Burning Bear Trail #601, Grant Co Snowshoed 4/19/14

Best View
Best View

Starting Elevation:  9627Ft

Highest Elevation:   10,708Ft is the highest we made it but the highest part of the hike is supposed to be 10,740 ft

Trail Length:  The full length of the trail round trip is a 13 miles to Hall Valley  Trailhead we made it just under 8 miles round trip almost to the ridge top which was supposed to be 7.4 miles round trip, we didn’t make it to the Ridge line.  It took us 5 hours.

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker, Snowshoe, cross-country skiing, Horses

Degree of Difficulty:  Moderate to Difficult

Fees:  None

Bathrooms:  Not near this trailhead but we passed a few outhouses on the Road up….they looked scary going outside would be better.

Pets:  Yes on leash

Beginning views
Beginning views

Last Fall I found this random website that gave a whole bunch of trail names with no information on where, length, difficulty or elevation.  I wrote down a couple of pages of them, found a few details and last week was the first time I actually studied them.  I wanted something that got us over 10,000Ft and in studying them I found this particular trail.  It looked perfect for our goals, lots of mileage, possible 2000-ish feet total elevation gain, getting above 10k and possible awesome views.  The other great thing about the trail is every report I found, and there weren’t many of them, said there was low to no traffic.  The only thing I wasn’t sure of was if we would need snowshoes or not… the week had been really warm and sunny so I figured if we needed them, it would only be to get over the ridge to get to that last 1.5 miles to the turnaround point.  When the news was reporting from Vail on Friday, there was no snow at the lower elevations which was about where we would be starting so I figured if we carried the snowshoes it would at least help me with my strength building for backpacking.

Saturday we got up early and started our almost 2 hour drive to the trailhead, the weather called for possible light rain in the AM, with thunderstorms starting around 2PM so I wanted to make sure we had enough time to finish before those possible thunderstorms started.  You have to park .2 miles past the trailhead.

Parking lot
Parking lot
Walking back to the trailhead
Walking back to the trailhead

The trail is immediately off of Park County Road 62 :

thru the gate Trail sign

It starts out really well-defined and marked, we took just 5-10 minutes to get to this bridge.

Trail in teh beginning cross the bridgecrossing geneva creek

The creek was beautiful and at first the snow was not a big deal, we went along our way for about 20 minutes before the first posthole.   Through the trees the postholing was minimal and the views were lovely.

DSCN1398 DSCN1400creek n meadow

We saw our first trail marker before the meadow of our downfall

This marker is how you follow the trail
This marker is how you follow the trail

We  got to this meadow with the next trail sign and the postholing was epic, the last one went above my knee and I hoped Aaron wouldn’t break through when he came over to help me out.  Then we shuffled to the most stable spot we could find and put on our snowshoes, just a little more than half mile from the trailhead.

meadow  of snowshoe

It was much easier going with our snowshoes one, the trail skirts this huge meadow for around a mile when there is supposed to be a trail break  left takes you to the ridge( Our destination) or further.  While right takes you around the meadow back to Guanella Pass Road (Park CO 62).   We noticed lots of old tracks heading left 5-6 times looking for the right path.  You really need to follow the meadow for about a mile, maybe a little more with the trees on the left.  Once the trail reached the trees we went left, saw a marker and knew we were on the correct path.  We were also now thoroughly in the trees with a nice slow climb.

thru the trees

It was in this section we passed this tepee, it made me wonder under what circumstances it was built because it had to take some time to gather all those trees.

tree tepee

From here we wove over and around the creek.


Along the Creek
Along the Creek

The snow was pretty deep the whole way and just before we hit the second meadow, it disappeared for maybe a tenth of a mile.

Oh that is what the trail looks like
Oh so that is what the trail looks like
Second Meadow before the  Sun came out
Second Meadow before the Sun came out

The cabin ruins aren’t too far past this second meadow, about half a mile.  Most people turn around here from what I read and from the tracks we saw, no one went past in a long time.


