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Bear Peak Via Fern Canyon, Boulder CO 6/1/13

4 Jun
View of the North Front Range From Bear Peak

View of the North Front Range From Bear Peak

Walter Orr Robert Trail> Mesa> Fern Canyon> Bear Peak Trail> Bear Canyon Trail> Mesa Trail> Walter Orr Robert Trail @NCAR

Starting Elevation:  6104

Highest Elevation: 8461 ( with some up s and downs we had a total Elevation gain of a little more than 2600 feet)

Trip Length: Officially it is anywhere from 7.5 to 9 miles depending on what trip information you can find, we were pretty close to 9 mile

Trail Uses:  Hiker and Joggers- no bikes

Pets:  Dogs are allowed but from Fern Canyon to Bear Canyon Leash only.  For the Mesa Trail as long as they have the Boulder green tag for voice command, they can be off leash.

Fees:  None

Degree of Difficulty: Difficult

Bathrooms:  None that I could find….although it looked like during regular business hours the lobby of NCAR could be used.  We didn’t check to see if regular business hours included Saturday and Sunday.  Sadly we discovered not many people practice leave no trace on this trail…

VIews west from the summit of Bear Canyon

Views west from the summit of Bear Canyon

I have wanted to do this hike for a while, unfortunately much of it was effected last spring/summer when the back part of it caught fire during our horrible wild fire season. I kept checking periodically for when sections would reopen and then last weekend my hiking super hero Wendy did it and said that at least one of the ways were open again.  Since the Continental Divide got hammered with enough snow on Wednesday and Thursday that they close I70 at the Eisenhower Tunnel in both directions Thursday morning, it was time to attempt this hike.  A lot of hikers use it to get in 14er shape when they can’t get altitude hikes in due to weather because it is an almost 2700 foot elevation gain overall and because we opted to go up Fern Canyon, most of that( about 2200Ft) would come in just the 2 miles to get to the top.  It was a great work out with great summit views!

Walter Orr Roberts TrailMap at trialheadTo Mesa from WOR

Lets talk trail, we opted to enter  at  NCAR( National Center of Atmospheric Research), which is easy to see from so many places in Boulder and the trail system is woven all around its ample parking lot.  We got there early at 6:30AM and good thing because we got a close parking spot to the trail head, when we got back to the car a little before 1 it was packed.  You drive right past the trail head as you pull into the parking lot, which we missed but as we walked west there is a huge rock with the trail name for the Walter Orr Robert Trail.  If in doubt of where it is, follow the road west out of the parking lot and it will be obvious as you get closer to the building.

Take this trail around and down to the Mesa trail, you can also make it a little more interesting up here by taking in all the signs and displays that NCAR has set up, we paid more attention to them on the way back because we were too excited when we first started to take extra time reading. You will end up taking the Mesa trail to the Fern Canyon  Trail head, most of the time you will turn left when given the option except when you get onto Fern Canyon that is a right turn off of the Mesa.  Everything is really well marked with area maps and signs as you go, because of this I decided to not post the trail markers.

The Fern Canyon trail is steep, it starts out harmless enough then gets really steep and really rocky.  In some places having poles didn’t help us and we would have to just use our hands to climb up, I am going to post a series of pictures of the different parts of the Fern Canyon trail so you can see how it changes as we made our way to the summit.

Early on Fern Canyon Trail

Early on Fern Canyon Trail

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAup Fern CanyonSteep incline

Where the fire came over the ridge and close to the summit

Where the fire came over the ridge and close to the summit

Final approach to the summit

Final approach to the summit

Me at the summit

Me at the summit

When we got to the summit we actually took turns climbing up, it is climb that requires both hands and concentration.   There were a surprising number of hikers who didn’t even bother going up, they said that there is no point in going up as you can see everything good from the trail breaks.  Plus the way to Boulder peak is still closed because of the fire as is Shadow Canyon.  We had something to eat took a bunch of pictures and then headed down via Bear Canyon trail.

Bear Canyon Trail from the summit

Bear Canyon Trail from the summit

You head to the right and down from the summit climb, then you come to Shadow Canyon and the Bear Canyon trail heads as you can see the Shadow Canyon trail is still closed.  Go Right and down….

trail to bear canyon from summit

We once again put away our poles and used mostly our hands to get down, the first quarter-mile down is steep but not as steep as Fern Canyon.  Personally I feel like down is the harder part of a hike and so I wanted to take the less steep option down, this was not the norm on Saturday I have to say I was surprised.  The truth is I was the biggest person on this loop so maybe the stress of down on knees and ankles isn’t a concern to all the super healthy in shape people who passed us.  Bear Canyon is much less steep and after that first quarter-mile we made good time back to the car.  My knees ankles and feet were very thankful.

