Tag Archives: Outdoors

Chicago Lakes Trail #52, Arapahoe National Forest – Idaho Springs CO 8/10/13

15 Aug
Upper Chicago Lake

Upper Chicago Lake

The Chicago Lakes Trail #52

Starting Elevation: 10,650 ( Lowest point of the hike 10,320)

Highest Elevation: 11,740 ( Lower lake at 11,420ft.  Total elevation gain approximately 2000ft)

Trail Length:  Officially I saw everything from 9-10 miles, my fitbit said we went 11 miles but we did walk around the upper lake a lot.

Trail Uses:  hiker in all places and then horses in some….NO BIKES

Degree of difficulty:  Moderate to difficult mostly due to length and one scramble to Upper Chicago Lake.

Bathrooms:  1 Creepy one at the Echo Lake Picnic parking lot ( For some reason Denver County Mountain Park use the S shaped ones with no doors…..)

Pets:  Yes for dogs, I am not sure if a leash was required but we saw dog owners with dogs on leash and off.

Fees:  None

Lower lake trail on right

I have been wanting to try this hike since April.  I had targeted as one of our conditioning hikes to get ready for our first 14er, but then we got those crazy snow storms throughout April and May which meant the trail was under many feet of snow when I originally wanted to attempt it.  When it was finally possible to hike it, it was mountain goat and sheep mating season and Park Rangers ask that you do not hike here in order to let the goats and sheep do their thing.   Which of course I respected since the poor animals deserve some peace while they mate.  We weren’t expecting to do these re-acclimating hikes, but since I was forced to get used to it all again I figured now was the perfect time to check them out.

I got to the trail head at 7AM and it was COLD, I guess fall is coming more quickly then I want.  I got bundled up and was even glad I had gloves on hand, as I think it was like 35 degrees at the start of our hike.

Starting from the parking lot

Starting from the parking lot

My suggestion is to park at the Echo Lake Picnic Area, as that is really close to the Chicago Lakes Trail which is the hardest part of the hike to actually find.  Since I followed the book suggestion and we got there insanely early, parking here was no problem( not a lot of parking spots here) but you can park all around the Lake and at the Echo Lake Lodge.  The trail head is a little off the Lake Path on the Southwest side of the Echo Lake.

Echo Lake

Echo Lake

The trail entrance on the southwest of the Lake

The trail entrance on the southwest of the Lake

Chicago Lakes Trail #52 Official start

Chicago Lakes Trail #52 Official start

Not long after you get on the official trail, you immediately descend about 3-400 feet and cross over the Chicago Creek.  Portions of this descent will challenge those who may  have “issues” with heights as the Switchback initially is very close to the a nice steep drop off.  It also gives great views of your final destination and Mt. Evans.  It was a beautiful view to have while heading down.

Trail conditions going down OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Crossing the Chicago Creek at the bottom of the initial descent.

Crossing the Chicago Creek at the bottom of the initial descent.

From this point forward the trail is very well-marked, you take an access road up for about a mile, past the Idaho Springs Reservoir.  I have to admit during my research for the hike, I was worried about this road section but actually it’s fine and looks more like a wide path then road.  They are doing some type of maintenance by the Reservoir but on a weekend there was nothing to see but the equipment.

Entering the Road portion

Entering the Road portion

You want to look for this sign on the way back so you don't miss the way back to your car

You want to look for this sign on the way back to your car it is across the road from the sign above

The road part of the trail

The road part of the trail

Cabins as you pass Idaho Springs Reservoir

Cabins as you pass Idaho Springs Reservoir

As we crossed over to the Mt. Evans Wilderness, the trail went back to single track and starts climbing more aggressively through an old burn scar from a fire in the 70’s. As it flattened out for a short stretch, the wild flowers were everywhere and the views of mountains on either side of us was pretty amazing.

Mt. Evans WildernessPermit Box for Mt. Evans wilderness

Trail goes back to single track and gets steeper.

Trail goes back to single track and gets steeper.

I am always surprised at how beautiful a burn scar is as it ages.  All the below are from that burn scar.

