are grand 360 degrees and include great views down on Sloan Lake. It took me 4:30 to reach the peak (was going slow and was my first 14er of the trip). For the loop, head straight (south) from the summit and you can see the dirt trail heading steeply down (no rock scrambles for the American Basin route). Take your time heading down as footing can be slippery (and, if you're heading up from American Basin, it's a long, steep up from the rock field past Sloan Lake). The trail eventually calms down some as it continues down. The trail goes through a rock field (again, look for pikas) and then has a short up before heading down near Sloan Lake - do make a stop at the pretty lake. After the lake, the trail heads down the open valley with switchbacks. After a good ways, the trail rounds a bend and becomes part of an old roadbed and you can see down the open valley (still above tree line) to the upper parking lot. There are a couple of old mines in the valley (nothing exciting, no relics or ruins) - look for orange mounds. From the parking lot, it's .9 miles to the main road. Shortly past the parking lot is a side trail for hikers for about 1/4 mile to avoid an up in the road. At the road junction, take a right and it's 4 miles of dirt road walking back to the trailhead. Keep an ear out for vehicles (including ATVs) and move out of the way when they pass - most vehicles are not alert for hikers on the road. Along the road, there is a mine ruin with some relics off to the right (gated, so you don't get a real close look) that you might miss if you were driving. Also in the pond area, look for the many beaver dams and beaver homes. Note that the Grizzly Gulch trail is not heavily used (only a handful or less a day) [but still well defined] while the American Basin trail is heavily used. Trail Length + Elevation: Loop total: 11.6 miles, 3650 feet Grizzly Gulch: 4 miles, 3650 feet American Basin: 3.6 miles, 2830 feet (from road junction; 2.7 miles from jeep parking area) Road walk to complete loop: 4 miles, mild down Area: Rocky Mountains. Picture When I did the hike: Thursday, August 13, 2009; Sunday, July 11, 2010 Recommendation: It's a long loop, but I thought it was the prettiest of the 14ers that I've done and recommend doing it as a loop (or two vehicles). A there-and-back from American Basin is good for those looking for a shorter hike, but not as pretty as doing it as a loop - but I've heard that the American Basin is really pretty when the wild flowers are in bloom.
Cooper Lake Directions: Rt 149 to just south of Lake City (46 miles south of Hwy 50, 74 miles north of Hwy 160 (South Fork); mountain driving both ways). Head west on the south section of the Alpine Loop Road (CR 30) - the turn is signed for Lake San Cristobal. The first 4 miles are paved, the rest is dirt. The next 8.3 miles to the fork in the road is well-graded dirt, passable by all vehicles. Bear right at the fork (left is Sherman Valley) and the road heads up a little bit and it gets rough with some rocks and it is narrow and you won't be happy if a car comes the other way (keep an eye out and one of you will have to pull over and stop at a wider section) - they say it is still passable by most vehicles (no trailers), but the higher clearance you have, the better (my sedan wasn't happy). From the fork it is 4.2 miles of rough road to the Redcloud trailhead. Continue a mile pass the toilets/Redcloud parking area to the small pulloff area on the left. The trail starts across the road (small sign). No facilities. Free. Trails: It rained all night, so hiking a 14er for this day was out, so I went with my backup plan of hiking to Cooper Lake. The clouds stayed heavy all day and I got rained on some. The trail starts as an old road bed and makes a half-circle around the meadow before starting to head up the valley - sometimes in the trees, sometimes through meadows. The trail loses the road briefly as it heads through a meadow, but then rejoins the road back in the trees. Not too much further, the trail says goodbye to the road and enters a long meadow and heads down for a creek crossing, there is the old wheels and base of a mine cart upside down next to the crossing (rock hop and thin logs). The trail heads up from the creek and then is mild. In the trees just ahead are the faint remains of 2 small log buildings. One of the mines for the buildings is on the other side of the creek down low (look for the yellow mound) - you get a bit of a view of it looking back in the meadow ahead [like most old mines, it's nothing more than a small hole with a mound of orange or yellow dirt in front of it]. You can also spot some other mines higher up on the left mountainside (but no neat mine relics). The trail actually stays mild for a good ways as it heads up the pretty valley, sometimes in the trees, sometimes open meadows. The lake is in the hanging valley ahead to the left. The trail crosses the creek with a rock hop. Where the trail branches, take the left branch and the narrow trail starts to head up and up and up. The trail rounds the bend and ... nothing - the lake is not in this hanging valley shelf, but the one above it. The trail petered out on me (and lost it again heading back), so I simply head straight and found a resting spot with a view of the thin waterfall to the right (I was considering turning around as the weather was still poor and I didn't like the looks of the steep narrow path for the way up to the lake). Of course, I eventually decided to continue on. The trail to the lake goes up to the left and is harrowing at times (and worse going down). Fortunately, it's not too long of an up. After the nasty up, it's a short walk through the rock field and around the bend to the lake. Round the lake as much as you can for the best views. The like is kind of pretty, but not worth all the effort it takes to reach it. Trail Length + Elevation: 3.7 miles, 2190 feet one-way Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake, some mine ruins Picture When I did the hike: Friday, August 14, 2009 Recommendation: The valley is pretty and the mine ruins are a bonus, but it's a lot of work to reach a not extremely pretty lake. Only if you have an extra day and want to do another hike in the area.