Looking back what we climbed down at the start of Bear Canyon

Looking back what we climbed down at the start of Bear Canyon Trail

The trail started leveling out and moved through more of the burn area, which was strangely beautiful with its blacks, golds and then bursts of green where the flowers were sprouting up.

trail lvling from summitOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It took us a solid 3-3:30 hours to get up the mountain and just 2 hours to get down.  It was a lovely path and after we got out of the burn area, we got whiplash from all the flowers everywhere!  We really loved this hike and were super proud of ourselves with how well we did  on it.  My legs were a little shaky at the top but quickly recovered for the hike down.  I hope you try this one out some time, it is definitely strenuous so work up to it but so worth all the effort!  After the directions I will put my favorite pictures.


From 36, take Table Mesa Drive west past Colorado 93 all the way until you get to a large parking lot for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

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Eldora Ski Resort

Eldora Ski Resort


kat n al

Mesa Trail – Boulder Co Hiked 2/2/13

2 Feb
View at the start of the hike

View at the start of the hike

Bluebell Road > Mesa Trail

Starting Elevation:  5700Ft

Highest Elevation: 6482 Ft ( but the trail goes up and down the whole way like we covered  8 ascents and 9 descents, giving an overall elevation gain of 2600- ish for what we completed)  It is a great leg workout!

Trail Length:  Officially the Mesa trail is 6.7 miles from Chautauqua Park all the way south to the Southern trailhead just outside Eldorado Canyon State Park for 13.4 round trip and our goal was to do the whole trail round trip.  What we managed to hit was 5.7 one way, 11.4 miles round trip according to the map, but my fit bit said 6.5 miles.  So I am taking the middle of the road and saying we finished 12 miles today. It took us 5.50 hours 8AM-1:30PM to finish.

Trail Uses: Hiker, Running and I think horses….NO BIKES

Degree of Difficulty:  For the first time, Aaron and I cannot agree – my assessment moderate to difficult, Aaron’s = Moderate the book says easy

Bathrooms:  At each end North and South.  Otherwise this thing is insanely busy all year round so use good judgement…..unlike me

Pets:  Yes, but dogs must be either on leash or have the green tag indicating they passed the voice control test for Boulder.

Fees:  None!

View of the Front range from Bluebell Road

View of the Front range from Bluebell Road

We were feeling pretty awesome after last weeks hike and decided ambitious was the best way to jump into this weekend’s hike.  I picked this hike because it was long and while it is considered an easy trail, I think that rating is only given because if you do any one section it is easy compared to where you are going.  The Mesa Trail is the main artery along the Flat Irons of Boulder, it leads to the some of the best and hardest hikes on the front range.  It goes to Shadow Canyon, Fern Canyon, Bear Peak ( Closed due to fire damage until 7/31/13), Bear Canyon among others.  The total up and down elevation gain is around 3200 feet, which is a pretty tough butt burner, calf builder or cardio challenge.  At the end I think I counted roughly 8 ascents with 9 descents, I am wiped out!

You can pick up any portion of this trail at 3 parking lots, today we chose to go from North to South so the only choice was to start at Chautauqua Park in Boulder or the beginning ( You can also start at NCAR and the South trailhead by Eldorado Canyon).  Take Bluebell Road, directly west of the Rangers station up( South) to the Mesa Trailhead.

Hike starting point.

Hike starting point.Mesa Trailhead

Mesa Trailhead

It isn’t a killer climb until you realize it goes  on for roughly 2 miles and 700 feet in elevation.  It did warm us up super quick! In the distance of the picture above,  there is another outhouse which I thought was poorly placed since it was just over half a mile from the parking lot…. but at the end of the hike I actually ran to it.  The trail was so busy and after mooning 6 fellow hikers I was a little outdoor solution shy….. Anyway we took the left smaller trail, the right is supposed to be a butt buster up to Royal Arch but we haven’t tried it yet.  From the left, this is really the most narrow the trail will ever be.  It was often wide enough for 2 groups to pass each other easily.  As we got to the ice/mud stairs, I was feeling great thinking how awesome I was, hehe if only had a crystal ball.

The top - so easy looking

The top – so easy looking

The Bottom of the mud stairs....not so cute now
The Bottom of the mud stairs….not so cute now

The whole time I was thinking, man those stairs are going to suck on the way back if all that mess melts…it did!  The trail is so well-marked, each trail head is very well identified, as is the Mesa trail and what way is the way you want to go. I was super impressed.  We stuck to following the signs for 5.7 miles until we turned around.

