Tag Archives: hiking Colorado

North Fork Trail- Reynolds Park Jefferson County open space, Pine CO Hiked 1/18/15, 3/21 & 3/28/15

26 Jul

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Starting Elevation: Approx. 7200 ft

Highest Elevation: Approx. 8000 ft. You can get as much descent and gain you want just go further.  Our last hike we climbed a total of 2300 ft, most of that heading back to the trailhead.

Trail Length: 9.3 miles one way – Each time we did different lengths but went as far as 6.5 miles one way the last time, for a total of 13 miles hiked.

Trail Uses: Hiker, biker, Equestrian and if the snow ever stayed maybe on a snowy day – snowshoe

Degree of Difficulty: Moderate

Bathroom: Yes in the parking lot

Pets:  Supposed to be on leash but I have noticed that many dog owners ignore this rule

Fees: None

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Humming Bird > North Fork Trail

It is an exciting moment in Colorado when  new open space opens or expands…. North fork trail is one such revelation that opened/expanded on 10/14/14.  I am not sure, but I think the ultimate goal is have it connect to the Colorado trail.  It goes over 10 miles one way through lots of privately owned land and through a burn scar.  I had read about it and thought it would be cool to check out as much as I could.  To be honest, I was also sick of repeaters which I had been hitting A LOT lately.

Looking down the first incline

Looking down the first incline

The hike we did actually starts across the street from the parking lot.  I think you can pick it up North Fork Trail other ways through the park but this is the way we went each time.  Hummingbird Trail is a steep climb and really the hardest part we experienced for the whole hike, other than that just the overall distance. Plus this initial part is totally exposed and so HOT in the spring, summer & fall so go early.

working our way around

After this initial climb, you come back behind the mountain and get some shade, which depending on the time of year could also mean snow/ice.mud.  But on the hikes in March it was a welcome relief from the sun. Hummingbird Trail is 1.3 miles and then you pick up North Fork Trail.

From this point there are lots of ups and downs, we went through a burn scar and just kept moving south and east.

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It was hard to turn around at 6.5 miles the last time because around each curve was more beauty I wanted to see but I could tell the harder part is the return trip, as we went down a lot more then we went up.  If you find yourself on this trail remember that, you climb more returning than you do on the way out.

Our First visit in January we essentially had it all to ourselves, the second and third visits in March were MUCH busier.  Mostly with bikers after the first 3 miles in.  Which I can totally understand why given the excellent distance and beauty it offers. I am categorizing this one as a mostly cool season hike, because of crowds and how exposed some of it is.

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At the times We hiked this, I wasn’t sure I would keep blogging so I didn’t take that many trail identifying pictures. I can tell you it was beautifully planned and the path itself is very nice to walk, AKA not a ton of obstacles like roots and rocks. After the initial climb all the ups and downs are very manageable so don’t scared off from the Humming bird trail.

The parking lot for the open space is huge, which makes me think the park was pretty popular before this addition and only expect it to get more popular.  Also what is exposed… is really exposed so go early or late but remember that along with hours that the park is open which is an hour before sunrise to an hour after sunset.

The “new” trail is really super beautiful, I loved all the challenges it provided and the terrain was different enough to be extra memorable as it changes all through out.  Going from the beginning, through a burn scar and then all these beautiful rock formations it is worth you time.

After the directions are the few pictures that I thought were really great between the 3 hikes.

Directions:

13581 South Foxton Road, Aspen Park External Link Icon
From U.S. Highway 285, drive south 5 miles to the parking area on the south side of Foxton Road.

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Mt. Sniktau 13,243 Ft, Loveland Pass, Colorado – Hiked 9/21/14

6 May

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Starting Elevation: 12,000 Ft

Highest Elevation:  13,234 FT at the Summit – total elevation gain was around 1600 ft.

Trail Length: Approximately 4 miles

Trail Uses:  Hiking only (I think I couldn’t find any guidelines)

Degree Of Difficulty:  Difficult mostly because of altitude

Bathroom:  None

Pets: I didn’t see any and I didn’t see any signs saying one way or another.