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Water Crossing in the Burn Scar

Water Crossing in the Burn Scar

Trail levels out before we descend to the lower Lake

Trail levels out before we descend to the lower Lake

As we came up to the lower Chicago lake, outside of the obvious beauty, we were enchanted by how dense the brush was on either side of the trail and how moist everything was.  We also started descending again and there was more and more mud with standing water on the trail.

Entering the Dense coverage

Entering the Dense coverage

This was also a little tricky through here as I knew we had to stay right on the trail to get to the upper Chicago Lake and since we were heading down through such dense coverage, I was certain we missed the turn off.  We came to this huge boulder and thought maybe this is where we go right but it wasn’t.

When you come to this huge boulder go left

When you come to this huge boulder go left

Coming out of the dense coverage

Coming out of the dense coverage

In fact, it isn’t really until we started climbing out of the dense tree/bush coverage,  that we came to the trail going off left to lower Chicago Lake and we stayed right to climb to upper Chicago Lake.

This last climb does require some scrambling but nothing too bad, we did put away our poles so that we could use our hands freely.

Trail conditions up the scramble Scramble

Upon cresting the final lip of the scramble, the upper Chicago lake was spread out below us.  It was spectacular!  It took us about 2.5 hours to get there and we ended up sitting around taking pictures while snacking for almost an hour.  Plus we were fascinated with the people climbing up to Summit Lake and possibly Mt. Evans (14er) as this is also the crazy long route ( 14-16 miles round trip) to summit Mt. Evans, on the south side of the lake.  It looked really steep and as the wind picked up we saw the little group slow down quite a bit.

Upper Chicago Lake

Upper Chicago Lake

This is the trail going up to Summit Lake I tried to zoom up as there as people ascending

This is the trail going up to Summit Lake I tried to zoom up as there as people ascending

This is an in and back hike, the first one where my books said it would take longer on the trip back then it does on the trip there.   There were a couple of reasons we took longer on our way back, that scramble to the upper lake is actually pretty steep and we took our time getting down it, then the last .8 miles is straight up 3-400 vertical feet up a single track trail that is heavily used. It did take us almost 3 hours to get back.

Also the trail started getting pretty busy on the way back with like 50 back packers coming in to camp by the lakes for the night, among a bunch of regular hikers.  It made us very jealous as camping up there must be so lovely!  It was even more busy between the Mt. Evans Wilderness boundary and the start of the hike with people picnicking by Echo Lake looking for some pre- Picnic exercise.  Overall it was a beautiful hike and again renewed my love of hiking and Colorado!  If you ever have the chance, please check this one out, it is worth the effort!  After the directions to the trail head will my favorite pictures

Directions: 

The Chicago Lakes Trail begins at Echo Lake (west side), 13.25 miles south of I-70 on HWY 103.

From I-70, exit #240 and head south on HWY 103 (toward Mt Evans) for 13 miles to Echo Lake. Turn right at the Echo Lake Picnic Area, down the first dirt road on your right and continue .25 miles to the parking area.

Flying Pig Cloud

Flying Pig Cloud

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Elk Range Trail, Centennial Cone Park- Golden CO Hiked 7/27/13

27 Jul
My Favorite view

My Favorite view

Elk Range Trail> Travois Trail>Juniper Trail>Mayhem Gulch Trail> Travois> Elk Range Trail

Starting Elevation: 7750 ft

Highest Elevation:  7900- ish ft ( Lots of ups and downs gave us a total of 1100 feet in elevation gain)

Trail Length:  The whole park can get you around 12-15 miles of hiking but we hit up 9 miles today with the initial intention of only getting in 7miles.  For the first time ever my fitbit matched the trail map information.

Trail Uses:  Hiker, Biker, Horses share on weekdays  – On the weekends it is hiker only on odd days & Biker only on Even days.

Degree of Difficulty:  Easy to Moderate, mostly because of potential trail length

Bathrooms:  Yes at all 3 parking lots

Pets:  Yes but dogs must be on leash and for the first time ever they all were on leash!