NCAR entrance and trail info

NCAR entrance and trail info

This trail is interesting for so many reasons.  It is really a beautiful hike, in and out of pines, around canyons, the views East and along the front range are stunning.  It makes you want to be out there every weekend to see how it is different each day.  What makes you kinda not want to ever go there again is your fellow trail users.  At first, early in the morning everyone was sort of nice but then the later it gets the nastier your trail companions become, no courtesy or consideration for other people on the trail.  Runners are huge here, and no joke, on the way back as we were on a tough climb up, 2 runners tried to “run” us off the trail as they came down making sure that we knew their workout was more important than ours.  I was shocked and really disappointed  at how many mean or indifferent people there were after 10AM, honestly it made me not want to ever come back.

There was one more thing that made me not want to come back.  On a slow trail, finding a secluded place to “take care of business” is challenging as it is.  On a busy trail like the Mesa Trail it is almost miraculous, which is how I found myself mooning several hikers after my best efforts to find a secluded spot,  shortly before we turned around.  I am newly comfortable to peeing outside so this new hiccup was unexpected and REALLY embarrassing.  Aaron was trying to so hard to misdirect the passing hikers stares by talking to the decoy me on the opposite side of the trail but I just chose unwisely.  It did lead to a ton of laughter and trying not to make eye contact with those hikers that passed Aaron as they realized it was my butt they saw in the trees not so long ago……

This is a year round place to hike, the ice can get tough in the shade just as the mud is super tough on the sunny parts. It is worth doing at least once and honestly we will probably do it one more time to try to get to the end.

After the directions to the hike will be our favorite pictures.


From Boulder, take Baseline Road west of Broadway 1 mile to the Chautauqua Park entrance on the left hand side of the road.

From Denver, take I-25 North to HWY 36 towards Boulder. As you enter Boulder, turn left onto Baseline Road and turn left. Take Baseline Road for about 1-2 miles and Chautauqua Park will be on your left.

Goofy faces

Goofy faces

View from the turnaround point

View from the turnaround point


Mesa Trail -Chautauqua

Mesa Trail -Chautauqua

Walker Ranch Loop – Boulder 11/24/12

26 Nov

Walker Ranch Loop

Starting/Ending Elevation: 7287FT

Net Elevation Gain: 890FT ( +1737 round trip elevation gain)

Trail Length:  7.6 miles officially ( My fitbit said 9-ish miles but we spent an hour taking pictures at the falls or rapids).  It took us 4 hours to complete, not including the hour we spent taking pictures working on our water shots.

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker and Horses but there is one tricky part that is probably not meant for a horse.  There were more bikers than anything else

Degree of Difficulty:  Moderate and one part could be considered strenuous.

Bathrooms:  Yes, at the trailhead

Pets:  Yes but they must be leashed, again there is one tricky part that might be really hard for a dog to do or a dog owner to watch their pet get through

Fees:  None

We came across this trail when we did Eldorado Canyon Trail back in August and actually did a small part just to see the South Boulder Creek and get some water pictures on a hot summer day.   I found it in one of my books a few weeks ago and decided it was right for this weekend.  The weather was supposed to be sunny and almost 70 so I felt pretty safe driving a little further into the foothills.  It never did get sunny or up to 70 but the weather really was perfect.

The loop starts at a nice sized parking lot and you can go either way on the loop:

It is recommended you go clockwise as it makes the trail a little easier, but I guess I didn’t know which way was clockwise so I went left thinking I was at 6 and left was clockwise… wasn’t.  I realized it when we hit the first trail marker and it indicated 7 miles to go.  This is the first trail we have done that had mile markers, I haven’t decided if I like it or not but it was different:

The trail itself was mostly wide enough for 2 people to walk side by side or make for easy passing, but this stretch it goes to almost road-wide all the way to the South Boulder Creek.

The descent we did was I think almost 900 feet over about 2.6 miles and then we got to the South Boulder Creek and immediately started climbing back up (after spending an hour playing with our cameras, I will have a few favorites at the end).  We always stayed on the Walker Ranch Loop and it is well-marked.

After we crossed the creek we followed it for a short distance then had to climb these stairs:

This is the part I think is strenuous and while going up is the harder workout, I don’t think going down would be all that much easier as some of the steps are very far apart.  It made me always want to go left at the trailhead to be honest and climb these instead of ever having to go down them.  Watching the bikers carry their bikes down made me stressed for them!

From the top of the stairs, we continued to climb at a much easier pace and then turned around the mountain and stared our decline with around 3.5 miles left ( according to the mile markers).  We went all the way back down to the South Boulder Creek and crossed over it again.  There are some great picnic areas all over this trail.