Fees:  None

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The best part of Colorado is all the hiking opportunities.  Even with all the traffic along I70, you can still find a gem that you might get all to yourself, Mt. Sniktau is occasionally one of those.  On this particular day I went with my hiking superhero Wendy, who was my hiking host for the day.  She is amazing!  We left before sunrise and got on the trail just as the sun was coming up which made for a beautiful hike,

sunrise

The hike is steep at first as you climb up to Cupid.  At Cupid you can either go right to Grizzly Peak or left to Sniktau.

Heading up

You climb about 900 ft in the first mile.  It is a slow mile….

The view along this stretch as some clouds rolled in

The view along this stretch as some clouds rolled in

Looking back towards the parking lot and Loveland pass

Looking back towards the parking lot and Loveland pass

I understand if you are so inclined you can even get to Torrey’s from this route but that is a killer way to climb that particular 14er. The total elevation gain is something insane.  We went left.  It is a nice gentle climb to the first false summit of Sniktau.

between Cupid and Sniktau

From here you hit the false summit and then the summit climb, both of which are a little tricky but not terribly so, just follow them to the left.

summit climb

We saw 2 other hikers the whole morning on the trail, now the parking lot was full when we got down but it didn’t seem like they were hikers.  Really the view is pretty awesome just from the parking lot and a lot of people do just that.

This mountain is right on I 70 and you can see everything from it, the Eisenhower Tunnel, Grays & Torreys (twin 14ers that are very popular) and the continental divide is stretched out all around you.

A couple of things to know about Sniktau – It is insanely windy all the time no matter what weather is doing elsewhere.  Like all mountains, you want to start early to miss the daily noonish storm and this whole hike is above treeline.  The parking lot can get really busy and turn you off BUT most people didn’t climb very far up the path the day we were there.  I would say get there as early as you can. We did this last September but it is a year round hike/snowshoe apparently, but I would be nervous in winter.  I cannot wait to get back here, hopefully in the next few weeks!

After the directions will be some of my favorite pictures, I would note I didn’t do my usual descriptive set of pictures mostly because I wasn’t sure I would make my way back to blogging.  Hopefully there is still enough for you to get an idea if this is one you want to try.

Directions:  From I-70 take the Loveland Pass exit, passing the Loveland Ski Area on Highway 6 and go to the top of Loveland Pass. You can also take Highway 6 from Dillon through Keystone resort to the top of Loveland Pass.

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Baker Loveland Trail #60, Bakerville CO Hiked 6/7/14

13 Jun

good view

Starting Elevation: 9800

Highest Elevation 10,714 ( 900ft total elevation gain)Ft

Trail Length: 10 miles round trip

Trail uses:  Hiker, Biker, Snowshoeing, Crosscountry skiing

Degree of difficulty: Easy

Fees: None

Bathrooms: None

Pets: Yes

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My new Keens have not been kind, I am so sad because these bad boys have kept me hiking relatively pain-free for the past 2.5 years and this latest release of them have not been good.  Why do they have to change these things when they are perfect?  I could go from old pair to new pair with no problems the last 3 purchases.  After last weekends bizarrely blistered heels I decided to take it easy all week and only walked/exercised in shoes with no backs.  I know lots of people are not fans of Keens but they have been perfect for me until now. Because of the blister situation and the fact that Aaron was at sea level the just the week before this one, I picked an easy paved hike that took us above 10,000 ft but  for a 10 mile walk/hike.  It seemed like the perfect trade-off to me to help my feet. I really had targeted it for snowshoeing at some point but thought it might be a nice alternative for my current situation.

Looking up the paved road towards the trail head

Looking up the paved road towards the trail head

The trail is literally right off I70 at the Bakerville exit, to the right of the road that goes to the Grays and Torreys trailhead.   These are twin 14ers that I hope to climb this summer, they are incredibly popular but the road is 4 wheel drive so some people actually park where we did and hike up the road in addition to doing the hike up the mountains.  In the late summer it is so popular cars are parked all long the road down to this point, think super painful crowded. I was a little embarrassed to be doing this easy paved hike instead of something like Grays.

The start of the trail

The start of the trail

Baker Loveland Trail #60

Baker Loveland Trail #60

Our trail for the day goes along I70, but up in the pines to the Loveland ski resort parking lot so we only had views of I70 once or twice through the hike.  It was mostly the surrounding mountain tops and trees, which were lovely with the perfect blue sky.  It was even better knowing that everyone on the front range was getting clouds and rain all day!

