Mt Flora (13,146′), Front Range

Mt Flora (13,146′), Front Range

Mt Flora (13,146′), Front Range

Located within the James Peak Wilderness area, this hike offers a well established trail to the summit. The trailhead at Berthoud Pass also provides convenient access to the trailhead all year because the pass is plowed in winter.  As you ascend, you’ll traverse a section of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), which stretches from Mexico to Canada and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. The final push to the summit greets you with a 360-degree vista encompassing the Indian Peaks, Winter Park, and the Fraser Valley.

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Trail Directions

Beginning at the Berthoud Pass Parking Lot, the trail begins just beyond the gate to the forest road at the south end of the parking lot. The road is the trail for the first 3/4-mile, where a junction appears on the left at a sharp curve.

Taking this foot-path for another 3/4-mile brings the trail to the ridge overlooking Blue Lake, and looking back right (south), nearly eye-level with Colorado Mines Peak.

Continuing along for approximately 1.5 miles, the trail tops Mt. Flora peak, a small but broad mesa-like rock crop. From here, Ethel Lake and Mill Creek stand out below in the valley. The Continental Divide Trail veers to the right from the summit to descend to Breckenridge Peak.

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Star Dune (8,617′), Great Sand Dunes N.P.

Star Dune (8,617′), Great Sand Dunes N.P.

Star Dune (8,617′), Great Sand Dunes N.P.

The Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America, reaching heights of up to 750 feet at Star Dune. Some interesting facts about Star Dune:

1. The Star Dune is the tallest dune in the park, standing at a height of 755 feet. It is also one of the tallest sand dunes in the world.

2. The shape of the Star Dune is unique, with arms radiating out from the center like a star. This shape is caused by the wind patterns in the area, which come from different directions at different times.

3. The Star Dune is constantly changing shape due to the wind. It can move up to 50 feet per year, and its arms can grow or shrink depending on the wind direction.

4. The sand that makes up the Star Dune is made of quartz and feldspar, and was brought to the area by the Rio Grande River and its tributaries.

5. The Star Dune is not the only dune in the park with a unique shape. High Dune, for example, has a distinctive crescent shape, while the dunes in the northeast section of the park have a “starburst” pattern.

6. Climbing the Star Dune is a popular activity for visitors to the park. It can be a challenging climb, however, as the sand is constantly shifting and can make footing difficult. Visitors are encouraged to wear appropriate footwear and to bring plenty of water.

7. The Great Sand Dunes National Park is also home to a variety of plant and animal species, including several that are found nowhere else in the world. Some of these include the Great Sand Dunes tiger beetle, the Piñon mouse, and the sandhill crane.

8. The park is also an important archaeological site, with evidence of human habitation dating back over 11,000 years. The Ute and Apache people were among the first to live in the area.

Another interesting natural feature is Zapata Falls, located just outside the park.

 

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Trail Directions

Average round trip hiking time for High Dune is 6 hours over 7 miles (11.3 km). There is no trail. Popular hiking applications are often inaccurate. Plan to take as much as 9 hours to hike roundtrip as hiking on loose sand is difficult.

The dune now measures 741 feet (225 m) from base to summit. While it can be hiked from the summit of High Dune on First Ridge, it’s more direct, and less up and down, to access it via its base along the Medano Creek bed. From the Dunes Parking Lot, hike about 2 miles (3.2 km) south down the Medano Creek bed until the massive pyramid-shaped Star Dune comes into view. Follow a ridge to its summit.

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Mt Ida (12,880′), Front Range

Mt Ida (12,880′), Front Range

Mt Ida (12,880′), Front Range

The Mt Ida trail, at Milner Pass, is one of Rocky Mountain Park’s most scenic alpine treks. The trail has spectacular views that include tundra flats, panoramic views across the Never Summer Mountain Range, and 360 degree views of Rocky Mountain National Park from the summit.

Officially there is no trail to the summit, but well-established hiking paths make the trek straightforward. Be aware that many cairns and social trails begin to spindle off the main route near the summit, which can be confusing. However, since you’re above treeline, it shouldn’t be hard to piece together the final part of the route. 