We walked along the South Boulder creek for a bit as we began the final climb back to the trailhead & parking lot.

We had cloudy weather but it is a pretty exposed trail so on the those sunny days remember to protect yourself from the sun.  We really liked it for the down>up and then down>up again, it was a great leg workout for the second weekend in a row.  I have read in better weather it is pretty crowded and mostly with bikers which could get annoying, although they were all very nice to us.

Directions:  From Denver, take 36 west towards Boulder, Exit at Baseline and take it west( left at the bottom of the ramp) Past Chautauqua park and as baseline starts to climb it turns into Flagstaff Road.  Stay  on it for about 8 miles, the South Boulder  Creek Trailhead ( Walker Ranch Loop Trailhead) is clearly marked on the left, at a sharp bend in the road.  A short dirt road leads to the parking lot.  I did get a little confused by a sign and wrong trailhead on the right shortly before this but it was a pretty nice score as we caught a herd of deer not inclined to move as we drove slowly by:



Green Mountain via Gregory Canyon Trail 11/17/12 The Assessment

20 Nov

Sorry for the double posting and duplicate seeming emails- something weird happened with the original post and almost all of it was deleted so I had to rewrite it!

The whole week before we did this hike I was pretty nervous about how hard it would be.   From everything I had read, if it was windy the trail would be tough, if it was snowing or had snowed recently the trial would be tough, if it was cold it was going to be tough and the final common theme was that the views from the top were worth all those challenges.  Oh and there was that other obvious challenge of climbing 2400FT of elevation in just 3 short miles.  It was a constant assault on my butt and legs, I am still a little sore today 3 days later.

We got there pretty early, 7:15AM and were hiking by 7:30 which gave us the good fortune of getting a parking space in the very small 8 space lot.  It gave us the chance to attack that first steep climb with little to no company, as we struggled up the trail, the CU marching band starting playing for some event  and the “we are the Champions” vibe helped give us a little extra momentum in that tough beginning.

This is a pretty heavily used trail, and it seemed like runners were the most frequent users who passed us.  Then again everyone passed us and some of them were so stealthy (or I was breathing so hard) I didn’t hear them until they were right behind us so I did squeal a few times out of shock.

The view on the east side is of Boulder and just got more beautiful as we climbed.

The trail is rocky at first and uses rocks for steps along with a wood based step.  There is a little very easy scrambling involved and for us, patience because we had to keep stopping to peel off clothes, one time we will dress perfectly for our hike.  When it levels out for a short period of time the trail gets wider, about the width of a small road.  As we got higher and came around to the West side of the trial, the views of the Indian Peaks were breathtaking (or that was the incline kicking my butt) especially with the clouds crawling over them.

The very last stretch was an easy scramble that was more like rock steps up to the summit.  It was worth every single step we took up!

This is one we will do again and again, as it seems like it will really help build our stamina and skills to attack more high elevation peaks next summer.   As I read more and more about 14ners, I know we will need to work on our ability to adapt to a lot of different conditions and be prepared to take as long as we need to finish our goal.   It seems this trail will help more than our old standby  Deer Creek Canyon did and serve as an easy go to hike that could challenge us but  is still close to home.   I honestly cannot wait to do it again!

For the specs of the trail go to that post Green Mountain Via Gregory Canyon trail – Specs and below are our favorite pictures from the hike.

Green Mountain Via Gregory Canyon Trail – Boulder 11/17/12; Trail Specs

17 Nov

Gregory Canyon Trail > The Ranger Trail > Green Mountain Summit

Starting Elevation: 5800-ish Feet

Highest Elevation: 8144Ft ( Total Gain 2344FT)

Trail Length: Officially 6ish miles, my fitbit said we got around 7 miles, It took us 4 hours to complete but the book I used said 3-4 hours and the locals were cruising past us constantly.

Trail Uses:  Hiker & Runner ( lots of runners), NO BIKES or horses….

Degree of Difficulty: Difficult to Strenuous ( a butt killer)

Bathrooms:  Yes, at the trailhead and then again at the Green Mountain Lodge, a little over a 1.5 miles in.  They are awful!  In fact the second worse we have been to in the past 8 months of hiking in Colorado (first being Denver Open space).  The smell was super bad at 7AM with a temp of 40F, I cannot imagine what it would be like in the middle of summer .  This is a paradox because the trail is insanely crowded and COVERED with poison ivy so you are kinda stuck…..

Pets:  Dogs only on leash unless they have the Boulder Green tag which means they passed the verbal command test. Love this rule!

Fees:  If you get there early enough and are not a Boulder resident, it is $5 to park in the tiny parking lot at the trailhead.  There are 8 spaces in this parking lot, once filled up everyone begins parking on the tight roadway to the parking lot.  Which makes for interesting exit….