The 1st of 2 budge crossings

The 1st of 2 budge crossings

One of 2 times we actually saw I70

One of 2 times we actually saw I70

The trail is very nicely maintained and seemed to be mostly used by bikers.  Outside of that, there was nothing special about it.  It filled a need and I think it would be better as a snowshoe or cross-country ski route, well and ideally biking but I don’t do that.

There were lots of snow melt stream and waterfalls along the path to drown out the traffic noise

There were lots of snow melt stream and waterfalls along the path to drown out the traffic noise

There was actually still a lot of snow along it and on it at times, which was surprising but kinda fun to watch the bikers try to deal with it.

Snow on the trail

Getting to Loveland ski resort was pretty anti-climatic as we came up at the end of the dirty parking lot right by a huge dumpster, close to the bend of I70 as cars are approaching the Eisenhower tunnel.

Turnaround point and Loveland Ski Resort

Turnaround point and Loveland Ski Resort

This was not a fun hike for me, not because the trail was paved or the views lacking, but because I was on the edge of an anxiety attack before I even got on the trail.  I have been trying to manage a difficult person/situation at work and that Friday night there was an email on my crackberry that just super stressed me out.  I am also so frustrated at my stupid feet and Keen for changing it up, after 2.5 years of constant hiking, I am suddenly at ground zero all over again. At just 3ish miles into the hike my feet were killing me and I literally melted down in a full-blown crying fit/tantrum.  I was so mad at my work situation and dreading Monday morning.  I was so mad at my feet and F#**ing Keen.  I was mad that the trail was paved(even though I knew that before going)….. there were lots of other irrelevant reasons I was mad…. fortunately only Aaron got to see me break down with snot all over my face, while I made pathetic sobs and snorts.  It was not a good moment.

The view a few minutes post melt down

The view a few minutes post melt down

I pretty much threw any sort of logic out the window at that point and just kept walking.  Not back to the car like I should have, but onward because I was going to finish this damn trail at any cost.  I am so stupid.

It took us 4 full hours to do a trail that should have only taken 2.5.  When I got back to the car my heels were REALLY bad.  I got home, I cleaned up and took the stupid shoes back to REI, where they told me they have been getting some rumblings about this release but nothing as bad as what I had done to myself.  The worst part, they have no suggestion on what to use other than Keen because their heel structure is exactly what I need  and there are no other women’s waterproof hiking shoes they know of that would be similar.

Totally cool stump that looks like an iron maiden

Totally cool stump that looks like an iron maiden

Unfortunately when Sunday came around, I could smell my blisters from like feet away.  Monday it was so bad I didn’t want to go into work where other people could smell me too.  Tuesday I made it to the Dr first thing, where they confirmed a decent infection had set in.   I love my Doctor, no lectures, no outward judgement on why I didn’t just turnaround, just straight up lets treat this and get you back hiking as soon as we can.  Outside the crazy amount of antibiotics I have to take for 10 days, she also said no cardio for a week or 2 and absolutely no hiking this weekend and possibly next.  I can’t really put on shoes if I wanted too anyway. Right now they itch so bad it is distracting, but no more smell or pain, so yay for antibiotics.

I am wondering if any of my female hiker buddies have chronic heels issues like I do can suggest a waterproof hiking shoe or boot that they love? I need a comfy heel box, Merrill is way too small for me and while I may give Salomon another shot, those have typically been bad all around for me.  I have never tried Lowe or Vasque….

The views were fantastic..my mind set not so much

The views were fantastic..my mind set not so much

Directions:  Take I70 West to the Bakerville exit #221, at the end of the exit ramp, turn left.  Immediately over the highway on the right will be a small parking lot and the trail head is just a little ways down the PAVED road on the right.  There is a large dirt area also used for parking on the side by an old fireplace as there are only 6 spots in the paved parking area.

Hiking repeaters over the weekend of 5/31 & 6/1/14

6 Jun

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My usual hiking buddy was not available for a Saturday hike so I leaned on one of my friends…. and frankly kind of tricked her.  At first I was all sweet, I will pick something easy but with good views…something close.  But Lisa has been working out like crazy so after a few probing questions I had originally picked Carpenters peak (Hike Details here) in Roxborough State Park.

