Tag Archives: Roosevelt National Forest

Lion Gulch -Homestead Meadows, Lyons, CO 2/17/13

20 Feb
best view from Meadow loop

best view from Meadow loop

Lion Gulch #949 >  Griffith Homestead #979-2> Homestead Meadow Loop #971 > forest Road 120

Lowest Elevation: 7300 Ft

Highest Elevation: 8700Ft ( according to the Nike GSP watch Aaron wears) We think we had a total gain of 2000 ft with the ups and downs.

Trail Length:  The route we took got us 10 miles give or take a little

Trail Uses:  Hiker, biker, Horses, cross country skier

Degree of difficulty:  Moderate due to length and conditions

Bathrooms:  Yes at the trailhead

Pets:  Yes on leash only, and all the dogs were actually on leash which was a first.  This leads me to believe that there is strict enforcement of the rule.

Return trips views

Return trips views

I picked today’s hike from the Falcon Guide – Best Hikes Near Denver & Boulder for the Homestead Meadows hike.   What is really interesting about this particular hike is that the Meadow Loop itself is an outdoor museum that reflects those brave people who took advantage of the homestead act in the 1860’s.  The original hike suggestion has the hiker starting from Hermit Park Open Space which is privately owned and so has a fee associated with going in that way.  It also is not that tough of an elevation gain at just +720 and we didn’t do a tough elevation gain hike last week either, so I started reading as much as I could on the area and my options.  At the end of the hike description are some options and we took one of those which had us starting at Lion Gulch, this gave us an extra 2.1 miles with elevation gain of almost 1400, not counting the numerous ups and downs so it was closer to 2000 feet in total elevation gain.  It was exactly what we needed.

Lion Gulch & Homestead Meadows Information board

Lion Gulch & Homestead Meadows Information board

Map of the Homesteads you can visit.

Map of the Homesteads you can visit.

Our first view of the hike from the parking lot

Our first view of the hike from the parking lot

What is really cool about going this way is that those original homesteaders would use this exact path to go to and from Lyons and/or Estes Park to sell their goods or work.  I know all the trails have great history, but this one really stuck with me for some reason maybe it was their sense of adventure and hope.  It climbs up and over the creek, crossing it about 10 times, maybe more and in some places there is an option between the horse path and hiker path.  I loved this climb, it was constantly changing between challenging and easy both because of the elevation we were gaining and the snow/ice on the trail.

Hiker/Horse trail indicator

Hiker/Horse trail indicator

Starting to get snowy

Starting to get snowy

mostly snow

mostly snow

As we were getting closer to the top of our major climb, we came across the trail’s ice skating rink portion.  It’s not really mentioned anywhere on any hike description and was a surprise to every hiker that had to try to pass, fortunately we had brought our crampons so getting through it wasn’t nearly as tricky for us as it was for everyone else not similarly equipped.  It was our first time using them and man did they rock, going up was easy going while down was just ok.  Fortunately there was a group of scouts who came prepared and I was able to grab their rope before I bit it.  We think it actually prevented a lot of hikers from making it to the meadows above.

Aaron on the ice skating rick

Aaron on the ice skating rink

My turn ice skating

My turn ice skating

This is also where the trail starts to leave the creek with the beautiful tree cover and opens up in the meadows of the Homestead Meadow trails.

Homestead Trails

Homestead Trails

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After walking up to the main trail break we went to our right, to go past the Griffith homestead and then onto the meadow loop.  I would like to say it was all pretty easy to follow by the trail markers alone but it wasn’t, in fact I referred to my hiking book a lot to make sure we were going the right way for the hike we wanted.   Also this loop is not popular in the winter/spring, we had to walk through a lot of snow on the path and ours were often the only and first foot prints.

Trail MarkerMeadow Loop marker

After we went past the Griffith Homestead we started hitting  that snow and then got to use our gators also for the first time too, it was pretty exciting!  It made us feel like we knew what we were doing, well really like Aaron knew what he was doing because I couldn’t get these or the crampons on without his help.   Plus we were the only ones there, we had the whole loop to ourselves and we loved it!

Stove with view

Stove with view

Griffith homestead

Gators

Gators

The loop took us past the Brown Homestead and we could have gone to see the Irvine Homestead which has the most intact buildings on it, but we decided it was getting late, we had already covered 5 miles and needed to make sure that we could handle the return trip.  It gave us a reason to come back again to check out more of the homesteads.  Getting back to Lion Gulch was easier, that trail was well marked…

Lion Gulch #949

Lion Gulch #949

While there are some beautiful views to been seen once you get to the Homestead Meadows, they aren’t totally spectacular.  Strangely though it is now one of or favorites, the whole trail is just beautiful in its composition.  The way it winds along the creek through beautiful lodge pines and Aspens while the tops of the surrounding mountains are constantly peaking through.  It was really motivating and peaceful.  Then the meadows are rich in their feeling of history and perseverance of those brave people.  I have read it is a high traffic trail in the summer and fall, but it was not that crowded this weekend which is probably not when it is at its best but I loved the solitude we got to have while explored.  It is a great trail and I hope I can take more people through there in the future.   I will put our favorite pictures after the directions to the trailhead.

