Tag Archives: Trailhead

Cow Creek Trails Via Gem Lake, Estes Park CO Hiked 11/16/13

28 Nov


Gem Lake Trail> Cow Creek TrailHead

Starting Elevation:  7882 Ft

Highest elevation: 8830 Ft

Trail Length:  Officially we did 9.2 miles around trip, my Fitbit said we did close to 11 miles ( it took us approximately 5.5 hours)

Trail Uses:  Hiker only

Degree of difficulty:  I consider Gem Lake Moderate, after the floods I think there are many more strenuous parts. If you are going to Cow Creek I think difficult would make sense with all the ups and downs and distance.

Bathrooms: Yes at the trailhead parking lot

Pets: No Dogs allowed as this is all Rocky Mountain National Park

VIews on the way to Cow Creek

VIews on the way to Cow Creek

It had been just over 2 months since those devastating floods hit so much of our front range and no where was harder hit then Lyons as well as the most of the ways in to Estes Park.   I have been reading about the recovery and the how desperate things are in those hard hit communities for small businesses.  The amazing part is how quickly CDOT has managed to repair so many major arteries helping to get tourism back as quickly as possible, but for some businesses it is already too late.  That is why on this particular weekend I searched long and hard for a hike near both Estes Park and Lyons so that we could spend some money in each town trying to help out where we could.  What I didn’t expect was how hard it would be to find a trail we could get too that hadn’t been obliterated in parts or in total. Finally at 10:30 the Friday night before I saw that the Gem Lake/Lumpy Ridge Trail system was intact and not just the trail but the roads to get there was all open too.

Map of trail system

Map of trail system

I had wanted the trail to be more challenging but I also knew that I had a girls hike on Sunday so it was worth it just to get up there and spend some money in those towns.

The weather forecast wasn’t that great either, we had a small window before a nice snow storm hit Estes Park and a huge wind warning went into effect.  We maybe had until 2 when we left our house.  When we got to the trailhead it was already snowing and the wind was whipping up pretty good at 8AM.  But it was also so beautiful being both sunny and snowing with almost no cars in the parking lot – we took off.

Wind and storm coming in early

Wind and storm coming in early

The trail has taken quite a bit of damage from the floods but was still hike-able, although RMNP had put up “hike at your own risk” signs at the beginning.  We flew up the Gem Lake trail, when we got to the lake itself the wind was so hard it pulling off drops of water off the lake, turning it to ice which was pelting us as we walked by.  It was so fun to watch, not so great to walk through.  We went right past the lake to the next section of trail starting our long journey down to Cow Creek , what we didn’t expect was how flipping cold that wind would make everything.  I had a first on this hike…. I actually took off my pants on the hike to put on long underwear, thank goodness we didn’t see any traffic ….because that would have been quite a show.  It was crazy insane cold  taking off my pants but I can tell you it saved me for the rest of the hike.

Trail signage just past Gem Lake

Trail signage just past Gem Lake

One more trail break before Cow Creek

One more trail break before Cow Creek

After putting on those extra layers on, we started moving at a good pace but steadily down with a few small ups.  Having never done this part of the trail before, I can’t say for sure but it seemed like there was some damage from the floods it was still easily hike-able with little worry about a lot of risk. We did 2.8 miles out to the Cow Creek trailhead and then headed back.  I imagine the views on the way to Cow Creek are usually pretty astounding, but they were mostly obscured by the storm moving towards us.   Even so it was amazing to behold.

trail sign to cow lake trail on the back end OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Climbing back up to Gem Lake was beautiful and getting back to the lake was interesting in that the wind was twice as bad as it was a few hours before.  Once we pushed back through the wind, we hung out in the shelter of trees and rocks for a few minutes just to marvel at ferocity if the wind.

Snow blowing at Gem Lake

Snow blowing at Gem Lake

On the way down from Gem Lake we saw a lot more traffic but nothing like there is on a good day.  Upon finishing the hike, we quickly drove over to Estes Park and hit a few stores to spend as much as we could afford.  Those owners were crazy appreciative.

Driving back, I was able to be the passenger and take in the damage from the floods.  It was heartbreaking, I don ‘t know how all those people are coping and moving forward.  There were pieces of route 36 on the other side of the St.Vrain Creek, so much debris or trees with guard rails wrapped around them….. it was weird and sad and hopeful.

I don’t know if you ever find yourself close to these communities, but if you do please spend some money and help out these small businesses.  They are hanging on by threads and struggling to make it through this mess.  I caught a few pictures of the damage and a few favorites…….