So I am going to try something a little different, today I will focus on the details of the hike and then post an assessment of the hike later in the week once I have chance to digest what we did.  I always feel like I could have said more on the feel of the trail so this week this is my experiment.

We learned about this trail when we were in our sunset photography class….this was one of those classic moments in my life when a person does a look over and decides I can’t handle too much.  I had to explain first that we had done some tough hikes(with names) before he gave up this one.  He said it was a killer workout and he was so right.

So details only, this is a year round hike from what I have read but as the snow starts to fall the backside of the mountain gets icy, so winter/spring are tricky and you will likely need Yak-tracks to get to the summit.  It also gets WINDY so if it is windy down at the trailhead it will be way worse at the top.  Something to think about before you start.

Go to the west end of the parking lot to get the Gregory Canyon trailhead,

The Amphitheater trail is part of an alternate East starting and shorter route, but really we just loved the Enjoy Your time message, a cleaver way to ask people to respect the trail.   It is not long on the Gregory canyon trail ( .1 miles) before the first turnoff hits the Saddle Rock trail, stay right on the Gregory canyon trail.  There is one more  trail turnoff at the Crown Rock Trail, go left ( Or stay straight however you see it).

This first mile of hiking is a 900 foot elevation gain, but it is 1.4 miles overall to the next junction at the Long Canyon Trailhead, this is a break in climbing for just .2 miles but a break none the less.

This map help is at all the big trail junctions to keep you on track.  Conversely, there are no maps to pickup at the trailhead so it is nice that there is at least this.  From here is it is just .2 miles to the Green Mountain Lodge ( Built during the great depression) and the next SMELLY bathroom.

This is where the Ranger trail and the Long Canyon trail split off, go left of the lodge and follow the Ranger trail all the way up and by up, I mean the next 1500 feet up.  Notice the snow….this is essentially ice and the higher switchbacks are covered with it.  It was not so bad today that we needed more assistance then our poles could provide, if it had been a little later, colder and with more snow we would have needed at least yak -tracks and on some days, I would guess crampons .   It is not far to the next trailhead:

This is a great place to decide how you feel, a good place to turnaround or make a nice loop and catch up with the Saddle Rock trail and back, also it is an alternate way down from the summit and could add at least .6 miles to your hike.  Or continue on the Ranger Trail to the Summit of green mountain, it was a good steep grade all the way up with a lot of patches of ice. 300 feet below the summit is the last trail break:

From here it is about 300 feet straight up but the rocks are settled in nice steps. Once on the top there is a very short climb up a big rock to the actual summit like 8-10 feet.  At the top is a Marker and a mountain indicator of all the mountains that can be seen from up top.  Its awesome!

From here you can turnaround the way you came or take the EM Greenman Trail to loop around to the Ranger trail.  It is supposed to be much more steep and rocky then the Ranger Trail so in the end we decided to go down the way we came because I was worried about how much my knees could take after seeing what I came up on the easier ascent.

So in a couple of days, after I have digested the whole experience, I will write an opinion post.  I would love to know your thoughts on the breakup of information so comment away!


Take 36 west to the Baseline exit and take Baseline past Chautauqa Park.  Drive to where Baseline becomes Flagstaff Mountain Road and use caution as you turn left to the Gregory Canyon Trailhead.

Nighthawk Trail – Hall Ranch 11/10/12

10 Nov

Nighthawk Trail > Out and Back

Starting Elevation:  5480 Ft

Highest Elevation:  6570 ft ( but there is a an additional 320ft loss then gain for a total Elevation gain of 1410ft)

Trail Length:  10.2 miles officially, unfortunately we took a wrong turn and so did a total of 12 miles today.  It took us 4hrs 20 minutes to complete.

Trail Uses:  Hiking and Horses only, no bikes on this trail but other trails here do allow bikes

Degree of difficulty:  Moderate to difficult – difficult mostly due to length

Bathrooms:  Yes at the beginning.

Pets:  Dogs are not permitted in Hall Ranch

Fees:  None

One of Aaron’s coworkers told us about these trails so many months ago, when I first looked at the trail options after hearing about it I didn’t think I could handle such a long hike.   Plus the elevation was not what we were looking for at the time so I kept in the back of my head as the perfect hike for fall, winter & spring.  Now that the higher hikes seem out of reach for us ( mostly because we are wimps) it seemed time to do this one. For the past 3 weeks we have tried to do this hike with various things stopping us, this weekend was proving to have the same chance of letting the trail thwart us.   There was a snow storm coming to the mountains today with some hitting the foothills, this hike is right on the edge of the foothills and the mountain ranges that were supposed to get hit.   All week I stalked every weather site I could find in hopes it would change enough to let us do this hike and yesterday I saw our chance, every thing was saying no snow or rain until 1PM.