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Trail Directions

Start from Poudre Lake Trailhead at Milner Pass (Continental Divide) and head northeast toward Poudre Lake. Hike past the southern shore of Poudre Lake and follow steep switchbacks through the forest. Keep to the right and follow the sign at the first junction. Ascend up a deep forest, heading to the western side of the ridge as you make your way to tree line.

Once above tree line, the views of The Never Summer mountains to the northwest are incredible. Continue over intermittently steep slopes and flat trail. Eventually boulder fields will begin to appear, so it may be tricky to find a steady trail to the top. Stay to the right on the way up to avoid the more difficult sections and the cliffs. The summit provides beautiful 360 degree views of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Mt Sniktau (13,234′), Front Range

Mt Sniktau (13,234′), Front Range

Mt Sniktau (13,234′), Front Range

Mount Sniktau sits just east of the Continental Divide on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The summit is located less than a mile south of Interstate 70, and east of the Eisenhower Tunnel. Despite being close to an Interstate and being one of the windiest places in Colorado, Mt Sniktau made the list because of the epic views from the summit.

From the ridge, you will see Loveland Pass below at 11,990 ft (3,655 m), Torreys Peak (14,267′), with Grays Peak (14,270′) popping up behind it to the southeast. There are too many more peaks to list that you can see from the summit, but some others include Mt. Evans 14,264′, Quandary Peak (14,265′), Mt. Parnassus (13er), Mt. Bard (13er), Longs Peak 14,255′, and Mt. of the Holy Cross (14,005). Also visible is the Tenmile/Mosquito Range and hundreds of other peaks. To the west are the ski runs of Loveland Ski Area, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, and Breckenridge across the Continental Divide. What a view!

The name “Sniktau” refers to the pen name of Edwin H. N. Patterson, journalist and editor of the Colorado Miner in the Clear Creek County area during the 1860s. Patterson was a close friend of the famous poet, Edgar Allan Poe.

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Trail Directions

From the parking lot, head east towards Mt Sniktau. You’ll first climb to the saddle at point 12,915, a mile ahead of you. After gaining the ridge, take a left (north) to continue up the southwest ridge. Head towards another bump which is a false summit at 13,152 feet.

Hike through a short rocky section to reach the final false summit. You can now see the remaining route to reach the true peak’s summit. Keep hiking and drop about 250 feet into the saddle before you ascend for another quarter mile to reach the summit.

 

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Blodgett Peak (9,429′), Front Range

Blodgett Peak (9,429′), Front Range

Blodgett Peak (9,429′), Front Range

Blodgett Peak is located in Blodgett Peak Open Space along the Rampart Range of the Rocky Mountains. The peak has a small summit that provides unobstructed views in all directions, rising from the eastern edge of the Rockies. The trailhead is situated close to the U.S. Air Force Academy, north of Colorado Springs.

While in the area, Mt Rosa, Almagre Mountain, and Mt Herman are also great hiking options.

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Trail Directions

The Blodgett Peak trailhead begins in the Blodgett Peak Open Space. Heading out from the parking lot the easiest path to navigate is the closed road, which leads to the water tower.

Take the social trail below the water tower to continue to the peak. The trail will wind into a canyon and begin gaining elevation more quickly. Loose scree and a steep route define this section of the trail.

The social trail leads through the Waldo Canyon wildfire scar, where there is less scree and better footing. Once on the ridge, head to the right (east) to reach the summit. There is a short boulder field scramble to the small summit.

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Humboldt Peak (14,068′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Humboldt Peak (14,068′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Humboldt Peak (14,068′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Humboldt Peak is part of the Crestones in the rugged Sangre de Cristo mountain range. The Crestones are a cluster of 14,000′ peaks comprising Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, Kit Carson Peak, Challenger Point, Humboldt Peak, and Columbia Point. Humboldt Peak is the least difficult hike (difficult Class 2). The rest of the Crestone Group is Class 3, 4, and 5 climbing.

As the trail winds up Humboldt Peak you pass the South Colony Lakes, the most popular back country camping site in the Sangre de Cristo Range.

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Trail Directions

The trail climbs the peak from the South Colony Lakes basin, accessed from the east side of the range. This basin is a popular site that is also the base for most climbs of Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle. You start the hike on a very rugged four-wheel drive road that was closed in 2009 as it follows the South Colony drainage.

Once near the lakes there will be Forest Service signs providing information on the area. Going NW (Humboldt Peak cutoff trail) at the junction, takes you to the Upper South Colony Lake.