And then the weather just kept getting better and better. I mean it was crazy beautiful and warm all week, the forecast for the mountains was just as good.  I started dreaming of beautiful vistas and a high hike without snow or the need of snowshoes  up high.

I have been craving a high hike for weeks and as the week went on I decided  to sweet talk(trick) Lisa into something a little more challenging. I was very strategic.

She innocently thought it sounded great, I am very good at playing it as easy….

I told her it would be fun to do St. Mary’s Glacier and if we got to the top of the glacier then we would go to the base of James Peak(hike details here).  It was a huge stretch and I felt super bad for making her try it but at the same time I needed to be there on Saturday even if we only made it to the lake and no further.  In fact that was all I hoped for, because the truth is you need to work up to 10K and above and Lisa hadn’t but I was in good shape from that standpoint.  St. Mary’s starts at 10,400 and getting to the flats meant we have to get to at least 11,700ft ,  I would not put Lisa in danger just to get my views.

Starting out on the trail no snow

Starting out on the trail no snow

Getting to the lake was no problem, there was no snow until there was a there was a ton of snow but it was early enough in the morning that we could walk on top of it without traction devices.  The lake was beautiful, partially frozen with the most amazing blue skies overhead and a crazy amount of snow ….. on the Glacier.

Us on the Lake

Us on the Lake

I seriously had resigned myself to going no further because the glacier can be daunting but Lisa was totally game.  When we started up I told her to be honest and take her time, our only schedule was to beat the storm that would eventually hit.

Check out how blue the sky is.

Check out how blue the sky is.

We started climbing up, the glacier was decidedly mushy but no postholing, I had traction devices for us both which helped prevent unnecessary sliding which I am sure would have killed Lisa’s resolve.  It took just a few minutes of climbing and she asked so is that the top? To which I replied, do you want me to be nice or honest?   She hesitantly said honest and I reminded her in the car when I told her the glacier was about a mile long so no that wasn’t the top.  Then I made her turn around and look at the view, it was the prefect motivation!

I am pretty sure my name is tied to a lot of swear words right about here.

I am pretty sure my name is tied to a lot of swear words right about here.

About halfway up I am pretty sure Lisa was ready to kill me but she kept moving up.  When we were with in view of the top I asked her if she wanted me to remain ambiguous or tell her the truth?  That brave girl picked truth again which was good because we were almost up.  We took our time and when we got to the top we were both so excited, I am so proud of Lisa she did amazing!

Success - We are at the top

Success – We are at the top

We were sweaty after all that climbing even though it was in the 40’s on the way up, but the wind at the top was cold and so jackets went on.  We walked around on the flats looking for a way without snow to James peak but there was just too much of it, where there wasn’t snow it was wet or a full on snow melt streams.

Top of the Glacier looking towards James Peak

Top of the Glacier looking towards James Peak

We climbed a little more and saw Grays and Torreys (14ers) in the distance while looking at James Peak ahead of us. There was also the amassing clouds making their way around James peak for the predicted afternoon thunderstorm so we took our few pictures and headed down.

Garys and Torreys (14ers)

Grays and Torreys (14ers)

Lisa loved the hike and the views were spectacular.  I have to agree with her, I had great company and the pleasure of showing someone such a beautiful place for her first time.

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In the end we did 5 miles total with 1300ft of elevation gain.

Sunday Aaron and I hiked Deer Creek Canyon( Hike details here) to get him acclimatized to the altitude after him being at sea level for a week.  The trail was crowded and it was crazy hot…. I did terrible like could barely breathe terrible. and my feet were again torn up.

views at Deer Creek on Sunday

views at Deer Creek on Sunday

I have taken it easy this week with my heels and refused to wear shoes that might aggravate them any further.  We are doing an easier hike tomorrow that won’t require much climbing since we have had a week light in exercise.  But we are still getting out and I am hopeful that this next week will be a better one all around.

I hope whatever you are doing this weekend, it includes hiking some where!