We left at 6AM hoping we would get enough time to finish the hike before the storm set in and as we got to the top of the hill on 36 where you can see Boulder down in the valley before you, we saw this:

It was pretty beautiful after an amazing sunrise, it was both a good and bad sign….good because there was still some sky showing for the sun to make it happen and of course rainbows are good luck! But bad because obviously it was raining which was not supposed to happen until 1PM!

When we got to the trailhead, the rain had stopped and it looked a little lighter so we bundled up and started off.  The landscape was so different then what we had experienced on other hikes in this area, all the cacti with the red mud and dirt I love the variety!  The trailhead had something I have not yet seen:

This is so cool!  Yay Boulder Open Space for embracing social media in such a fantastic way!  Also note that if it was muddy and you get there after 10am choose a different path…..

As for the trail, there are 2 parking lots, the one that is just a little higher up really is at the trailhead but it is not all that large and you might have to park in the lower lot if it is full.  Which is ok because the trail at the west end of the lower lot goes up to the Nighthawk Trail as well.  We were lucky enough to get there at 7:30 so there were only 2 other cars in the top lot.  The Bathroom is up here as well. As a warning all my pictures are with my iPhone, with the weather changing so quickly  I didn’t want to take out my camera, these aren’t very good quality and it really shows when I tried to zoom.

The Trail itself is super well marked, there is never a question which trail you are on.  It is also almost completely exposed with little to no tree cover but I bet in the spring and summer the colors are something to see, I know I will have to come back to check it out then.   Based on the trails we have hit in the past 8 months, my guess is that this is usually a high traffic trail during spring and summer but today it was almost just us, the deer and rabbits….. so many deer and rabbits!  I think we saw 6 or 7 separate herds of deer and they were all along the trail constantly crossing it.

At about 4.5 miles we came to the Button Rock trailhead, which is a 2 mile outcrop that leads to other trails not all part of Hall Ranch.  I think that if the weather had been different this is where we would have seen Long’s Peak and Mt Meeker, but with the snow starting and with the clouds getting thicker, we were lucky to see any mountains at all.

Stay straight on Nighthawk and you will come to a crossroads very quickly

Again stay straight and you meet up with the bike trail and Nelson’s Loop by a bench, here is the 4.7 mile mark.  If you are done turnaround and head back.

We felt really good at this point, so we went on to try to see Nelson’s ranch to get the full 10.2 miles round trip which should have been just .4 miles ahead.  Unfortunately we went left instead of staying straight on Nelson Loop and about half a mile too far we realized we did it wrong so we turned around and headed back.  It was on the way back we saw Nelson’s Ranch exactly where it should be.  It was also snowing pretty hard now so we picked up our pace and the iPhone only came out one more time for a few pictures of Aaron and I when the weather let up a little.

This is a great hike, it has a stamina building length along with lots of ups and downs to work the legs.  I bet on less snowy weather heavy days, the views are pretty awesome.  One thing I did notice was the mud on the way down, it wasn’t too bad but it was getting worse by the minute with the snow falling.  I am sure this is why there is that “check the trail conditions” sign before you go at the beginning.  I would stay away if it was a wet week or a wet day as the mud would wear you down quickly.  Either way, we plan on doing this one again in a different season.

The directions will be after the few pictures we got that we liked, with the iPhone.


Take 36 North through Boulder onto Lyons.  At the junction with 66 turn left.  Drive through the town of Lyons at the T intersection ( SH 7 and  36) turn left on to SH7  and take it approximately 1.5 miles to the entrance of Hall Ranch park it will be on your right.

Big Bluestem Loop – Boulder 10/27/12

28 Oct

South Boulder Creek trail > Mesa Trail> Big Bluestem Trail ( Lower)

Starting Elevation:  5460Ft

Highest Elevation:  6400Ft ( just over halfway through the loop)  Total gain 940ft

Trail Length:  Officially 6.8 miles, my fitbit said just over 7 miles.  It took us 3 hours but mostly because of the trail conditions…mud then ice then mud then ice… get the picture.

Degree of difficulty:  Easy/Moderate mostly due to length.

Bathrooms:  Yes, at the beginning.  It is super new and clean ( not sure how long that will last but it was lovely this morning)

Pets: At this time of the year, dogs only on leash unless they have the special “green” tag that means they met the Boulder voice command requirements.  Boulder take this seriously the only dogs off leash had the green tag which meant something to me. I gathered from the signs that until spring passes bears are a big concern and so the need for dogs on leash….