Me at Gem Lake on the way back… Man those winds are cold!


Meyer Ranch Park- Jefferson County Open Space 2nd Official Girls Hike , Conifer CO Hiked 7/28/13

1 Aug


Owls Perch > Lodgepole Loop > Sunny Aspen Trail > Old Ski Run Loop > Sunny Aspen Trail > Lodgepole Loop > Owls Perch

Starting Elevation: 7900 ft

Highest Elevation:  8770 ft ( total gain was around 900 feet in elevation gain)

Trail Length: 5 Miles

Trail Uses:  Hiker, Biker & Horses

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Bathrooms:  Yes a vault toilet about half a mile up Owls Perch trail from the parking lot

Pets:  Yes – On leash only

Fees:  None

park Map

I was lucky enough  to hike 2 times this past weekend and the second time was with my favorite Colorado girlfriends.  I am so honored that they trust me enough to take them hiking and I was super impressed that they were such troopers!  We met at 6:30AM on Sunday and it seemed like the minute we got in the car to go to the trailhead, it started raining.  Not too bad, but it still hadn’t stopped when we got to the park which is kinda of an odd occurrence in Colorado, usually it is a quick downpour and then done.

We started up the trail and actually liked the way the rain and clouds enhanced all the colors of this trail.  It was a very easy grade up and the trail was nice and wide most of the way.

Starting out

Starting out the Owls Perch Trail after the Bathroom

The signage is really great on this trail and since our goal was to go through the whole park it was easy to keep moving forward through each trail break.   I had read a lot about this trail before I picked it, what stood out most was that it is all in the pines and there is never really any great “View” to climb too, but I also knew that a couple of my companions were  a little nervous about how much they would be able to handle and some needed a little extra shade to hike comfortably.

Rainy Break

Karin, Lisa & Carrie getting hot in the rain…to peel off layers or not?

I think this is a great starter hike in terms of getting comfortable with a steady climb over very easy terrain.  It is one of those trails that even in the rain there wasn’t any mud, just wet sand with a few rocks and very easy to get through during yucky conditions, although I have read that because of all the shade it takes a while for the snow to melt.  Something to consider if you want to do this in late fall, winter or Early Spring.

Ldgepole to Sunny Aspen

We took Owl’s Perch to Lodgepole to Sunny Aspen – It is very easy to follow

I was surprised my wonderful friends were game to keep hiking in the rain, even as we all started getting pretty hot from exertion but had to stay covered because of the wetness.

Trail COndtions 2

trail conditions as we made our way to Old Ski Run Trail – Beautifully wide with a nice gentle incline

We got to the top Old Ski Hill loop pretty quickly and just as the rain started to let up, so we all stripped a layer because we were crazy hot in our rain gear.

Old ski run loop

Old Ski Run Trail and the halfway point of the hike.

There were a few switchbacks to climb with a very gentle grade and before we knew it we were at the highest part. It was at this point I realized I left all my good cameras at home so I did just a few quick pictures of the trail itself and my beautiful companions with my iPhone.

At the highest point

Carrie, Karin & Lisa at the top part of the loop and our highest point for the day.

Trail on the ki loop

The Old Ski Run Loop leveled off pretty quickly after just a few easy switchbacks

The view

Looking around at the top

Fog coming in

You can’t really tell but we could see all the clouds in between the mountains around us. I still like this picture despite its lack of “view”

We found a rock outcropping to climb to in hopes of seeing more of a view, but there just isn’t one on this trail and while we were checking out what we could see more people heading up joining us so we headed back down after spending just 10 minutes exploring.

Sunny Aspen Trail  to the Lodgepole loop

We went left at the trail break to experience the other side of the park on journey back to the car.

The journey down was much busier then the one up, in fact we had almost the whole hike up to ourselves.  Coming down we crossed paths with lots of other hikers enjoying the short break in the weather we would end up having on Sunday.  It always makes me happy I started early when the trail starts to get crowded.

Owls perch trail break

The last trail break to the Bathroom and then the parking lot

Although I didn’t know it when I picked this hike, it was absolutely the best hike for a rainy day like we had on Sunday.  Now is it the best hike to get your Colorado beauty on, I am not too sure about that.  I wanted to make sure my friends had fun while getting a nice workout in and again this trail is perfect for that.  I am pretty excited to say that all 3 ladies are already asking about our next girls hike so I think they liked it enough to get the hiking bug.