Fees:  None

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We are finally healed enough from our tattoos that we can get back to the exercise we love most, HIKING.   3 weeks of not hiking has taken its toll on both Aaron and I, I mean yeah I got out last weekend but it wasn’t a super challenging hike and I didn’t have my favorite hiking partner with me.   Surprisingly 3 weeks of inaction really effected our stamina and strength,  we both were a little nervous about what might be challenging so when I was looking for a trail this weekend I went with a low one and maybe a little easier than what we normally do.   I have wanted to check out the Centennial Cone Park for almost a year but at first it seemed too hard and then it seemed too easy so I kept passing it over.  It was perfect after a 3 week unexpected break.  We decided we would try out the newly reopened Elk Range Trail and go a little further depending on how we felt physically.

Start of the trail

Start of the trail

The trail itself starts out pretty easy and since we parked at the north parking lot we initially started out going slowly down on a road like path.  Look at the cool bench they have the beginning so you can just enjoy the rolling hills all around:

Cool Bench

The park itself consists of one big loop with 2 side loops near different entrances of the trail(s).  One trail is open most of the year except during December & January, the Travois Trail and it is almost 8 miles one way to the west parking lot.  The other is the Elk Range Trail that closes periodically, during May and June for Elk calving and again December & January for hunting those same elk…weird.  The other thing is that the park alternates on the weekends between biker only(even Days) and hiker only(Odd Days), which I have to say I really love.

The Gate and notices for when the trail is closed

The Gate and notices for when the trail is closed

The trail moves across a couple of hills and in just a 1.4 miles we were upon the private property cross over.  It is before the private property, that if you want to try to make your way to the summit of the Centennial Cone, do it here because the opposite side of it looks much harder to navigate.  It will have to be a path you, find as there is no trail up to the top.  We chose to just play it easy today and went onward to the West Parking lot.

Before coming to Private Property

Before coming to Private Property

Looking back at the way we came

Looking back at the way we came

We made really good time to the private property and actually to the west parking lot 3 miles into the hike, it took us just an hour.  Remember this is private property so stay on the trail, it is nice that they let everyone go through so lets all make sure they don’t stop that kindness.

Gates to cross over to private property

Gates to cross over to private property

View of the Cone after we crossed over the Private Property

View of the Cone after we crossed over the Private Property

We made such good time to the West Parking lot, we decided to go ahead and try to do the extra 2.5 miles by doing quick loop on this end of the park.  We were also feeling deceptively good.

The view as we got closer to the west parking lot

The view as we got closer to the west parking lot

We went down the Travois Trail to pick up the Juniper Trail to the Mayhem Trail and back around to the Travois returning to the Elk Range trail.  The Travois to Juniper to Mayhem was all single track through a little bit of tree coverage so our first, and only,  bit of relief from the sun today.

Take the Travois Trail down to Juniper

Take the Travois Trail down to Juniper

Go right on to the Juniper Trail

Go right on to the Juniper Trail

Trail conditions on this small loop

Trail conditions on this small loop

Coming up to the Mayhem Gulch Trail, offers another small option to lengthen you hike to hit the Mayhem Gulch parking lot.  At this point we started to realize we may have over committed ourselves and so we just took the left and headed back to the Travois trail.

Go left and up to get back

Go left and up to get back

last trail switch Fav 1

Strangely, the trail turned into quite the struggle for me at this point.  My feet apparently aren’t allowed to take any breaks, I am awash with blisters…again!  In the end this trail was perfect to help us gauge what we can do next week and how much our break hurt us.  It changed my plans for the next month which means longer until we climb our next 14er, we are both a little bummed but determined to get back up there as soon as we can.

A couple of things to note, this trail is almost entirely exposed so in the summer go early or late and slather on the sun block.   We were thrilled at how many flowers were out on the trail, this time last year it was so dry and hot, all the flowers had burned out this low.  We were again walking through a parade of flowers the whole time and they were everywhere!!!  I am not sure how long this will last so if you think you want to check out this trail go soon to enjoy all the flowers even the Rangers were surprised at the abundance of flowers.  Finally our choice of starting at the North parking lot meant that we went mostly downhill in the beginning and so the return trip was all up hill.

After the directions will some our favorite pictures from the hike.