Mason Creek Trail – Staunton State Park, Conifer CO Hiked 2/1/14

6 Feb

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Mason Creek Trail

Lowest Elevation: 8200 ish feet

Highest Elevation: 9300 isn feet( Total Elevation gain 1100Ft)

Trail Length: we were shooting for 7-9 miles, what we got was 6 miles round trip.

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker, Horses and in winter snow shoe and cross country skiing

Degree of difficulty:  Moderate

Fees: $7 a day OR $70 for the state park annual pass.

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking lots

Pets:  Yes, Dogs on Leash only.

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My biggest challenge after going to sea level is always getting my altitude lungs back, this past weekend I only had this one chance to get back up to 9,000ft in prep for our snowshoe this upcoming weekend.  I had decided that Staunton State Park would be great to revisit as there were so many trails we didn’t yet explore and  the trails we had done were pretty tame with altitudes between 8000-9500FT.  What I hadn’t planned for was the 1-2 feet snow that started falling in the high country the 2 days before our hike and was set to continue through Saturday afternoon.

When we got to the trail head around 9AM,  there was just one other car and we had passed a group of snowshoers who had not yet started their journey.  As we bundled up, I will admit I was a little put off by how much snow I was seeing… I had somehow convinced my self that this area wasn’t hit as hard as other mountain areas.  The bonus to that snow, everything was stunning!  The sky was becoming more cobalt blue than cloudy, while it was still snowing with clouds moving and changing like crazy.

starting out

starting out

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We started out pretty optimistic that we would be able to hammer out 11 miles, but planning on only doing 7-9 and it seemed possible that first quarter-mile.  Then we had to start pealing off layers and at the same time the snow shoeing group passed us.  They all looked so happy and fun.  At this point the trail was somewhat broken in with traffic from either super early morning users or the day before, so there was only a couple of inches to really deal with.

As we moved on, I took a turn at being in front because I want to make sure that I take equal time in finding the path and getting us to our destination once we start backpacking.  It wasn’t long before we passed the snowshoers as they peeled off layers.  I didn’t think much of it at the time and just kept plowing through.

We really started to climb about half a mile after passing the group and then slowed down.  The snow was much deeper, no one had come this way in a while, likely since before the storm and  under the snow was not so fun ice.  It was hard work! The trail  moved along a nice ravine, the trees were heavy with all the snow but crazy beautiful…We pulled over to peel off another layer and the group of Snowshoers were there again.  I was thrilled no more breaking trail for us…but then they stopped….right next to where we kindly pulled off the trail…. and waited.   I admit at first I was wondering why they wouldn’t want to get ahead of us, but it turns out they didn’t want to break trail either.

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I will tell you that this felt like the longest 2.25 miles I had ever hiked and when at just over 2 hours we hit that trail marker for halfway on the Mason Creek Trail.  I started laughing, knowing we would be lucky to make the shorter loop I had planned, let alone do anything more than 7.5 miles. Oh and clearly at the halfway sign was where everyone had been turning around, there were NO trail prints after this sign.

getting close to the halfway mark of the Mason Creek Trail

getting close to the halfway mark of the Mason Creek Trail

The snow is just below my knees...although this looks odd

The snow is just below my knees…although this looks odd

We went just 3/4’s of a mile further and my legs were straight up jelly mush, we were taking pictures of a pretty aspen grove(aka – catching our breath) when I had a heart to heart with  myself.  If my legs were in this shape and we weren’t even half way through, how likely was I to hurt myself if I continued on.  It was then that I called the hike and we headed back.   I am glad I did, as on the way back down I did indeed fall but it wasn’t too bad.The best part of the day was insane beauty all round us!  We had moody skies with breathtaking blues, grays and whites.  The snow-covered surroundings made me feel like we were in a fairy tale of some sort, we even had some serious snow fall as we were hiking at one point.   And the treevalanches ( when the snow all falls off of a tree for no apparent reason) were fun to try to catch with the camera… until one caught me… all down my back …. with all my base layers showing since I was so hot from the climb and trail breaking.  Surprisingly Aaron caught it on film…

Before Treevalanche

Before Treevalanche

Getting hit by the treevalanche

Getting hit by the treevalanche

post treevalanche

post treevalanche

Near miss

Near miss

Turnaround point 2

Turnaround point

Turnaround point

After 4 hours of hiking just 6 miles we headed home a little defeated and a lot worked out, we wimped out our Sunday hike and just enjoyed the sore muscles from Saturday.   After the directions are some of our favorite pictures from the day.