I would like to see this one again maybe in the fall to see how changing environment changes the views and maybe it would make me love it a little more.  It is a beautiful hike, don’t get me wrong I may be getting addicted to all those summit views I had the pleasure of enjoying, so I did leave the trail thinking I never need to do this one again but now a few days later I am not so sure.

The best part of the day was really Carrie, Karin & Lisa ( Poor Julie got sick just that morning and had to cancel at the last-minute).  There is something about having such good friends along and showing them what has been gobbling up all my weekends, then them totally getting it.

Directions:  Take US Highway 285 South from C-470 towards Aspen Park.  Exit the highway at mile marker 239, onto South Turkey Creek Road.  The overflow parking area is on the north side of highway 285; go underneath Highway 285 to access the main parking lot.

St. Vrain Mountain Trail, Allens Park CO 6/15/13 Part 1

19 Jun
Part of the view at the top

Part of the view at the top

Starting Elevation: 8940ft

Highest elevation: 12, 162 Ft ( With all the snow fields we ended up going for a total elevation gain of 3400Ft)

Trail Length: Officially it is 8.6 miles but going around some of the snow fields and our route up my fitbit said 13 miles. It took us 8 solid hours to complete.

Trail Uses: hikers/ joggers

Degree of Difficulty: Difficult/Strenuous.

Bathrooms: None

Pets: Dogs are allowed on leash only but note that this does cross over to Rocky Mountain National Park at some places and dogs are NOT allowed there.

View to the south at the top

View to the south at the top

We tried this hike about a month ago and the snow won out. Saturday it was much easier and while snow was still a factor, it didn’t stop us from making it to the summit of St. Vrain Mountain. I read about this hike in the Colorado mountain Club Guidebook for the Best Front Range Hikes and when it said 7 hours to do a max of 9.6 miles for both St. Vrain Mt AND Meadow Mountain I figured we should have no problem completing it in less time. Now that I have actually done it, I want to know how someone does this and Meadow mountain in just 7 hours.

It was a pretty amazing hike and I picked a crazy amount of pictures so I have decided to do this one in 2 parts, one on the way up and one for the way down as surprisingly they were 2 very different hikes.

Let’s talk the start and our way up, we got to the parking lot a little later than we planned around 7:45 and started hiking around 8AM. The road from Allens Park to the trailhead does require 4 wheel drive and while there is a parking lot, it is small no more than 8 or 10 vehicles, but you can park on the side of the road leading up to the trailhead. It was almost full when we got there and 2 cars pulled in while we got ready.


The trail itself starts off with a nice steady incline nothing too hard to warm you up. There are some rocks through out the path but initially it doesn’t start out too bad and the weather was perfect high 40’s and not a cloud in the sky. We started peeling off layers pretty quickly, I love that about Colorado 47 feels like 70 and then again so can 90.

Start of the trail

We made it to the Indian Peaks Wilderness sign in a third of the time it took us on our first attempt, which is just under a mile in to the trail.

Entering Indain wilderness

The trail started to get rockier here,while the creek started moving up along the south side of the trail. The nice thing was, no snow in sight and what we learned was that we totally went the wrong way last time. The trail stays pretty close to the creek as it starts to switchback up the mountain and the creek is RUSHING nice and loud from all the snow melt right now.

Lower part of the trail as we got closer to the stream

Outside of the actual summit climb, I would say this is the most steep section of the trail.

At about 2 miles in the views started to really open up all around and while we had some tree cover we were in the sun about half the time. It was really strong and so we slathered on the sunblock early. The snow melt was also interesting in that there were little paths of water working their ways towards the larger creek and often are part of the trail itself.

About 2 miles into the trail on a switchback as we caught a glimpse close to our goal.

About 2 miles into the trail on a switchback as we caught a glimpse close to our goal.

The view at the end of a switchback and the view southeast.

The view at the end of a switchback and the view southeast.

Trail is snowmelt runoff.

Trail is snowmelt runoff.

We did actually have to cross over the main creek but it was at a good spot and then the switchbacks got very long as we crossed over to other side of the valley here the trees started to spread out. We got to our first snow field at close to 3 miles in and it was interesting as we had to start in a runoff path and then climb up on to the field. From there we followed those who went before us to get back on the trail. It was surprisingly easy but a little nerve-racking as we knew it was deepish snow.

start of a melting snow fieldOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We were making decent time all this way, in fact we did this in less time then it took us to go a mile the first time. The snow fields would slow us down a bit and certainly take more energy but overall they weren’t as bad as what we had been dealing with.

