Staunton SP

Staunton SP

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Kriley Pond, Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Kriley Pond
Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Date Hiked: September 27, 2014

Distance: .3 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: Negligible
Elevation: 8,300ft
Managing Agency: Colorado State Parks
Fee: Yes

Directions:  From Denver head west on I-70 and west on Hwy 58.  Turn right (north) onto Hey 93 and left (west) onto Golden Gate Canyon Road.  Follow this road all the way into the state park and bear left at the intersection near the entrance.  Kriley Pond will be on your right.

Kriley Pond is a small fishing pond along Golden Gate Canyon Road and Ralston Creek.  There is a very short, and very easy, trail that runs along the eastern and northern shores but does not go around the entirety of the pond.  The western shore is wetland and you would have to wade through it in order to go completely around, please don’t…  That being said the pond is pretty and if you or your little ones are looking to picnic and take a short walk, this hike may fit the bill.  There is also access to the Blue Grouse Trail from the pond so if the parking lot is full at the Blue Grouse Trailhead, park here.  Oh yeah, there are also restrooms here…

Golden Gate Canyon State Park - Fall Colors Drive

Golden Gate Canyon State Park - Fall Colors Drive

Date: September 27, 2014

With the family in tow, we took a drive through Golden Gate Canyon State Park this weekend.  The colors in the park are wonderful!  Peaking in some places, not quite peaking in others, and past their prime in a few spots.  All the classic fall hiking spots looked amazing as we drove through and I hope and can get back here to do a hike before the leaves all fall.  Some great hikes to do in the park in the fall include: Raccoon Trail to Panorama Point and Windy Peak (Burro & Mountain Lion Trails).

Even you're are hiking a drive through the park is a great way to take in the sights and smells of autumn.  Panorama Point is the busiest area by far and on Saturday afternoon, we took one look at the traffic jam and kept on driving.  There are some great picnic spots just past the turn onto Gap Road past Panorama Point with terrific views that are much less crowded.

Squaw Pass Road - Fall Colors, Arapaho National Forest

Squaw Pass Road - Fall Colors

Arapaho National Forest

Date: Sept. 26, 2014

With family in town, Friday was an excellent day to take a drive and see some of the fall colors up near Mt. Evans.  Squaw Pass Road is a wonderful option close to Denver with some truly spectacular aspen Groves.  Start in Evergreen and follow Squaw Pass Road west to Echo Lake, then down to Idaho Springs.  We decided to take a short detour down the road to the Hells Hole Trailhead to get more up close and personal with the aspens.  The three mile dirt road provides a great little side trip and is well worth the drive.

With my 10 month old son and 87 year old Grandma along for the ride, hiking was not an option, but there are some great hikes along this driving route, including:

While I have never hiked it in the fall, the Hells Hole Trail has a reputation for being an amazing fall colors hike, but any of the above hikes would be beautiful this time of year.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Niwot Ridge, Indian Peaks Wilderness

Niwot Ridge, Indian Peaks Wilderness
Roosevelt National Forest

Date Hiked: September 20, 2014

Distance: 11.5 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 2,500ft
Elevation Min/Max: 10,355 to 12,286ft
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Trailhead Lat/Long: 40 04' 36'' N; 105 34' 41''
Fee: $10 (Annual National Parks Pass accepted)

Brainard Lake Recreation Area Website (USFS)

Niwot Ridge Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions:  From Boulder, follow 119 through Boulder Canyon west to Nederland.  Go through the traffic circle and head north on 72.  Travel on the Peak-to-Peak Highway through the town of Ward and look for the sign to Brainard Lake.  Turn left (west) onto Brainard Lake Road and follow it to the Entrance Station. Drive to the Niwot Cutoff Trailhead and small parking area.  You can also park at the large parking lots east of Brainard Lake and walk .5 mi to the Niwot Cutoff Trailhead.

The Niwot Ridge Trail is simply spectacular.  The view from the top of Niwot Ridge has to be one of the best views of the Indian Peaks that you can get.  It's an interesting view because you are not looking down on the peaks (as if you climbed Mt. Audubon) you are almost eye level with the peaks.  This makes for a unique and inspiring view of the Continental Divide and the Sawtooth Ridge above Isabelle Glacier.

From the Niwot Cutoff Trailhead, proceed through the pine forest until you pop out into a meadow just before Long Lake and the Indian Peaks Wilderness boundary.  Hook up with the Jean Lunning Trail and take this for just a short while over some boardwalks.  To your left you'll see an unsigned but obvious single track trail heading south into the forest.  This is the Niwot Ridge Trail.

The first mile or so switchbacks up through pine, spruce, and finally barren old pine trees (Bristlecone?).  Once you gain the ridge, travel south over open tundra and scrub oak strands until you reach a small pass with Lefthand Reservoir off to your east.  From here head down the trail that leads you to a dirt service road.  This road is meant to service the various research stations located on Niwot Ridge which are part of a Biosphere Reserve, please respect the work they are doing and stay on the trail.  The road climbs steadily along the southern edge of Niwot Ridge where Kiowa Peak makes its 13,000+ ft presence known.  Continue up past various stations until you reach a level area with a large Kairn marking the end of the trail.  This point is about 5.4 miles in.  From here you can continue to explore the ridge off trail.

This spot is amazing and either way you look you'll be rewarded with tremendous views.  I recommend making a loop on the tundra starting at the cairn.  Head north to get a great view of Lake Isabelle, Isabelle Glacier, Shoshoni Peak, Apache Peak, and Navajo Peak all linked together by one hell of a sawtooth ridge.  From here circle around to the south where you will get a rare glimpse into the Green Lakes Basin, which is off limits as it constitutes Boulder County Watershed.  This basin consists of a stunning series of about 6 pristine alpine lakes...the Green Lakes.  Up-valley is a wonderful alpine cirque of Kiowa Peak, Arikaree Peak, and Navajo Peak.

The best thing about this hike is that it is relatively unknown.  While there will be throngs of people at Brainard Lake, Long Lake, and Blue Lake, there will be almost no-one on Niwot Ridge.