Where ever you are, I hope you get out and hike soon!

Directions:   Take US Highway 285 south to Shaffers Crossing, about 6 miles west of Conifer. Turn north on Elk Creek Road and follow the signs 1.5 miles to the park entrance

On the way back

On the way back

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The state park did a great job plowing the parking lot!

The state park did a great job plowing the parking lot!

My hiking adventures on 1/18 & 1/19/14

28 Jan

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My one goal this past weekend was just to make it above 9000Ft on our hike.  I had wanted to hit a new trail and then we got on I70 going west on a Saturday morning.  It was a parking lot even before Evergreen which is pretty bad.  With the traffic nightmare ahead of us, I just pulled off at Evergreen and hit Bergen Peak( Hike details here).  It gets above 9500Ft and is an excellent workout.  Can I tell you how nice it was to have the knowledge to switch hikes at the drop of a hat!  It was a proud moment for me.

Traffic with a view

Traffic with a view

The trail wasn’t too bad at all, yes there was snow and ice but not near the levels it was last spring or even this past fall.  In fact, it had less snow than Evergreen Mt the weekend before, which is just down the road from it.  It did still slow us down, that and hiking with our new backpacks on with some added weight made the whole hike take about 5 hours.  It felt great!  I was exhausted from the added intensity that snow brings to a hike.   Plus the day was almost perfect with beautiful blue skies and almost no wind.

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Oh and everyone must have been skiing, because we practically had it to ourselves until the last mile down.  A great day of hiking for sure.

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We felt very good Sunday morning and so suited back up and hit an easy 5 miles at South Valley Ranch.  I felt so good, in fact, I added 5 lbs to my backpack for Sunday’s hike which effectively made it suck.  Who knew 5 lbs would kill me like that!?!?!  I was like the little kid being dragged along with my head and shoulders hanging down the whole way.  And while Aaron was sweet enough to offer to take my extra weight, I refused because how else am I going to get used to it if I just throw stuff in his pack when it starts to feel hard.  It made our quick 5 miles take a little longer then we hoped.

The day itself was AMAZING – 63 and sunny.  We were hiking in shorts and just our shirt.  Being on this trail on a nice day showed how insanely busy it gets.  We were hiking with 100 or more other people, while more were showing up all the time.

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Last Thursday I got to go to Seattle for a weekend of fun with my bestie Jason and his fiancé Molly, so no hike last weekend, but we plan to make up for it with 2 hikes again this weekend.  I need to get my altitude lungs back quick because on 2/8 is our all day guided snow shoe and I am crazy excited for it.

I am itching to get out and hike now, it is going to be a long week of work!

Get out there and hike if you can!

Belcher Hill Trail – White Ranch Park, Golden CO 2/23/13

23 Feb
Belcher Hill Trail - White ranch park

Belcher Hill Trail – White ranch park

Belcher Hill Trail

Lowest Elevation:  Approximately 6100 feet

Highest Elevation: 7800 + ( total Elevation gain of almost 2000 feet with a few declines and then having to climb back up)

Trail Length:  According to the Park Map it is 8.8 miles roundtrip but my fitbit said we got 10.5 miles and every account of hiking the trail said it was 9 miles round trip.

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker, Horses

Degree of Difficulty:  Moderate to difficult ( today we got an extra hard workout because of the snow) mostly due to length and incline

Bathrooms:  Yes, at the trailhead and then I assume there is one at the sawmill campsite and then at the west parking lot if you want to walk over there

Dogs:  Yes,  I think they are supposed to be on leash but none were so maybe not….

A good View

A good View

When I was thinking about today’s hike, I wanted to be realistic about how much snow we might encounter.  We actually got a little snow this week, not as much as we need but it is at least something and since we are so desperate for precipitation I will not complain at all about it.  Almost exactly a year ago I found this particular trail when my good friend Karin was telling me about how much she loved White Ranch Park and I looked up the open space to see what I could try there.  I was terrified by what I read about the Belcher Hill trail, the descriptions were all about how tough the incline was and how busy it was.  Lately I have been wondering how hard it really is and how much hype I have given it based on my physicality a year ago.  Since we got the snow I thought today was a good day to face my fears.