Directions:

North Access: 4306 Camino Perdido, Golden External Link Icon. Horse trailer parking permitted.

West Access: 2234 Douglas Mountain Road, Golden External Link Icon. No horse trailers allowed.

Mayhem Gulch Trailhead, Clear Creek Canyon Road: From Golden, the trailhead is between mile marker 262.5 and 262, 9.5 miles from the intersection of US 6 and State Highway 93, on the north side of the road.

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Healing Hike – Deer Creek Canyon, my home away from home 7/20/13

23 Jul
Best view of the day

Best view of the day

I have learned so many big lessons these past 2 weeks, most I don’t ever want to talk about.  The big word I want to focus on is I LEARNED a lot last week…. outside of those things I never want to talk about here, I did learn that while Aaron and I can sit through 3-5 hours of tattooing that doesn’t mean we should.  Healing has been difficult to say the least, and I think this is the first time we have experienced the challenge of healing for a type 1 diabetic.

I had hoped I could start exercising sooner, but so slowly my leg felt better and I could finally start doing walks again last Wednesday almost 2 full weeks after getting my tattoo.  It was strange feeling stuck and not liking it.  I couldn’t sleep well, I stopped tracking calories and then I had a lot of “OTHER” issues to contemplate.  It was a super tough-struggle-to-deal-with-it week….in the end I decided I needed a week break from my new lifestyle.  I get that I shouldn’t ever do this nor should I ever find reasons to make a break OK but last week I needed it and I am washing away my guilt right or wrong.

As I started walking and stretching for the first time in almost 2 weeks it felt sooooo GOOD.  Aaron was not at the same healing place I was but I needed to move forward to get out of my head and house.  We talked about what I could do and decided that Deer Creek Canyon(Hike Details Here) was my best option for a quick centering hike to get me back on track but not too tough for my almost healed tattoo.

I was resigned to hiking alone which is not ideal, but I needed centering so I was ready to find my purpose stick in my head phones and sweat it out.

Strangely  coincidental, I have a good solid group of people I walk with at work every week day and each week I talk about what our hiking plans are then how the hike went.  My walking buddy and friend Lisa asked about my plans and when I said what I was doing she asked if she could join me.  It was perfect!  There is nothing like converting someone  to love hiking to help me get back on track.

Lisa was a super trooper, she is incredibly active but not hiking a couple of mountains active.  Nothing like jumping in and taking on 6+miles with 1300 feet of elevation for her first hike with me.  I was so impressed, she kept a great attitude kept moving and celebrated a little when we started heading down.

The hike and Lisa were exactly what I needed to get me focused on where I want to go.  She loved the hike and helped me remember all that I had accomplished over the past 17 months.  It was great and motivating and lifted me back up to where I needed to be.

This Monday I was back on the plan, exercising counting calories and picking our next hikes. We will be doing an easier hike this weekend because of our unplanned break and Aaron’s still healing tattoo but  its a new one that I have wanted to do for a while.  I will also be doing my monthly girls hike, which is another new one and I got Lisa to sign up for another hike with me…pretty excited about that!

 

James Peak Via St. Mary’s Glacier, Alice CO 6/29/13

7 Jul
James Peak

James Peak

The Glacier Hike> Jamaica Flats> James Peak:

Starting Elevation: 10,423 Ft

Highest Elevation: 13,294 Ft (2900 total elevation gain)

Trail Length: 8 miles ( It varies as you cross the Flats and start the summit) It took us 4 hours total.

Trail Uses: Hiker

Degree of Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult due to elevation

Bathroom: Port-o-potty at the parking lots

Fees:  $5 to park per day ( 2 lots near the trailhead – No parking allowed on the roads around it)

St. Marys Lake from the Glacier

St. Marys Lake from the Glacier

To start out our vacation week in the mountains, I wanted to do a trail on the way to our condo and this one was supposed to be beautiful.   It would take us over 13,000 ft, had decent mileage and was supposed to get us around 2900 feet in total elevation gain.   Plus we would get to climb on the Glacier, which was something I have always wanted to do.

