Staunton SP

Staunton SP

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mt. Bierstadt 14,060ft, Mt. Evans Wilderness Area

Mt. Bierstadt 14,060ft - West Slope Route
Mount Evans Wilderness, Pike National Forest

Date Hiked: Sept. 2007

Distance: 7 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 2,850ft
Elevation Min/Max: 11,669 to 14,060ft
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service

Fee: None

U.S. Forest Service Mt. Bierstadt Trail Webpage West Slopes Route Page

Directions:  The trailhead is located on Guanella Pass.  From Denver, take I-70 W to Georgetown.  Once in Georgetown follow the signs to Guanella Pass, the road is paved all the way to the pass and the trailhead.

This was my first CO 14er and one of my first hikes in Colorado.  There is not much to say other than this hike rocks!  It is widely known as the easiest 14er which is still a very strenuous hike.  The rewards are worth every breathless step.  The view from the top is wonderful because you can see all the tourists on Mt. Evans and you get a great view of the sawtooth ridge and Abyss Lake.  This hike makes for a great introduction to hiking 14ers and one of the best bang-for-your-buck hikes in the Front Range.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Gem Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

Gem Lake
Rocky Mountain National Park

Date Hiked:  Sept. 8, 2007
  • Distance: 3.2 mi (RT)
  • Elevation Gain: 1,000 ft
  • Elevation Min/Max: 7,840 to 8,840ft
  • Managing Agency: National Park Service
  • Fee: None
Rocky Mountain National Park Trails Website & Map

Directions:  Gem Lake is most easily accessed via the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead.  From downtown Estes Park, head north on 34 past the Stanley Hotel and make a right on MacGregor Ave.  Make another right onto Devil's Gulch Rd and look for the signs for Lumpy Ridge Trailhead on the left.  There is no fee to hike into RMNP from here.

Lumpy Ridge is a geologic wonderland and an overlooked treasure in RMNP.  The area is just north of Estes Park and is made up of towering granite spires, domes, and other rock formations.  The famous "Twin Owls" are part of this formation.  Because of the low altitude of this area, the trails are hikeable almost year round.  The hike to Gem Lake is one of the more popular hikes in this area and rightly so as it takes you into the heart of Lumpy Ridge.

From the trailhead you start off gradually, through aspen forests, until you enter the park and start ascending more steeply.  The hike gains 1,000 ft of elevation in just 1.6 miles so it will get your heart pumping.  As you hike you'll weave in and out of the crazy rock formations, get great views of Longs Peak and the park as you look back down the ridge, and finally, arrive at scenic Gem Lake.  The lake is small but it is perched on a shelf surrounded by rock.  There are many places to explore and great spots to have some lunch or just relax.  The way back is even more fun as you can appreciate the rock formations without the burning in your lungs.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Rim Rock > Oak Flat>Uplands Loop, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Rim Rock > Oak Flat>Uplands Loop
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Date Hiked: August 30, 2007

Distance: 3 mi (RT)
Rim Rock - .5 mi (OW)
Oak Flat - 2 mi (RT)
Uplands - .5 mi (OW)

Managing Agency: National Park Service
Fee: Yes, $15

Black Canyon Trail Map (NPS)

Directions:  The South Rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located north of Hwy 50 in between Gunnison and Montrose.  From either direction, turn north on 347 at the sign for the park.

The Rim Rock trail follows the South Rim from the campground to the Visitor Center.  The trail is easy but has amazing views east over the canyon towards Curecanti National Recreation Area.  There is a trail head and parking area along the main road and this makes for a great place to start the loop.  Once you reach the Visitor Center keep your eyes out for the Oak Flat Trail.

The Oak Flat Trail is the main event and makes for a great 2 mi hike itself.  From the Visitor Center follow the signs pointing to Oak Flat Loop/River Access.  The trail descends down the canyon through oak and evergreen forest there are numerous viewpoints of the canyon through the trees.  When you reach the River Access sign...stop...  This is one of the backcountry routes down to the bottom of the canyon, it is very very very steep, make sure you do your homework before attempting these routes.

After you've completed the loop and are heading back towards the Visitor Center, you'll see signs for the Uplands Trail.  This trail will take you back to the flatlands, across the brush through gamble oaks and other vegetation and back to the parking area and your car.  There are not many views here, but the wide open spaces makes for a peaceful return trip.

This is the main trail system on the South Rim and aside from the Warner Nature Trail is the only hiking available.  For more hikes, try the North Rim, it's more remote and lacks the facilities but there are more opportunities for hiking and wilderness.