Directions:

From Lyons, take 36 towards Estes Park.  The parking lot and trailhead  are 12.3 miles from where 7 & 36 split right at mile marker 8 on the left side of the road.

The end of the ice is so close....

The end of the ice is so close….

Cool looking tree

Cool looking tree

View back towards Lion Gulch after reaching the next section of trail

View back towards Lion Gulch after reaching the next section of trail

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Twin Sisters Trail, Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park 9/16/12

16 Sep

Twin Sisters Trail

Starting Elevation:  9200 ish Ft

Final Elevation:  11400 ish Ft ( total gain in Elevation of 2200Ft)

Trip Length:  7.2 miles is what I found officially everywhere…My fitbit tracked just over 9 miles but we wandered a lot for pictures.

Trail Uses:  Hiker only mostly, there is limited Horse access.

Degree of DIfficulty:  Moderate to Strenuous due to elevation gain, high altitude and the steady incline for the entire way up.

Bathrooms:  None on the trail or at trailhead .  Lilly Lake has one, although we didn’t find it but due to taking the scenic route to the trail ( we got lost) we didn’t look very hard.

Pets:  None allowed

Ok we picked this one solely on the fact that Fall/winter is coming and we have a short window left to keep trying these higher altitude hikes before the weather makes them too dangerous or beyond our skill level.  I found it in this book ; A Falcons guide  Best Hikes Near Denver & Boulder.   It said the hike was a good one for amazing views and it was so right!  The views at the top were indeed amazing in all directions!  So worth doing if you can!

We started at 8:30 and it took us a solid 5 hours round trip, about 2:48 going up and 2 -ish going down.

The trail is initially marked very well, but there are no other trails that will cross your path.  That means there is then no other signage but the path is obvious.

It is a nice sized path, big enough that you could easily pass other hikers if necessary.  It is a rocky path with a steady incline almost the whole length of the trail one way to the summit(s).

We pushed ourselves a little harder at the beginning in hopes of getting to the summit faster than the past 2 weeks of high altitude hikes.  But with a gain of 2200 feet over the course of 3.5 miles, the incline kept us pretty slow going.

It is mostly shady  throughout the lower part and you get peeks of Long’s peak and its brothers and sisters all around.  At around a mile in, there is a nice clearing and you get an unobstructed view of Longs peak in all its glory:

The next mile and half is a lot of the same, lodge pole pine and peeks of the mountains…lots of heavy breathing and the body check by those hikers passing by.  For the 3rd week in a row I was chubbiest hiker on the mountain, oh well I am doing it!  As we got closer to the top, there were more and more Aspens showing up and they were in full fall beauty all golds and stunning.

From this point, the trees started to thin and we moved from Rocky Mountain National Park to Roosevelt National Forest.  There is a small break from all the switchbacks here and a little leveling off, but it doesn’t last long.  All too soon you are back to  the “twisted” part of twin sisters and switch-backing it again. When you finally break through to the last bit of climb to the saddle, it is hard to keep your footing….not because of the path, but because the views are non stop amazing.  I know I would have moved faster if I had blinders on, but really this is why I am doing the hike  in the first place.  It was simply stunning the whole way up.

When we came on the final ascent, it looked like a scramble but it wasn’t that hard really. The path is easy to follow and not very difficult, we actually just held our poles up to save time.  I proud to say my extra conditioning this week helped with the pole thing, they were not nearly as difficult to deal with this morning as they were last Saturday!   Plus you fly through the final ascent, we saw groups ahead and behind the whole way and they speed in which we met each other was surprising.  Everyone was so happy too and I get it now, it is satisfaction of making it up to the top to really see it all.

At the saddle you have a couple of choices, you can do both peaks easily if you want. The East one on your left is the higher of the 2 by just a few feet.  The west one has a very easy path up and passed the Building/solar panels on your right.  Straight head is a 3rd peak, I have read a couple of things about this peak….it is unidentified mostly but one webpage said it was the actual peak named Twin Sisters and to get to it requires serious climbing gear and skills.  The east peak has no defined path and is only a few feet higher than the west peak… but will take some solid bouldering skills so we picked the west peak.

Around the building and up is a slight scramble, so easy compared to Upper Mohawk Lake.

At the top it really astounding and I feel like I say it all the time, but this is another reason I love Colorado.  All the trails we have done are stunning, I am starting to think this is heaven on earth!  I keep waiting for a bad one, but this wasn’t it.  The weather is really tricky here, we picked a perfect day today and had great weather, but it is always windy at the top of Twin Sisters.  With all high peaks, there is a threat of a storm moving in after noon so go early.  Check the weather and be prepared!  On this particular peak if a storm moves in lightning is your greatest threat so be smart.  The mountain will always be there, turnaround if the weather changes and don’t take chances.  

It is a straight in and out trail, we turned around and went back down after lots of pictures, I will put the directions after some amazing shots!

Directions: From Denver take 36 through Boulder and then on through Lyons.  In Lyons you will have highway 7 ( left lane) meet up with 36 (right lane), stay right on 36 to Estes Park for about 21 miles.  Take Colorado Highway 7 south from Estes Park about 6 miles to Lily Lake Visitors Center, on the east side of the highway. Follow a short gravel road to the left of the visitor center 1/4 mile to the trailhead. Parking is limited, additional parking is available at the visitor center.