Parking lot

We actually started from the parking lot down the road back to the trailhead, although if you have to park in the other lot you will have to walk up the road to the trail.

walking to the trailhead

walking to the trailhead

We tried for an early start but with the extra packing for our week in Breckenridge we didn’t get to the parking lot until almost 7:30am.  Normally that wouldn’t be all that big of a deal but there was supposed to be a storm rolling in sometime between 11-2 so it cut down on how long we could take to get to the summit.

Trailhead

Trailhead

The trail itself starts out as an old 4×4 Jeep Road with a ton of rocks and a nice incline up to St. Mary’s Lake and the glacier.  In just 3/4 of a mile we got to the lake and the Glacier,  it took just 30 minutes.

To the left is the lake and the trail to the right goes up the glacier to James peak.

To the left is the lake and the trail to the right goes up the glacier to James peak.

We did stop for a few minutes and took pictures of how beautiful everything looked.  At this point we were hoping that the rain would hit more around 2 then 11 and the sky was supporting our hopes.

St. Marys Lake and GlacierOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From here we went back to the trail split, crossed over the stream and headed up the north side of the Glacier.

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We kept moving up and made it to the glacier part of the climb pretty quickly, then we slowed down.  Hiking up the glacier took longer then I thought it would, we were on it as long as it took us to get to the lake itself I had no idea it was so big.

As we reached the top of the Glacier

As we reached the top of the Glacier

After the climb up the glacier we reached the Jamaica Flats with James Peak directly in front of us.

James Peak

James Peak

The trail takes the flats on the left over an old jeep road.

The traverse to the peak

The view while we were on Flats

The view while we were on Flats

view before the summit climb

We started our summit climb looking at all the clouds starting to show up around the peak and all the peaks around us.  We moved as fast as we could while approaching 13,000Ft in altitude and so you know fast wasn’t really all that fast.  When we passed a few hikers coming down they said the clouds were all around on the other side as well and looking ominous not to make too many stops if we wanted to reach the summit before the storm hit.  It started raining on and off, then as we were maybe a quarter of a mile away from the summit we saw lightning just over the edge of the top.  That was a hike killer for us.  We turned right around and headed down, here is the picture I took just before we turned around:

View when we turned around

James Peak will always be there so no reason to risk getting hit by lightning when we can hit it again later.  Of course as we started to head down the storm got worse and then surprisingly better.  When we got back on to the flats, it was beautifully blue over James Peak which made us regret turning around.

James Peak as we were heading down.

James Peak as we were heading down.

The best part of this hike was the actually the beauty of the storms hitting all around us.

Storm over Grays & Torreys

Storm over Grays & Torreys

Storm over Mt.Evans

Storm over Mt.Evans

Overall it wasn’t too super tough just high up, on the way up we were pretty much alone and then on the way down the trail was super busy.  At the Glacier, it was insanely packed with lots of people partying at the lake before the 4th of July holiday week.  We did love the hike, it was beautiful and challenging!  We can’t wait to get back there and actually make it to the summit, we will leave much earlier next time though!   A few of our favorite pictures after the directions.

Directions:  Take I70 west and exit at Fall River Road ( Exit #238), turn right on to Fall River Road take it up 10 miles past the town of Alice.  Look for the Glacier Hike sign on your left; 100 yards past the sign is a public parking lot.  $5 to park.

Us on the way down

Us on the way down

The Lakes on the way up James

The Lakes on the way up James

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Weigh in Day 6/21/13 -1lb, 55.2 lbs down- 34.8 left to go

21 Jun

I was pretty thrilled with my loss this week especially since I was so sore from Saturday’s hike that I was essentially a slug on Sunday.

This has been a transformative week for me as our hike this past weekend really made me break through a wall I have let creep up over time.  The “I can’t do that” wall.   I can’t really pinpoint how the foundation started, but then again I never notice it until it is a couple of stories higher either,  suddenly anything that looks too hard is automatically an I can’t response.   This weekend we did a summit climb that was a million I cants the entire way up and down but I did it all, feeling a million times better for it!

It has changed my whole attitude this week and while I would love to lose this weight faster, I am perfectly content that I am in fact still losing weight.  It took me years to do this to myself, it’s going to take some time to fix it.