The trail goes past the cabin and then climbs steeply up switch backs to the ridge.  The sun also came out strong and bright, which was lovely but super snow destabilizing warm.  We decided it was too pretty not to continue on and we felt good, like another mile or so wouldn’t be so bad.

A lot of the blueish gray markers had fallen down at this point so we used the notches to keep us on track
A lot of the plastic markers had fallen down at this point so we used the notches to keep us on track

This last mile was a struggle, in hind sight I should have called it much sooner, my legs become jello so much sooner in snowshoes and while we knew we had to be right at the ridge at 3.75 miles, the trail just continued to climb up as far as we could see.  We had two issues to consider… first we knew that while skies were blue, the clouds hanging out were definitely of the thunder storm variety and with the conditions of my legs at this point meant a fast escape if the weather changed wouldn’t be likely.

Just us with 4ish feet of snow at the turnaround point
Just us with 4ish feet of snow at the turnaround point

We turned around and headed back down, I fell 3 times in awesome fashion.  Then we got to that second meadow closest to the cabin and the effects of the sun made me bummed I didn’t turn us around sooner…. ever posthole with snowshoes on…. EXHAUSTING.  Our quick return was suddenly stalled and after an hour of it I was moving very slow when we finally got to that first meadows the views were spectacular.

Looking back from where we came from OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I will tell you this last half  mile or so was painfully long, but I wouldn’t stop moving because we could see the storm coming.  As we finally got back to the bridge and took off our snow shoes, the first drops started  falling which turned into an immediate downpour.  We tried to run but our legs were just toast, fortunately we made it to the car before the sleet started.  Almost perfect timing and despite our exhaustion we were also exhilarated, so worth every bruise I woke up with on Sunday.


I loved this trail, the views, the forest climb, the meadows, the creek and everything else.  I cannot wait to get back when there is no snow and make it to the ridge, hopefully further.

I hope whatever your weekend has in store for you, it involves getting out there and hiking!!!

Directions:  From Bailey  drive west on 285 for 10.8 miles to Grant.  Turn right on Park county Road #62( Sometimes called the Guanella pass road) and drive 4.9 miles to the trailhead at a turn in the road.  There is a sign and a gate on the left (North) side of the road at the trailhead.  Parking is available .2 miles further at the parking for Abyss Lake Trail.

Published by hikingtohealthy

an enthusiastic hiker living in Colorado.

14 thoughts on “Burning Bear Trail #601, Grant Co Snowshoed 4/19/14

  1. One impression I get from reading about your various journeys, is that the US is much more organised when it comes to dedicated trails. I don’t think we even have a concept of a trail-head in the UK – either that or I’m visiting the wrong bits 🙂

    1. Rob we are so lucky here in that sense, and we have the Roosevelts to thank for it! the West is a treasure trove of well defined paths and I personally think Colorado is the crown Jewel. I am embarrassed to say I don’t even know how to use a compass I am so spoiled by our trail system! I would be struggling on the trek you do, although I plan to learn it all this summer to make sure i am safe backpacker! Just picked up some meals to test out and tonight we are sleeping in our new gear(mat and bag) to see how it works… I am getting excited!

      1. Cool sounds like you will be moving into multi-day backpacking. Compass use I the uk is quite easy as the magnetic variation is quite small – around 2 degrees. I hear that in some places in America it can be as much as 40 degrees!

        One thing for sure, it seems that you are surrounded by some really good scenery – I think you are going to enjoy the multi-day walks 🙂

  2. Hey Kathy, looks like another great hike/snowshoe.

    I *might* be driving my truck back down to Vegas next month – which means a visit with the Russian Princess in Denver. What are the chances a 14er would be hikeable in May?

    ps Would love to meet you if we do pass through.