We LOVED it!  Yes, it is challenging in that it is pretty much a straight climb up over the length of 3-ish miles with a 1700 foot elevation gain.  But oh the views, they are just amazing!  I have been to this park a dozen times on the easier Rawhide trail and while there are some really spectacular views of Denver and the front range on that trail, it is nothing like what we saw today.  We could see Mt. Evans at one point and the sun perfectly highlighted all the beauty for us while we had some cloud cover overhead.

Parking lot

Parking lot

Open Space Signage

Open Space Signage

Ok let’s talk trail, we started from the East Parking lot for White Ranch Park  and it is surrounded by private land in fact we went through a few gates and crossed over someone’s driveway.  They had horses and the horses were given free reign, it was pretty cool.

Horses

Horses

The trail actually drops down and goes past some pretty amazing estates and so is surrounded by private property signs and barbed wire just to make sure you don’t go off trail.  It is pretty cool that these people let us go through or around their properties and enjoy the beauty they paid for… and paid a lot!

Trail conditions at the beginnig

It was pretty snowy when we started, but fortunately there had been enough people before us that we had a solid path to follow and with no ice.  We really came at the right time as only a few people had stamped down the snow.  We continued down until we crossed over a short bridge and then the climbing began and never seemed to stop.  At first the snow was a non-issue:

Steep incline

Steep incline

We climbed for almost 2 miles before we started to hit the other trail junctions.  I have read that a lot of people opt to take the Sawmill or Mustang loops instead of doing the straight in, straight out of Belcher Hill, on today’s adventure we kinda understood why as the snow was way deeper on Belcher Hill.  At the same time there is an attraction in getting a full loop that we miss in doing straight in straight out.  We wanted the toughest workout we could get so it was all Belcher Hill all the way and the trail was so easy to follow.  Here are the trails we passed on our journey:

Mustange 1Roundup trailbreakSawmill Trail Break

At the Sawhill Trailhead, the Belcher Hill Trail was almost lost in the snow and went down to a single track.  It was hard to see the trail in the picture but Aaron was nice enough to show us the way.  We weren’t sure how deep it got because no one had gone this way since at least the last snow.  We probably went in for a longer then we should have before we put on our gators to deal with all the snow but we were the one making all the tracks for those who followed, it was pretty awesome.

Trail COnditions at the top

It doesn’t look too bad here, but we were mostly walking through snow that was half way to our knees a lot of the time.  It was a great workout and even better, I still felt strong through the toughest parts.  It was a really great hiking day for me. From here we climbed a lot more, higher than we have ever been in White Ranch Park and the views were breathtaking.  When we got the second crossing with the Mustang trail we started to descend to the West parking lot and the final stretch of the trail.

Mustange 2 trail breaklast section of trail Trail marker from west entrance

Initially our intention was to do this final stretch( just .4 miles according to the map) but all the snow traversing above had made us  a little nervous about our stamina and how we would fare on our way back, so we turned around at the West parking lot and headed back to the east parking lot.  On the return trip we encountered the most traffic of the day, I guess everyone was thinking later is better, lucky for us!

This is a great trail and while not at all popular when there is snow on the ground, I personally think it was the best possible time to be out on it.  From what I read getting ready to hike this trail, it sounds pretty busy in the summer/fall and mostly with bikers.  But today was almost perfect and very low traffic.  I know we will do this one again and again there was just something about getting to the highest point and the views we had of the surrounding mountains, I could live up there!  It also occurred to me while we were climbing away, we have managed to hike at least 44 out of the past 52 weeks.  It felt so good!  The weekend doesn’t feel right anymore unless I am out on a trail getting my Colorado mountain views fill.

This trail may be for the more hardy but all in all, it is so worth doing!  After the directions I will post our favorite pictures.

Directions:

East Access: 5611 Glencoe Valley Road, Golden
Take State Highway 93 north from Golden 1.7 miles to West 56th Avenue. Turn left (west) on Pine Ridge Road and travel about 1 mile east to the parking lot.

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