As we started to get closer to the tree line, there were still lots of runoff and I have learned to look behind us often because it is always so beautiful, this time was no disappointment.


The back the way we came, East - Southeast

The back the way we came, East – Southeast

As we came up to the saddle between mountains, the most spectacular view starting coming into play

Coming to the pass

Coming to the pass

We also now figured out it was Meadow Mountain on our right. In the trail descriptions I could find it is often suggested to hit Meadow Mountain for an extra .6 miles round trip and an extra 400 foot elevation gain and then go onto to St. Vrain Mountain. I had decided that if we had time and stamina we would try this addition on the way back but our main goal was St. Vrain Mountain, mostly because I had read there is no defined path up Meadow Mountain that it would require a lot of bouldering. Somehow I missed that St. Vrain mountain was exactly the same only more than twice the height and distance to cover.

As we passed Meadow Mountain and got to the border of the Rocky Mountain National Park, it was hard not to constantly stare at the amazing beauty of the massive mountains to our right; Longs Peak, Mt. Meeker and Lady Washington as well as the beautiful flowers all along the path, small but plentiful!

Meadow Mountain Behind us.

Meadow Mountain Behind us.

Rocky Mountain National Park Border

Rocky Mountain National Park Border

Us at the border sign very excited about the hike so far.

Us at the border sign very excited about the hike so far.

View from higher up on the pass trail.

View from higher up on the pass trail.

The trail goes from Meadow Mountain over to St. Vrain and at a nice easy incline, when we got to the last the snow field before the final climb the amount of snow and water was amazing. It was not unlike a marsh, Aaron randomly put his pole in a little pool of water only to watch it go down a couple of feet. It was a bit of a shock and really struck home how much we have left to learn about hiking in Colorado.

We followed one pair of hikers through the last snowfield to the base of the summit climb. We saw one lone hiker making his own path down and a couple of snowboarders getting in a run down the large snowfield on the East face of St. Vrain Mountain, all going via different routes. As we approached the end of the snow field, no path was discernible and so Aaron kept the couple a bit head in view and tried to follow where it looked like they might have gone.

Approaching the Boulder field.  It is already pretty steep.

Approaching the Boulder field. It is already pretty steep.

Climbing over the steepest edge of the boulder field

Climbing over the steepest edge of the boulder field and false summit

THe view north as the boulder field ended and we were steps away from the summit,

The view north as the boulder field ended and we were steps away from the summit.

Wind Shelter

Wind Shelter

I can tell you I was pretty stressed the entire climb up and repeatedly thought about asking Aaron to turn around, not because the height bothered me but I was using so much strength to crawl over the boulders and for so long with it getting more steep. At some point I realized that I was trying to give up and convince myself I couldn’t do things like this because of my size, but the truth is I was doing just fine. Yes it was hard and yes I was pushing my limits but I was still ok. Interestingly Aaron was doing the same thing for different reasons but because I kept on following him without complaint he kept on going. When we reached the summit I was so crazy proud of us that I didn’t even care how windy it was getting. We shared the wind shelter at the top with another couple that was so incredibly nice. It took us 4 and half hours to get to the top and probably at least an hour of it for the summit climb alone. We ate some food, took a bunch of pictures and then headed back down. More to come on the way down, but first the directions and a few favorite pictures from the way up.


From Boulder, take Highway 36 north until it dead ends. Turn left at the light towards Lyons and continue through the town of Lyons until you reach another dead-end. Turn left onto Highway 7 which will take you through St. Vrain Canyon from Lyons to Allenspark. Upon entering Allenspark, take County Road 107 (ski road) south for about 1.5 miles. At this point, National Forest System Road #116 heads up the hill to your right for about .5 miles to the St. Vrain Mountain Trailhead there is a sign noting the trailhead that way. Parking is limited at the trailhead.

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Spruce Mountain Trail (open space), Larkspur Colorado 5/26/13

30 May
The view at the top of Spruce Mountain and the South end of the front range

The view at the top of Spruce Mountain and the South end of the front range

Spruce Mountain Trail> Spruce Mountain Loop> Access Road> Spruce Mountain Trailhead

Starting Elevation: 7127Ft.

Highest Elevation: 7568, for 550 feet elevation gain, but there is some up and down to if you do the loop I think you get closer to 650 ft

Trip Length: Officially 5.5 miles and that is about what my fitbit said too

Trail Uses: Multiuse; hiker, biker and horses

Pets: Dogs allowed on Leash and we did see a sheriff come by at least once to check.

