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
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
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.
The trail is immediately off of Park County Road 62 :
It starts out really well-defined and marked, we took just 5-10 minutes to get to this bridge.
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.
We saw our first trail marker before the meadow of our downfall
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.
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.
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.
From here we wove over and around 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.