Ben Tyler Trail #606
Starting Elevation: Approximately 8300Ft
Highest Elevation: Approximately 11,700Ft ( total gain would have been 3400ft) ….Unfortunately we only made it to just shy of 11,oooFt, we think
Trail Length: 11.5 miles officially but since I left my fitbit at home I have no idea what it would have tracked. In the end we only made it 9-10 miles due to altitude sickness.
Trail Uses: Hiking & Horses….No Bikes
Degree of Difficulty: Difficult – a long in and out with a big altitude gain
Bathrooms: None and I mean none anywhere close so glad I got over issue with being one with mother nature a few months ago because it would have been awful!!!!! There is a nice gas station in Bailey as you leave town a Loaf and Jug on the right of 285, use it on the way in and way out if that is something you need. Otherwise be prepared with ziplock baggies, TP, hand sanitizer and all their glory…..
Fees: None but you do have to register for a free permit at the trailhead. Which would be easy if there were any blank permits…I kinda got the feeling the National Forest Ranger hadn’t been there since September the box was full with filled out permits. I picked a permit from August and then put my information in with today’s date, mostly because of the time of year we were hiking but I did also have my hiking Emergency Contact fully aware of all of our details.
To be honest we had fallen out of preparedness to do hikes this high but I guess I didn’t really think this through. My only thoughts were, I need to get re-energized on my life change and I saw pictures of the hike from last weekend with little to no snow showing. This is pretty unusual this high up and at this time of year so I figured a few amazing views of spectacular mountains would remind me that in order to keep seeing these things I need to be at a healthier weight and stronger. So I pretty willfully planned doing this hike today.
We got to the trailhead at 7:30AM, mostly because I was worried at how long it would take us to complete 12-ish miles with a 3400 FT elevation gain, from what I had read it could take between 5-10 hours. It is inclines fast on these initial switchbacks and then flattens out until the creek.
About a 1.5 miles in the trail has an option to go either over the creek or stay straight. Stay straight, in a half a mile the trail will cross the creek at this second point. This is the route you want to be on.
The next 2 miles go through the most amazing Aspen grove I have ever seen, it is over 3000 acres large and here the grade got pretty steep as we climbed to our goal.
As we climbed out of the Aspen grove, the views started to really open up, unfortunately so did the dizziness….
While we climbed through the first 2 miles we were right on track at 2 miles an hour, when we go to this point I saw it had taken another 2 hours to go just 2-3 miles…… I am guessing here, but I think we were really close to the next trail break which is at 11,000Ft and almost 5 miles. I kept stopping Aaron and making him wait while I dealt with my dizziness really slowing us down. Then he checked his blood sugar (He is a type 1 diabetic) unfortunately he was REALLY high, but the real problem was that he thought he was really low because he was having vertigo with visual issues. Needless to say, we made the decision to turnaround at that point, as a result no fun pictures other than those I took of trail specs with my iPhone. We immediately went down as quickly as we could and then drank as much water as was possible. It was a first for us and as we slowly went down battling our nausea and dizziness, I realized everything I had done wrong.
When we were doing trails this high a few months ago, I very carefully planned each hike to climb one week a little higher and then the next week going just below that, building until we ended with our first 13,000+ foot peak, Mt. Flora. But up to this hike, the past 5-8 hikes had all been around or below 8300Ft. It was the first failure in a really long time, 6 months in fact, and it hurt both literally and figuratively…..
Honestly this trail was amazing and this is way off-season. There was only one other couple we saw in 6 hours of hiking, but again this is off-season for hiking it the best time to hike it is late spring/summer and fall. Really I bet in Fall this is the gem you can’t miss doing with that 3000 acre Aspen grove…. we are so doing this again and I hope soon.
Directions: From Denver, drive South on U.S. 285 and when you get to Bailey, the trailhead is just under 7 miles further on the left (South) side of U.S. 285. The parking lot is small and maybe looks more like a shoulder , it can’t hold more than 10 cars so get there early – well only during the busier times now come when you want!