    1. I am going to apologize up front for how long my response is going to be…
      First I would Love to meet up and maybe even do a hike together, although I am pretty sure you would kick my ass! Let me know your thoughts!
      Second yes people are doing 14ers every day all the time here, the trick is that you have to be prepared… Depending on when you go there may still be a lot of snow. You should check out 14ers.com on Facebook or online…it is a closed group so you have to get through that but I got through so you should have no problem… Heres the tricks you need to think through. We are struggling today at 10k and above because the snow is still deep at tree line like 3-4 ft and the sun destabilizes it. So you need either traction devices or snowshoes or BOTH. But even then it may still be a tough journey because once the sun hits that snow all bets are off in terms of post holing and it is exhausting with or without snowshoes. Now all 14ers are at least a 3000 foot elevation gain so you will be climbing like mad and then on the way down you will have to deal with snow that has had sun exposure for hours… it sucks. This year we have had record snow fall and the mountains are getting 9-16 inches of snow in the next day or 2, which will include all 14ers close to Denver. 14ers tend to be windy and above tree line so that snow should move quickly but depending on which one you try, it may not be in your favor…. My serious suggestion would be Quandry, it is in Breckenridge and I read just yesterday ascent was done with microspikes only, although snowshoes might have helped on the way down(think warm slushy movey snow). At the end of May this may not be an issue but who knows… Last year we were getting crazy snow storms every week through May. The other “Easy ” 14ers are challenging for other reasons… Grays is on a tough 4wheel drive road that is usually unpassable until after memorial day so that means adding a couple of miles to your already 7 ish mile hike. Evans is weird as it is on a road but it might also be a best bet to hike up on the road which is absolutely closed until Memorial day at the earliest. There are other routes up Evans but long and tricky… You also could try Beiderstadt, but I have been hiking in that area for the past 2 weeks and the snow is wicked deep! Also It has an initial decline in the first mile and then you go up….. through a marsh… that means on your return, after you have killed your legs, you have climb the last mile back to your car assuming you can get to the trailhead at the time you are here.
      Ugh that is a lot…. and I haven’t talked about acclimatizing! Because between you and me, 13K is like a wall in all aspects. I will let you digest! Email me anytime at hikingtothealthy@gmail.com!

      1. Thanks girl! Great info.

        I’ll be honest that I’m definitely not prepared to deal with that kind of snow (not from an equipment perspective, nor from a desire to trudge through it perspective!), so I think I’ll probably pass on hiking this pass-through. I’ll definitely make it back there in late summer – and will look to hit the higher altitude hikes then.

        Was hoping to climb Mt. Whitney at the beginning of June until I read that it’ll like be covered in snow until late July.:-) Changed my plans immediately. 🙂 I’m thinking I’ll head over to the south rim of the Grand Canyon and do a Rim to River hike sometime towards the end of May.

        We haven’t finalized our plans at all because I’m still figuring out the whole work/life balance thing 🙂 , but as soon as I figure out if we’ll be in Denver for more than a night, I’ll email you to see if we can connect! Would be great to at least catch up for coffee if we can’t squeeze a hike in!

        Thanks again for the info. I *really* want to hike with you one day. You are such a pro!

      2. I don’t blame you, really the easiest time to hike a 14er is between mid July to early September… And by easy I mean relatively snow free…You just have to start way before sunrise to ensure you beat the afternoon thunderstorms…

        Whatever your plans when you come through, if you can fit me in great! I always struggle with eh life work balance so I get it!

        Travel safe!

    1. Not yet but I have it on my list of possible first backpacking trip destinations too. I am loving this particular area we tried 3 mile creek trail yesterday but the snow was too much for us after 2.6 miles so we turned around. We didn’t get to see many views but it was still beautiful! I hope you like Burning bear when you make it out there! I saw your blog being advertised on the Jefferson county open space facebook page, well done!!!

  3. Hi, Kathy. I am a graduate student at the University of Washington, working on a video project about snowshoeing. May I use in my video your photo of the blue diamond trail marker on the tree? I would be glad to give you credit for the photo. I wish I had thought to grab a picture while I was in the mountains, and it is surprisingly difficult to find one online.

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