Staunton SP

Staunton SP

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Spruce Mountain Trail > Upper Loop, Spruce Mountain Open Space

Spruce Mountain Trail > Upper Loop
Spruce Mountain Open Space

Date Hiked: Dec. 17, 2011

  • Distance: 4.7 mi (RT)
  • Elevation Gain 500ft
  • Elevation Min/Max: 7,100 to 7,605ft
  • Managing Agency: Douglas County Open Space
  • Fee: None

Spruce Mountain Open Space Trail Map (Douglas Co.)

Direction: From Castle Rock, take I-25 south to the Larkspur Exit. Head south on Spruce Mountain Road for 6 miles to the trailhead on the right.

Spruce Mountain Open Space is a fantastic hike through spruce and evergreen trees to a rocky cliffside with wonderful views of the surrounding foothills, buttes, and Pike's Peak.  Situated east of the foothills in scenic Larkspur, Spruce Mountain provides great hiking for Denver, Castle Rock and CO Springs hikers.  Because of it's low elevation and eastern geography, Spruce Mountain offers winter hiking with less snow than most other evergreen forests.

From the east trailhead, off Spruce Mountain Road, head up to the 4 way trail intersection and the Eagle Pass Trailhead, turn left here and after .1 mi turn right for another .1 mile to Pine Junction.  At Pine Junction turn left and head up the trail to the first point of interest, the Greenland Overlook.  This overlook is the first view of the cliffs that you will follow for the first half of the hike, not to mention your first view of Pike's Peak in the distance.  Continue up the trail for another .5 miles to the Upper Loop Junction.  Follow the 2.6 mile loop in either direction to Windy Point but the best views are on the Upper Loop, which is to the left.  The Upper Loop Trail follows the ridge with numerous viewpoints and a picnic area.  The best views are from Windy Point which marks the furthest point west on the loop.  The Spruce Mountain Trail meanders through the forest.  I prefer to start on the Upper Loop as you can take your time admiring the views and then speed things up along the Spruce Mountain Trail as you head back to the parking area and trailhead.  


Monday, December 12, 2011

Hanging Lake, Glenwood Canyon Recreation Area

Hanging Lake
Glenwood Canyon Recreation Area, White River National Forest

Date Hiked: December 12, 2011

Distance: 3 mi RT

Elevation Gain: 1,096ft

Elevation Min/Max: 6,387 to 7,323ft

Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service

Hanging Lake Info & Map (USFS)

Directions:  From Glenwood Springs head east on I-70 into Glenwood Canyon to the Hanging Lake exit.  Park at the rest stop and walk 1/4 mile along the paved trail following the Colorado River to the Hanging Lake Trailhead.  If you are coming from the east, traveling west-bound on I-70, then you need to get off at the Grizzly Creek exit, get back on I-70 eastbound to the Hanging Lake exit.

Glenwood Canyon is simply amazing.  In my opinion this canyon is National Park worthy, if only the highway didn't run straight through it...   Even with the highway the canyon is a sight to behold but there are not many trails exploring the canyon, a bike trail runs the entire length, but not much for hiking.  There are a handful of trails that explore side canyons and they are all wonderful, the most famous of which is Hanging Lake.

The Hanging Lake trail explores Dead Horse Creek Canyon, a side canyon of Glenwood Canyon.  The hike climbs up the canyon crossing the creek several times.  After about 1 mile, you reach as far up the canyon as the trail takes you and you switchback up the side of the canyon.  After a short stretch you climb onto a shelf containing Bridal Veil Falls and Hanging Lake.  Hanging Lake is a wonder.  It is designated as a National Natural Landmark and is a beautiful sight to behold.  The Water falls into the lake forming a veil of dripping water and the lake itself is a bright shade of crystal clear green.  The lake is also very popular.  I did this hike early on a weekday morning in December and I had the whole canyon and lake to myself.

In the winter the hike is much tougher.  The trail gets very icy, microspikes or trekking poles are a necessity on the way down.  However, the lake is even more spectacular.  The dripping veil of water forms icicles, stalactites, stalagmites, and even complete columns of ice.  As a bonus, there is a waterfall just before the lake that makes for a nice side trip.  You can walk behind the falls and in the winter a mound of ice forms where the waterfall touches down.  

This is one of Colorado's most famous hikes and it is typically on the top of everyone's list of the the 10 best hikes in Colorado.  It is true, this hike is a necessity!