Fees:  None

The trail choice was one I made a few weeks ago but I got sick and couldn’t do it, then my sister was in town.  It has greater meaning though, this is the trail on that fateful day in March that I tried to take my niece on but only made it a mile in before turning around.  I needed to conquer it and after my weird malaise of a week, this was the week to relive what brought me on this journey.

The week brought a nice snow storm for the mountains and couple of inches for us in the front range .  Today was going to be a beautiful beginning to the warm up for next week and it didn’t disappoint.  The hard part about not growing up here is my Illinois roots kick in, snow on the ground with a 30 degree start means COLD!  That is not how it works here, with the sun out 30 is really a warm 50 to my bones but my brain still says “bundle up baby”!!!!  So over-bundled we started off, I am pretty sure those who passed us kinda laughed out loud while trying to be nice….

It was not 15 minutes in before we started pealing off layers, while the beginning of this trail is windy even on a non-windy day we got so warm so fast we had to adjust so lesson 1 of the day, this is NOT Illinois!  We could have done this hike in shorts….seriously shorts even though the temp was just 48 degrees when we got done.

We passed through 4 stockade gates in the first 2 miles, always close them as you pass through, while this a high traveled trail it is also a real grazing ground for cattle, so respect those nice people who let us pass through and close the gate behind you.

At approximately 2.2 miles you reach the Mesa trail, again high traffic:

We were on this trail for 2.4 miles and hit the highest point around 3.5 miles into the total trip, you come across one shortcut back to the starting point which will take this loop down to approx 4.3 miles but if you ask me, taking this shortcut will make you miss the best part of this trail:

Just a shot close to half way

Lesson 2 of hiking in the winter in Colorado a day after a snow fall…..Rain in the sunshine.  This first part of this trail is in the sun and then as we climbed the Mesa trail we started to get some tree cover,unfortunately those trees were covered in snow, which was melting in the sun and randomly dropping its load.  Now I was full-out sweating already, but then I started to get pelted by pine rain so I put away my camera to protect my baby from all that moisture.  It was not 5 minutes later before I got hit with a full branch of snow, then the challenge of extra mud.  Which made an easy trail much harder.  The picture above is my fake smile where I am repeating this mantra ” I love hiking”.  I could tell those runners passing us with mud spatters up to their thighs had the same sort of mantra in their heads.

Because of the odd the conditions I missed a few trail markers,  but one we passed Shadow Canyon trail it was not far to the Lower Bigstem trail and finally through the final paddock to Thomas Lane :

This was a surprisingly beautiful trail, it starts out as nothing special and the further you go in, the better it gets.  When you get around the halfway point the views are stunning, if not for the tree rain and load dumping snow showers, I would have appreciated it more.  I have already decided it must be redone, but no time soon.  Just conquering the trail in the first place was amazingly satisfying, it was just what I needed to jumpstart me out of my malaise.  My plan for next week is 2 trails…one to learn more about photography and one to challenge our stamina.  While this is probably an all year kind of hike, when the weather is bad don’t do it, windy is miserable, post snow muddy and icky, and I am guessing in high summer unless you go early, it is HOT.  As usual, following some favorite pictures I will post the directions:


Take 36  West towards Boulder to Table Mesa road, go west on Table Mesa to Broadway/93 south.  Go south on 93/Broadway for approximately 2 miles to the South Boulder Creek Trailhead.  Make a right turn, then quick left turn into the trailhead parking lot.

Eldorado Canyon Trail – Eldorado State Park 8/25/12

26 Aug

Eldorado Canyon Trail and a little bit of Walker Ranch Loop
Starting Elevation: 6000 Ft
HIghest Elevation:  Approximately 7400 Ft
Trip Length: 7.2 miles according to the map( 3.6 in and 3.6 out), my fitbit said 8.5, took us about 3.5 hours
Trail uses: Hiking & Horses
Fees: $8 per day or get an annual state park pass for unlimited access ( $70)

Degree of difficulty: Moderate/Difficult
Bathrooms: The Visitor center, at the trail head and the parking lots at the entrance by the rock climbers
ADA accessible: No
Pets: Yes, and on six-foot leash under control at all times

View of where we are going, well at least part


When we first bought our Annual State park pass, we made the deal that we would need to visit a State park at least 12 times in the course of the year to ensure it paid for itself.  So after doing Roxborough, I was checking out the all the state parks to see what I wanted to do next.  Eldorado Canyon State Park was it but the trail rating made it seem unreachable, that and the trail descriptions I found.  This hike is not a straight up straight down and at the time I was just trying to get in shape to go straight up and straight down, but I decided after doing Bergen peak last week that it was time to check out Eldorado Canyon State Park.