Crystal Lake Directions: From Lake City, head north from the visitor center (bend in the road) on Rt 149 to the next left turn, next to the bakery, onto Ocean View Drive. Follow the well graded dirt road as it winds its way up (bearing right a couple of times and the road changes names) and then take a left as the road goes next to the cemetery and the large parking ahead is on the left next to the cemetery. The trail starts as the jeep road that heads straight (not right) from the parking area - there is a sign for the trail at the parking area. Note that the jeep road goes through private property and there is no place to park along the way or at the gate 1/2 mile ahead. No facilities. Free. Trails: Weather concerns again knocked off my planned hike to Sunshine Peak (did part of the trail before turning around), so I again found myself in need of a lower level hike. I talked with someone and she recommended Crystal Lake. So I found the trailhead and headed up the steep jeep road - the first 1/2 mile is actually the hardest part of the hike (not that the rest of the way is easy). At the gate, continue straight - to the right is the way to Thompson Lake (a mile from junction). The old roadbed is mild for a bit and then heads up after rounding the bend. Then the dirt trail becomes one-person width as it heads around and up the open hillside, with views down on Lake City. There is a switchback shortly before the trail heads into the aspen trees. The trail remains in the trees most of the way (couple of short meadows) as it heads up to the ridge. The trail eventually (still in the trees) re-joins the old roadbed (notice carved initials, some very old, on some of the trees in the area) and then soon enters an open area with a rock field to the left. Ahead to the right (slightly off trail) is a small pond [wishful thinking, but not the lake; still lots of up to go]. The trail alternates between rock fields and trees as it continues to head up. The trail then zig-zags up to another ridge. Once at the ridge, the trail is surprisingly mild for a ways as it rounds a hillside (the roadbed is slightly below the trail for most of this section - don't know why they made a trail and didn't just use the roadbed). Eventually you can see Crystal Peak ahead and to the right. After 2 final ups (sorry, there's another small ridge after the first one; not too long of an up, though) and a mild walk through the trees to the left, the trail reaches the lake area. There is a falling down small log building and 2 picnic tables at the lake. Round the lake to the left for better views. The lake is pretty with a small island in it towards the right and Crystal Peak looming above (not stunning or outstanding, though). It took me a little over 3 hours to reach the lake. [Added to my partial morning hike, I ended up hiking up 5000 feet this day.] Trail Length + Elevation: 4 miles, over 3000 feet one-way Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake. Picture When I did the hike: Saturday, August 15, 2009 Recommendation: Although the lake is pretty, it's not stunning and I didn't think it was worth all the effort [though I had done Ice Lake earlier in the week, one of my all time favorites, so my opinion of Crystal Lake may be biased due to having gone to that lake so recently].
