Staunton SP

Staunton SP

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mt. Flora 13,164ft, James Peak Wilderness

Mt. Flora 13,164 ft
Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, James Peak Wilderness, Arapaho National Forest

Date Hiked: July 30, 2011

Distance: 5 mi (RT)

Elevation Gain: 1,839 ft
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Fee: None

Sorry, I don't have a map for you, this hike was before my iphone/GPS days.  Plug Mt. Flora Colorado into Google Earth and you'll see the trail pretty clearly.  Of course you should also pick up a topo map of the area before setting off.

Directions:  This hike starts at the summit of Berthoud Pass.  From Denver, take I-70 W to 40 North towards Empire and Winter Park.  Follow 40 up to the summit of Berthoud Pass and park on the east side of the pass.  Look for the Continental Divide NST trail markers and the signs pointing to Mt. Flora.

This hike is simply beautiful.  The trail starts at Berthoud Pass over 11,000 ft and quickly gains the ridge of the Continental Divide.  You can follow this trail for as long as you want (eventually leading to Canada...)  Mt. Flora makes for a good moderate destination.  Start the hike switchbacking through the last remnants of high alpine forest up towards Colorado School of Mines Peak (the one with the weather station). Before you reach the summit, the trail will branch off to the north.  Follow this trail up to the top of the ridge and then steadily along for 2 miles until you reach the summit of Flora.  Easy to follow and the entire trail has amazing views.  From the summit, you can see virtually the entirety of the Front Range: the Indian Peaks and Rocky Mountain NP to the north; Winter Park and the Gore Range to the West; Mount Evans, Grays and Torrey's Peaks to the South; and the foothills and Great Plains to the East.  Simply beautiful.

This hike is a great way to access the high peaks as you drive for most of the elevation gain.  If you want a similar hike, but with much more elevation gain, check out Stanley Mountain.  That being said, you just can't go wrong hiking in this area.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Windsor Lake, Mount Massive Wilderness

Windsor Lake, Mount Massive Wilderness
San Isabel National Forest

Date Hiked: July 23, 2011

Distance: 5 mi (RT)

Elevation Gain: 1,000ft

Elevation Max: 10,800ft

Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service

Windsor Lake Trail Website (USFS)

Directions:  Windsor Lake is located just west of Turquoise Lake, which is west of Leadville in the Mount Massive Wilderness Area.  From Leadville, head W on Turquoise Lake Road (4) following the signs to Turquoise Lake.  Follow the road along the south shore of the lake until the fork in the road, bear left, staying on 4 which is now Hagerman Lake Road.  When the road makes a abrupt bend, you'll see a large dirt parking area and the Windsor Lake Trailhead.

The hike up to Windsor Lake is short at 1.6 miles each way, with added mileage if you traverse the shore and explore the bowl area.  The trail is steep in spots but overall not very complicated.  You'll ascend through evergreen forest, pop out at a meadow overlooking a smaller lake just before Windsor Lake, re-enter the trees, and finally emerge at Windsor Lake.  This is a popular lake for fishing or for an easy overnight backpacking trip.  While it can be a nice day hike, the easy access really beckons for an overnight visit.  Camp on the far shore of the lake and you can explore the alpine bowl that the lake sits in. The lake and the setting is absolutely stunning. There are endless possibilities for larger hikes from here, but the lake itself is a worthy destination and a great place to pitch a tent.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Homestead>Mesa>Towhee Loop, Boulder Mountain Park

Homestead>Mesa>Towhee Loop
City of Boulder OSMP

Date Hiked:  July 22, 2011

Distance: 2.5 mi (RT)
Elevation Start: 5,608ft
Managing Agency: City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks
Fee: Yes

Directions: From Denver or Boulder take Hwy 93 to Eldorado Springs Road and head west.  The South Mesa Trailhead is on the right just after the Doudy Draw Trailhead.

Homestead>Mesa>Towhee Trail Map (Boulder OSMP)

I hiked this loop as a plan B.  I had meant to hike S. Boulder Peak via Shadow Canyon, but unfortunately when I reached the Mesa Trail Junction I got an emergency work call and had to cut the hike short.  As I was running down the Towhee Trail I couldn’t help but note that this would be a wonderful loop hike in itself, if one has the time to enjoy it.

From the South Mesa Trailhead head northwest on the Homestead Trail steadily gaining elevation over rolling hills and across rocky terrain with isolated pockets of evergreen and scrub trees.  The trail gains enough elevation to get the heart beat running but is easy enough to make it enjoyable and relaxing.  When you reach the Mesa Trail turn right and follow this for just a short while.  Turn right again on the Towhee Trail and follow it as it gradually descends back to the South Mesa Trailhead. The Towhee trail has a wonderful mix of wildflowers, green grasses, and red rock poking through the topsoil.  Almost the entire loop offers great views of the surrounding foothills from Eldorado Mountain to the South, to S. Boulder and Bear Peaks straight West, and the Flatirons and Green Mountain to the North.