Fees: None

Degree of Difficulty:  Easy to slightly moderate

Bathrooms:  One well used port-o-potty, keep your own Tp handy it was already out at 11:30AM on a Sunday.

View of the North part of the Front Range from the top

View of the North part of the Front Range from the top

The best part of a long weekend is being able to get in 2 hikes.  We were introduced to this hike by my good friend Karin and her husband Doug a few years ago, we went in early spring which was good because there was no one there but not so good in that it was insanely windy and so we avoided the top loop.  What a shame that we did because it was spectacular in its almost complete view of the front range and amazing on Sunday.

Let’s talk trail, it is pretty easy to find this trail head and the parking lot has a big beautiful  entry sign into the parking lot which is decent size but busy!

Parking Lot

Parking Lot

Trail map at the start

Trail map at the start

Trail sign 1

The trail signage is really good here, we did the Spruce Mountain trail which is the route to the left and up from this first marker.   It is s nice short climb to the first trial break and there are a bunch scenic views with benches to enjoy them on.  It is also a nice place to catch your breath.

to the mountain top

to the mountain top

The walk up was mostly covered in pine and spruce with this nice sandy trail consistency with solidness beneath it.  It smelled great and was lovely just in general.

Trail Conditions on the way up.

Trail Conditions on the way up.

When we got to the top  there is was the trail continuing to the right and this huge viewing area to the left and it looked like it made a loop in and out of rocks and trees with benches and lots of opportunities to enjoy the views of the South Front range with some sense of privacy.  This place must get pretty busy and there was a nice crowd here on Sunday but not too bad.

view in this outcropping

view in this outcropping. Thats Pikes Peak with snow.

Cool Tree

Cool Tree

Somehow we got back on the trail with missing how we did it so I will make the guess it is pretty easy to do. We came around to another view-point on the opposite side of the Mountain top so our views were all of the north Front Range and then we got to the next trail break which gave the option of the Mountain top loop or the service road.  We opted for the Loop on such a beautiful day with enough wind to keep us comfortable.  Here are a series of pictures showing the transition to the loop.

after the Northern viewpoint

after the Northern viewpoint

Mt top loop 2mountain top loop

After we went around this corner it was like a museum walking past view points with one spectacular view after the next.  It was also being enjoyed by lots of people so we kept going.

Pikes Peak

We got this view of directly west from lower down but it was essentially the same:

along the plains

At the end of the loop we took the service road down, which is not a popular choice so we had it almost to ourselves.  The service road is ROUGH and steep with huge crevices and I am not really sure how they get any vehicle up there but I know they do…

IMG_2105service roadIMG_2107

From the bottom of the service road we went right and through a gate and then it was exposed and relatively flat the rest of the way back to the parking lot.  It was a warm day and we were slathered in sun block, which was almost not enough.  Bring lots of water  and wear sunscreen, it took us about 2 hours to complete the whole trail and we were moving at a nice clip.  We did stop and take a lot of pictures in that 2 hours too so it is a great relaxing hike, lots of families and lots of all ages, tons of flowers.  I haven’t stopped talking about this hike all week and I know my friends are like enough already, but if you find yourself near Larkspur CO hit this trail!  After the directions will be some of our favorite pictures.


13415 Spruce Mountain Road, Larkspur, CO
From I-25, take the Greenland Exit (167) to the west and travel ¼ mile west on Greenland Road and ½ mile south. Bypass the Greenland Trailhead and continue right on the main gravel road (Noe Road) over two sets of railroad tracks.  (If you have a horse trailer or very large vehicle, park at the Spruce meadows parking lot on your left and take the 2-mile trail to Spruce Mountain.)  Cars can continue another mile west to Spruce Mountain Road. Take a left and head south for about one mile to the parking area on your right. Remember, cars and light trucks only may park here.

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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


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



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.


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


Hike aborted

16 Feb

Well we made it to the trailhead and about a mile up the trail this morning.  It wasn’t too high or even that hard, but something was off with Aaron’s diabetes and we tried to figure it out but he was feeling too bad so we turned around before it got worse or too dangerous for him.  We are going to try again tomorrow morning because it looked like a really beautiful hike and I need to see how it ends!

That said, I probably won’t get to post on it until Monday or Tuesday, sorry for the delay but from what I saw today this hike is pretty awesome!