San Luis Peak Directions: From the north, Hwy 50 to Rt 114 (8 miles east of Gunnison) and head south on Rt 114 and drive about 20 miles. Turn right on NN14 road for the Dome Lakes, a good dirt road. Drive 6.7 miles to the lakes and at the end of the lakes, turn right onto 15GG (another dirt road). The road rounds the lake and then heads left away from the lake. It's a very long 15.7 miles from the start of 15GG to a junction. At the signed junction (you want Stewart Creek), head left on 794 road (the road is rougher, but still drivable in non-4-wheel-drive vehicles). Watch the odometer and it's 4.2 miles from the junction to the trailhead. It's a sharp right down for the small parking area (big info sign at the trailhead) - there are couple of rough camping sites along the road shortly before the parking area. It's a very, very long drive from Rt 114 to the trailhead (and in the middle of nowhere). No facilities Free. 14er note San Luis Peak Summit: 14,014 Trails: The one-person width dirt trail is mild as it heads along the open valley for a couple of miles. The trail then heads into the trees with more of an up (but not hard). There are a number of ponds, beaver dams, and beaver homes in the valley - I did see a beaver on my hike. The trail crosses the creek (rock-hop or wet-water) and then re-crosses the creek as it heads to the left. The trail comes out of the trees and then goes through an open slope on the right side of the valley (the old trail went on the left side) and then goes back into the trees. The trail heads at a hard up at times and is mild at times. The trail comes out of the trees and goes through some bushes that may brush against you and you can see a peak ahead (not San Luis) - the trail goes to the ridge to the left of that peak. The trail heads a slight down and it's an easy cross of the now small creek. And then it's up, up, up to the ridge - about 900 feet gained in .6 miles from the creek. At the ridge, Oregon Mt is to the left and you can see San Luis Peak ahead to the right. The trail is well definite as it heads up and along the rocky slope of the peak that you saw from the valley and then to the left up to San Luis Peak. Trail Length + Elevation: about 5.5 miles (one-way), 3,514 feet Area: Rocky Mountains, 14er When I did the hike: Tuesday, July 13,2010 Recommendation: It's not the prettiest of 14ers (but not ugly) and takes forever to simply drive to the trailhead, only go if you are trying add to your 14er totals. The trail is good, though.
Willow Lake and Challenger Point Directions: Take Rt 17 to the small town of Moffat. Near the south end of town, turn west at the sign for Crestone and drive for 12 miles into Crestone (staying on the main road) - the road turns left in town. Then go about a block and turn right at the stop sign on to Galena Street (with a small grocery store just ahead on the left on Galena). The road soon turns to dirt/sand. After a mile is a sign warning about needing 4-wheel drive from that point (there are pulloff spots all along the road). Besides that warning, if you are in a non-4-wheel drive car and are fairly comfortable on dirt roads (and it is not wet), it is possible to drive another mile to the smaller sized parking area at the end - my sedan made it twice (and I'd been on rougher "dirt" roads during this trip). No facilities. Free. 14er note Challenger Point Summit: 14,081 Trails: From the top left of the parking area, head a short ways up the trail and then take a right at the junction and then cross the creek via the logs. The trail rounds a bend and heads up the valley and just ahead is the info sign about this hike. About 5 to 10 minutes ahead, the trail starts the lazy long switchbacks up, up, up the hillside - the switchbacks do have more umph to them as you get higher. At the top, you can see into the next valley and a peak (not Challenger) up to the left. The trail then heads to the left at mild down for a bit to an unsigned junction - continue straight (down is a camping area in front of a large meadow). The trail soon starts heading a not hard up. The trail gets rockier as it continues a mild grade up. Ahead is a number of lazy (not hard) switchbacks. The trail crosses a rock slab with a small stream in the middle and then reaches a bend near the creek and you can see the waterfall. There are raspberry bushes in the area. The trail then starts zig-zagging up (and it is an up). The trail log