We slept terrible Friday night and so got up extra early to head out for the hike, which is good because yesterday was the Pro Cycling Race and it would cross over the one road into and out of Eldorado State Park.  I am used to using an address to find a location, but I couldn’t find one anywhere for here and now I know why.  To get to the park we drove through the town of Eldorado Springs, which surprisingly has no paved roads and hand written signs saying slow down, speed limit is 10MPH.  And just when I thought it must be the wrong way, there on someone’s fence was a sign for the state park pointing us ahead.  Which is good, because I was certain the road would lead right to someone’s house.

This state park is also a huge rock climbing destination and there was a bunch of rock climbers gearing up at 7:15AM.  The drive back to the trail head is spectacular, in fact we had to stop a lot and capture the amazing views and so our early start went down the drain in the 45 minutes we spent ohhhhing and ahhhhing.


Ok let’s talk trail, It is right off the parking lot very close to the visitors center and it is steep:

The state park people have put in a lot of stairs to help get up this climb, both made of rock and some with wood starts.  Some of these steps are a big step up and my chubby legs were working hard to get up them.  So be prepared to do some hard core lunges.  As we climbed up this first ascent, it was hard to keep our eyes on the trail because the views were so amazing!  There are train tracks on the other side of the canyon and we actually saw a train going by on the way back.  You also can see the Continental Divide peaking over the closer mountains at this point.  I did get pictures but the haze from fires in surrounding states makes it hard to see:

There are some rocks or rock piles that you have navigate through and then find the path on the other side, something I had read about before we came and was concerned.  But they are not as bad as I had imagined, it just required taking a little extra time and finding good footing.

After the first ascent, the trail does go down a little and then up again.  All along the path are these amazing huge boulders covered in lichen and the views of the canyon are just wonderful…..Then it goes down some more and back up again, this is a bigger decline and ascent then the second one but not too bad.  This is what I decided must be the second summit and it is the last one before the longest decent to the end of the trail and the beginning of the Walker Ranch trail loop.  It is confusing spot, it looks there are 3 trails, one on the left that clearly is about the scenic views, one straight ahead that looks like it goes down gently, and one on the right that has a greater decline.  To get to the end, it’s the one on the right.  Although many people turnaround here and head back instead of facing the final decline and the subsequent ascent back,  if you can go down  do it because it is so worth it.

When we reached the Walker Ranch trail loop, we took a suggested extra .10 miles on the left part of the loop from the trail head and this was the best part of the whole hike.   It was the South Boulder Creek, and there were rapids and small falls everywhere.  It was a great victory lap or us.

Before I go crazy with all the amazing creek shots, I am just want to sum this up.  After spending 45 minutes taking pictures and climbing over rocks to get the best shots, we turned around and headed back to the visitors center.

You can do the full Walker Ranch trail loop, it is 7 miles which would give a total trip of 14 miles but we just aren’t there yet.  The total trip took us 4 hrs 15 minutes, but if I take out the 45 minutes of picture-taking it was 3.5 hours roundtrip.  On the way there we came across only 2 runners, on the way back it was much more crowded but not as crowded as other hikes have been. ( directions are below the pictures)

Here is how you get there:


From Boulder
Eldorado Canyon State Park is located about five miles southwest of Boulder. Take Broadway / State Highway 93 south from Boulder, turn west (right) onto Colorado 170 and then continue about three miles to the town of Eldorado Springs. Highway 170 dead-ends at the town and a dirt road continues. The park is located at the end of the dirt road on the left. Our book store / visitor’s center is one mile west from the park’s entrance.
From Denver
Eldorado Canyon State Park is about thirty miles from Denver. Take I-25 north to State Highway 36, go west towards Boulder. Exit at “Louisville-Superior” (you will also see signs for Eldorado Springs and Highway 170) and turn south (left) at the light. Follow signs to Eldorado Springs/ Highway 170 (turning right on Marshall Road/Highway 170). You will turn into the Superior Marketplace, as Highway 170 travels around the marketplace and eventually leads you 7.4 miles to Eldorado Canyon. Highway 170 dead-ends at the town of Eldorado Springs and the road continues as a dirt road. The park is located at the end of the dirt road on your left. Our book store / visitor’s center is one mile west from the park’s entrance.
From Golden
Eldorado Canyon State Park is about seventeen miles from Golden. Take State Highway 93 north towards Boulder. Just south of Boulder, take State Highway 170 west (left) towards Eldorado Springs. Highway 170 dead-ends at the town and a dirt road continues. The park is located at the end of the dirt road on the left. Our book store / visitor’s center is one mile west from the park’s entrance.