Ben Tyler Trail #606 – Pike National Forest 12/1/12

2 Dec

Our Goal- I think

Ben Tyler Trail #606

Starting Elevation: Approximately 8300Ft

Highest Elevation:  Approximately 11,700Ft ( total gain would have been 3400ft) ….Unfortunately we only made it to just shy of 11,oooFt, we think

Trail Length: 11.5 miles officially but since I left my fitbit at home I have no idea what it would have tracked.  In the end we only made it 9-10 miles due to altitude sickness.

Trail Uses:  Hiking & Horses….No Bikes

Degree of Difficulty:  Difficult – a long in and out with a big altitude gain

Bathrooms: None  and I mean none anywhere close so glad I got over issue with being one with mother nature a few months ago because it would have been awful!!!!!  There is a nice gas station in Bailey as you leave town a Loaf and Jug on the right of 285, use it on the way in and way out if that is something you need.  Otherwise be prepared with ziplock baggies, TP, hand sanitizer and all their glory…..

Fees: None but you do have to register for a free permit at the trailhead. Which would be easy if there were any blank permits…I kinda got the feeling the National Forest Ranger hadn’t been there since September the box was full with filled out permits.  I picked a permit from August and then put my information in with today’s date, mostly because of the time of year we were hiking but I did also have my hiking Emergency Contact fully aware of all of our details.

To be honest we had fallen out of preparedness to do hikes this high but I guess I didn’t really think this through.  My only thoughts were, I need to get re-energized on my life change and I saw pictures of the hike from last weekend with little to no snow showing.  This is pretty unusual this high up and at this time of year so I figured a few amazing views of spectacular mountains would remind me that in order to keep seeing these things I need to be at a healthier weight and stronger.   So I pretty willfully planned doing this hike today.

TrailheadPermit boxTrail sign

We got to the trailhead at 7:30AM, mostly because I was worried at how long it would take us to complete 12-ish miles with a 3400 FT elevation gain, from what I had read it could take between 5-10 hours.  It is inclines fast on these initial switchbacks and then flattens out until the creek.

beginning trailLost Creek Wilderness Pike National Forest

About a 1.5 miles in the trail has an option to go either over the creek or stay straight.  Stay straight, in a half a mile the trail will cross the creek at this second point.  This is the route you want to be on.

1st river crossingStay Straight at first creek crossing2nd creek crossing

The next 2 miles go through the most amazing Aspen grove I have ever seen, it is over 3000 acres large and here the grade got pretty steep as we climbed to our goal.

Aspen GroveAspen Grove to the other mountain

As we climbed out of the Aspen grove, the views started to really open up, unfortunately so did the dizziness….

View ove 10k close to the treeline

While we climbed through the first 2 miles we were right on track at 2 miles an hour, when we go to this point I saw it had taken another 2 hours to go just 2-3 miles…… I am guessing here, but I think we were really close to the next trail break which is at 11,000Ft and almost 5 miles.  I kept stopping Aaron and making him wait while I dealt with my dizziness really slowing us down.  Then he checked his blood sugar (He is a type 1 diabetic) unfortunately he was REALLY high, but the real problem was that he thought he was really low because he was having vertigo with visual issues.  Needless to say, we made the decision to turnaround at that point, as a result no fun pictures other than those I took of trail specs with my iPhone.  We immediately went down as quickly as we could and then drank as much water as was possible.  It was a first for us and as we slowly went down battling our nausea and dizziness, I realized everything I had done wrong.

When we were doing trails this high a few months ago, I very carefully planned each hike to climb one week a little higher and then the next week going just below that, building until we  ended  with our first 13,000+ foot peak, Mt. Flora.  But up to this hike, the past 5-8 hikes had all been around or below 8300Ft.  It was the first failure in a really long time, 6 months in fact, and it hurt both literally and figuratively…..

Honestly this trail was amazing and this is way off-season.  There was only one other couple we saw in 6 hours of hiking, but again this is off-season for hiking it the best time to hike it is late spring/summer and fall.  Really I bet in Fall this is the gem you can’t miss doing with that 3000 acre Aspen grove…. we are so doing this again and I hope soon.

Directions:  From Denver, drive South on U.S. 285 and when you get to Bailey, the trailhead is just under 7 miles further on the left (South) side of U.S. 285.  The parking lot is small and maybe looks more like a shoulder , it can’t hold more than 10 cars so get there early – well only during the busier times now come when you want!

Cool TreeKS n AL

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.