We have a good hike planned for tomorrow, part of it is a repeater while adding on additional peaks, mileage and altitude gain to our original attempt.   I am both nervous and crazy excited, as I often am on the eve of our hike!

I am leaving you with a cute picture of 2 of our cats I caught snuggling earlier this week.

There is nothing to see here, please move a long.

There is nothing to see here, please move a long.

 

Twin Sisters Trail, Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park *Repeater* 6/8/13

11 Jun

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Last week when I was hiking with my girlfriends, we were admiring Twin Sisters (Hike details here) at all of our different amazing view spots.  I think it took me 3 looks to realize that there was not all that much snow showing at the summit and by the end of that hike I knew this was where we were going to hike next.  It was a good elevation gain, has amazing views and got us above 11,000 feet.

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When we arrived at the trail head at 7:30 AM, other hikers were pulling up at a steady pace and we could tell it was going to be a crowded day on the hike.  The summit isn’t all that huge either on the West sister and the East sister we never even attempted it last time, so we had no idea what that might look like.  We decided to go with a slow and steady pace on the way up mostly to adjust to altitude.

The weather was perfect, it was sunny but with clouds constantly moving across the sky making each glimpse of Longs peak different and more magnificent.  As we got closer to the tree line the wind started to really pick up, this is one of those peaks that is always windy and some of the hikers we passed as they were descending said it was hit or miss at the top on if the wind would be bad or not.  Most of the snow was gone but we hit a few patches mostly above the tree line.

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As we got to the saddle between the 2 sisters, the wind really picked up…like A LOT.  Last time we came here we didn’t even try the East sister, which is the true summit, this time Aaron really wanted to try it and so we went towards it.  Our timing was almost perfect as 6 people were coming down while we started going up this meant that we had it all to ourselves.  This East Summit requires some bouldering and the use of your hands as you find the best path up for you.  There is no defined path but most people end up going the same way up just by finding the easiest rocks to crawl over.

climbing east peakOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When we got to the top of the East Sister, the wind was really pushing us around strong and Aaron is uncomfortable with heights when there is no wind.  So while I could have walked around up there, I didn’t because I knew he would probably have a heart attack.  I took a couple of pictures and then followed him down, as we were climbing the clouds started to come around the mountainside and we were literally in the clouds.

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The view of the West Summit from the East Summit.

The view of the West Sister from the East Sister.

The view east from the summit of the East Sister

The view east from the summit of the East Sister

View of Longs Peak from the East Summit

View of Longs Peak from the East Sister

Aaron climbing down the East Summit.

Aaron climbing down the East Sister.

We got down from the East sister and almost ran over to the West Sister so that we could catch the clouds coming in from the East and around the mountain, it was so cool looking.

coulds east

The Summit was CROWDED and more people were coming up all the time.  Fortunately the wind was also driving a lot of people right back down, we got some great pictures as the clouds were zooming across the sky and mountains.

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We made great time down the mountain and just as we were about a mile from being done, I fell….hard.  I squeaked and got all twisted in my poles trying to protect my head, I even managed to break one of my trekking poles.  It turned out not to be a big deal since I couldn’t close my left hand around it anyway and I could only use one pole the rest of the way regardless.

I was doing an assessment of my injuries and figured the hand was the worst one, as soon as we got to the car I grabbed an ice pack and started icing it took some Advil and figured we could still do a second hike on Sunday.  The one I had picked was easy so why not…..turns out my hand wasn’t the problem but my whole right side of my body( on which I landed) ignited with pain at about 2AM.  Not one for suffering in silence, I woke up Aaron to tell him the hike was off, I am such a good wife…..

Sunday all I did was lay around feeling sorry for myself as the weather was perfect so views of our second hike would have been spectacular.  Outside of a few bruises ( including my pride),  I am feeling pretty good today but Sunday and Monday were good days of healing.  I should be back to hiking this weekend and we are planning on trying 2 hikes again.

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.

Directions:

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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Boulder

Boulder

Eldora Ski Resort

Eldora Ski Resort

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFlowersOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

kat n al