crosses the creek below the falls and then there is more zig-zagging up, up, up the rocky other side (good trail). Once you finally reach the top, it is still 3/4 mile to the lake (but not hard). The trail enters the trees and not too far ahead the trail makes a left and crosses the creek via logs and rocks (or wet water). The trail then heads west a short bit before heading up the left side of the valley as the trail alternates between mild sections and ups (including a small zig-zag section). The trail reaches the camping area and soon goes near a small pretty waterfall. Then it is a last short up to the left of the falls and at the top is the pretty Willow Lake, a good-sized lake. Head right (staying on rocks to avoid damaging the flora) for a really pretty resting spot near the outlet stream with a grand view of the lake, its shear far wall with a waterfall in the middle, and the granite peaks above (but not directly above). Back on the trail, continue to the left of the lake and you can either stay near the lake (going through some bushes) and then take a jagged up near the end of the lake or (the way I went) go left and up for a little bit in the trees following trail branches and then head right and the trail soon reaches an open rock field. Make your way carefully across the rocks, basically heading straight as you should be about level with the top of the far wall of the lake - there are some rock cairns to help guide the way. As you near the end of the lake (from above), you should find bits of trail and then hit a real trail, also where the trail from the lake joins up with this route. The trail makes its way through the bushes and curves right above the headwall. The trail crosses the creek (safely above the waterfall) via rock hop and there are nice views down on Willow Lake from this area. Head again through the bushes and the way curves left. Go through a rock field and you'll see a faint trail heading up to right at the end of the rock field - turn right and head up, up, up (600 feet from here to the notch). Stay to the left of the rock gully - DO NOT CROSS THE GULLY (says someone who did), even though there are some rock cairns in the gully to confuse you [you can make it to the top going to the right, but it is not a standard route and there is some scary stuff on the backside of the ridge]. For the correct way, you want to head a direct up and you'll eventually reach the notch you see way above you and slightly to the left (and may have a snow patch along the side, but the snow wasn't on the trail for my hike). It is a nasty, harsh up with loose rock and dirt to make the way difficult both going up and coming down. Eventually you will have a rock wall to your right as you continue to make your way a steep up. Near the notch, it is an even steeper and nastier little section. The good news is that once you reach the notch the rest of the way seems like a piece of cake. The trail goes through the notch and then takes a left slightly below the rocky ridge. The trail rounds a bend and then takes a short up some rocks to the ridge (try to remember this spot as it is easier to return this way to the notch instead of staying at the ridge). Go along the ridge or slightly below the ridge (which ever route is easier) - there are rock cairns and bits of paths along the way, but no "correct" route - all the way to Challenger Point. There is a plague at the summit for the Space Shuttle Challenger. There are nice views of Kit Carson Peak, Crestone Peak, and the Crestone Needles from the summit. To go to Kit Carson Peak (14,165), head down to the saddle between Challenger Point and Kit Carson and the way rounds to the backside of Kit Carson before heading up - note that there is some class 3 stuff going up to Kit Carson (thus I didn't go). Trail Length + Elevation: 4.75 miles (one-way), 2850 TH to Willow Lake 6 miles (one-way), 5400 feet TH to Challenger Point 7 miles (one-way), 6250 feet TH to Kit Carson Peak Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lake, 14er Picture When I did the hike: Friday, August 13, 2010 Recommendation: Willow Lake is a beautiful lake and worth hiking just to the lake (in fact, I returned to the lake later in my trip as I got to spend so little time at the lake on my Challenger Point hike). For Challenger Point, it's a nasty trail from above the falls to the notch on the ridge - along with Castle Peak, my least favorite 14er hike.
