Continental Divide Trail > Mines Peak Road > Mt. Flora Trail ( Part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail)
Starting Elevation: 11,315FT
Ending Elevation: 13,100FT (Total Elevation Gain 1800Ft)
Trail Length: 6.4 miles officially, my fitbit said 7.5 miles. It took us 2:45 going up and 1:30 coming down.
Trail uses: Hiker only after you get off the Mines Peak Road.
Degree of difficulty: Difficult to Strenuous, mostly due to the elevation
Bathrooms: There is one at the Berthoud pass trailhead parking lot and, but keep supplies handy it is heavily used, just in the time it took us to get ready to hike at least 10 cars pulled in off of Berthoud Pass just to use it.
Pets: Dogs must be leashed
I picked this one out of the Falcon guide: Best Hikes near Denver. It was the perfect distance as well as giving us another increase in elevation to help get us more practice with high altitude hikes. We knew this was likely to be the last weekend we could work on our elevation hikes and sure enough it snowed this past week above 12,ooo ft. But the weather was going to be so perfect and we decided it was worth trying to get this last one in before it is all front range hikes focused on building our stamina until next spring. When we pulled into the parking lot it was a mad dash to the bathroom/warming hut and man it was cold outside about 35 degrees.
Park on either side of the lot, the trail starts both at the Continental Divide Trail sign( northeast side of the lot) and goes across the parking lot to the Mines Peak Road ( Southeast side of the lot).
We parked by the southeast side right at the Mines Peak road part of the hike, but our smooth move last week of adding a couple of miles on to our trip by not reading the book carefully had me being extra cautious. This led me to walk over to the Northeast side of the lot, only to stupidly walk back across the trail to the Mines Peak road and past our car….again. Fortunately there was only 3-4 people there to witness this awesome move in hiking navigation. We hiked up the road through almost 4 switchbacks when the Mt. Flora Trail Head came up at the curve on that 4th one, we stayed straight on the single track.
From here it was pretty straight forward, as we got closer to the saddle between Mines Peak( on the right) and Mt. Flora( leftish- straight ahead) the wind really picked up and the snow was now regular. Here we had a really pleasant surprise, one of my coworkers was headed down with her husband, and Wendy is my hiking superhero so seeing her there was a great rush. The trail than climbs what other hikers referred to as a false summit, past this boulder bump just keep moving it is half a mile to the summit from here. It is a pretty flat summit and there is a nice little wind shelter just to the left of the big cairn, which was a nice break at that point in time. It was COLD! Fortunately we had packed a lot of stuff to keep us warm, hats, neck warmers, mittens….. if we needed it, we also had long underwear tops and bottoms along with extra socks. Aaron carries a nice backpack and it holds everything we need in case of multiple situations plus water for him. I always joke that for every pound I lose, he has to add it to the backpack for him. It works for me but eventually I will probably have to start working with my own backpack…. We did not take our time capturing images on this one because of the cold, we gave ourselves 20 minutes and then packed up and headed down to a warmer altitude. So our pictures aren’t too great….
There are 2 real challenges to this hike, first and most important is the altitude while the distance isn’t great, 2:45 hrs to climb to the top seems reasonable as we had to keep stopping and getting some good breathes in. The other was the wind and then snow that final mile, but we prepared for it. I could not believe how many hikers we passed on the way down that didn’t look nearly prepared enough to make it to the top and that is a shame because the views were beautiful! We turned around and went down as quickly as we could and the once frozen path with snow was now icy then muddy as we got further down. After the directions I will post a few more pictures of our last altitude challenging hike.
Directions: Take I-70 west to exit 232, US 40 west. Follow US 40 for approximately 14.4 miles up through Empire to the top of Berthoud Pass. You will see Berthoud Pass Trailhead Parking lot there on your right and you are at the trailhead.