The trail climbs steeply to the ridge from the upper lake. Once on the ridge stay to the center for the safest scramble to the summit. The northern side is treacherous with a steep drop for most of the remaining route.

Once on the false summit, head to the northeast to the true summit along large talus.

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Mt Audubon (13,223′), Front Range

Mt Audubon (13,223′), Front Range

Mt Audubon (13,223′), Front Range

Mt Audubon is the highest peak in the Indian Peaks Wilderness that has an established trail nearly to the summit. It is located in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, about an hour outside of Boulder.

The great 360 degree view from the summit looks out over the mountains of the Indian Peaks Wilderness to the west, Rocky Mountain National Park to the north, and the Front Range and plains to the east. Beautiful alpine lakes like Mitchell & Blue Lake and Lake Isabelle are scattered in the valleys.

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Trail Directions

The Beaver Creek Trail enters the Indian Peaks Wilderness and climbs through the trees for 1.7 miles. At the first junction head west (left) onto the Mount Audubon Trail as it heads west.

The Mount Audubon Trail continues climbing above timberline. The trail ends at the saddle where, there is a view down into the Coney Lake drainage. For the final half-mile, and 600 vertical feet, follow the rock cairns up the talus to the summit.

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Hallett Peak (12,713′), Front Range

Hallett Peak (12,713′), Front Range

Hallett Peak (12,713′), Front Range

Hallett Peak, viewed from east Rocky Mountain National Park, is distinctive with it’s slanted square structure towering over the landscape. As you near the summit however, the square melts away and you are left looking at a more traditional mountain silhouette. Rising along the Continental Divide, the peak divides Chaos Canyon to the south and Tyndall Gorge to the north.

The route to the summit first traverses the summit of Flattop Mountain on a well maintained trail. The Arapaho Indians called the Flattop Mountain corridor “The Big Trail”. The trail was formally constructed in 1925, was rehabilitated by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1940, and is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Trail Directions

From Bear Lake take the well maintained Flattop mountain trail to the summit of Flattop Mountain. No maintained trail reaches Hallett Peak, so cross the saddle above Tyndall Glacier and scramble up steep talus to the summit.

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Picket Wire Canyonlands Tracksite (4,403′), Eastern Plains

Picket Wire Canyonlands Tracksite (4,403′), Eastern Plains

Picket Wire Canyonlands Tracksite (4,403′), Eastern Plains

Picket Wire (Purgatoire) Canyonlands, in the Comanche National Grasslands, is home to the largest dinosaur track site in North America. 150 million years ago this area was part of a large shallow lake and was teaming with Brontosaurs and Allosaurs. As these massive beasts plodded along the muddy edge of this lake, they left their footprints in the mud, which were eventually buried and turned to stone. Today, over 1,300 of these footprints, extending a 1/4 mile, are exposed at the Picket Wire Canyonlands dinosaur track site.

Another interesting geological attraction on the Eastern Plains is Paint Mines Park, with it’s richly colored clay spires.

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Trail Directions

There are no navigation issues with the trail. The reason for the difficulty rating is the distance.

Starting at the Withers Canyon Trailhead, the trail descends 250 feet into the canyons. Along the way you will encounter many ruins including the Dolores Mission and Cemetery. Many rocks above the trail have centuries old petroglyphs left behind by nomadic tribes.

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Crater Lake (10,400′) and Mirror Lake (10,325′), Front Range

Crater Lake (10,400′) and Mirror Lake (10,325′), Front Range

Crater Lake (10,400′) and Mirror Lake (10,325′), Front Range

Mirror Lake and Crater lake are found deep in the heart of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Cascade Falls is a popular destination found along the trail. It is about 4.5 miles in and comprises of multiple waterfalls.

The destination, Crater Lake, sits in a large bowl under Mount Achonee (12,469′), Lone Eagle Peak (11,920′) and several unnamed 12,000′ peaks. Peck Glacier and several perennial snowfields can be seen clinging to the steep terrain west of Lone Eagle Peak. This trail is rated as moderate, but if done in a single day the mileage would make this a difficult hike.

The Indian Peaks Wilderness encompasses over 50 lakes 133 miles of trails, with many other beautiful destinations such as Mt Audubon and Mitchell Lake.