Blanca Peak Directions: Take Hwy 285 to 14 miles west of Alamosa. Turn north on Rt 150, the signed turned for the Great Sand Dunes. Drive 3 miles along the road and turn right on to the unsigned nasty Lake Como Road. There is a parking area right off Rt 150 (and you can see the road heading up the mountainside and there no buildings in the area), but you should be able to take your vehicle at least a mile up the sandy and rocky road - go as far as you are comfortable. I made it about 1.5 miles up in my sedan before pulling over (probably could have gone a little further, but didn't like the now pure rock road and found a nice little camping spot next to a couple of bushes). Unless you are in a small jeep, you should probably pull over before the short dip in the road (there aren't many places to park past that spot). The road gets really nasty - so nasty that there are names for some of the rough spots. Midway up the mountainside is Jaws 0.5. If you can make it past that spot, there is a nice camping area at the corner of a curve, before the road heads down. After the down, is Jaws - only the really experienced 4-wheel drivers should try to go over that rocky spot. And later is another spot where there is a plaque where someone was killed when their vehicle flipped. But there were a number of jeeps at the lake, so it is possible (but not recommended) to drive to Lake Como. No facilities. Free. 14er note Blanca Peak Summit: 14,345 (4th tallest in Colorado) Trails: Note that this is a difficult class 2 14er hike [challenging, but not as scary as Castle Peak, also a difficult 2]. [Starting with the road walk, as most will be walking at least part of the road.] After forever and a day heading up the nasty Lake Como Road (and it is an up), the road reaches a corner and then annoyingly heads down for a ways before becoming a milder down. Then the road heads a mild up and reaches a spot (Jaws) where you wonder how the heck a vehicle gets over that big rocky spot [someone later told me that one of his favorite pictures is of a truck on Jaws with all 4 tires in the air and oil leaking underneath]. Soon after that spot, the road goes next to some partially standings cabins. The road soon turns left and crosses the creek (easy rock hop) and resumes heading more of an up (including another "how the heck???" spot) and there are a couple of switchbacks ahead - you are not close to the lake until you are done with the switchbacks (and even then you still have a little ways to go). When you finally reach the lake, take a right to reach lakeside and take a well deserved break and the not very pretty Lake Como - Little Bear Peak is the distinctive peak you can see from the lake. The road continues around the left side of the lake and makes a half-circle around the top of the lake. From the lake, you still have 2.5 miles and 2700 ft to go to Blanca's summit. The road turns left and heads up through the trees for a bit. The road then rounds a bend and soon leaves the trees behind. The road heads next to a pond and then over a mound is one of the Blue Lakes (a pretty area) with a waterfall ahead to the left. You can now see Ellingwood Point up to the left (Blanca is not fully visible behind the large mound up to the right). The road finally ends and the way becomes a trail as it heads around the top of the lake and rock hops across a creek below the falls before zig-zaging a rocky (but surprisingly good) trail up to the left of the falls. At the top, the trail heads to the right, with another rock hop across the stream, and then goes around a pair of small ponds. Just ahead is Crater Lake - the prettiest of the lakes on this hike - with Blanca Peak directly above. The trail does not go next to Crater Lake, so if you want to get lakeside (nice to do on the return) you have to make your way a short down over the rocks. From Crater Lake (still 1500 ft to go), the rocky trail stays good for a little ways and then thats the end of the easy stuff. The forest service has kindly put little orange tassels on metal loops in the rocks to mark the best route, it is sometimes difficult to spot the next tassel. Follow the tassels and rock cairns as best you can - you'll need your hands free at times to help guide you up the rock scrambles (not climb, though). It is a tough up to the saddle between Ellingwood and Blanca - you want to reach the saddle towards the right side, not in the middle. Once you finally reach the ridge (and there is a steep drop on the other side of the ridge), take a pause and because the way actually gets tougher. Head to the right and stay at the ridge or slightly below the ridge, making your way as best you can and following rock cairns for (hopefully) better routes (no more tassels). As you approach the summit, you actually want to drop down a little to avoid a rock group and then curve up to the left (a nasty little section) and the summit is right there. The view at the summit is very pretty with a number of mountain lakes visible to the southeast, northeast, and west (the way you came). Note that there are 2 other 14ers from the Lake Como area. For the industrious or those starting at Lake Como, both Blanca and Ellingwood Point (14,042) can be done in a Y-shaped or triangle hike. Ellingwood is also a difficult class 2 (with more loose rocks than the Blanca route) and you take a left somewhere while heading up to the Blanca saddle (I didn't notice where that turn was, not signed). It is class 3 taking the ridge from Ellingwood's summit down to the Blanca saddle instead of going down the way you went up Ellingwood. Little Bear Peak (14,037) is the peak you see from Lake Como and it is a class 4 hike to reach that summit (don't know where the way up starts - there is not a signed turn from the way up to Blanca). Trail Length + Elevation: 5.25 miles, 3750 feet 8,000 ft elevation to Lake Como 2.5 miles, 2700 feet Lake Como to Blanca Peak Area: Rocky Mountains, mountain lakes, 14er Picture When I did the hike: Sunday, August 15, 2010 Recommendation: It is a killer hike, but it sure is beautiful at the peak and really gives you a sense of accomplishment [but I'm biased as my mom is from Alamosa and I saw Blanca every time I visited her family while growing up].

Patricia Bender pbender@eskimo.com Not affiliated with or representing anyone besides myself