Lost Lake (9,850′), Front Range

Lost Lake (9,850′), Front Range

Lost Lake (9,850′), Front Range

Lost Lake is an alpine lake surrounded by the majestic mountains of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. It’s a perfect destination for a day trip. The lake’s crystal-clear waters are a popular spot for fly fishing. Keep an eye out for a glimpse of moose, which are commonly seen along the trail

Lost Lake is located just outside of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, therefore, wilderness regulations do not apply. You may camp without a permit in one of the established camping spots. You may also bring your dog, a leash is required. 

Lost Lake snapshot

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Trail Directions

From the Hessie Trailhead, cross the footbridge and take the Devil’s Thumb Trail (#902), which climbs steeply for about a 1/2 mile on an old road. Do not take the Devil’s thumb Bypass, which turns right (north) in 0.9 miles, just before the bridge. Instead, cross the bridge and stay on the main Devil’s Thumb Trail.

It is 1.1 miles from the trailhead to the Lost Lake Trail junction. Turn left (south) following signs for Lost Lake Trail #813. The lake is up another 1/2 mile on a good trail.

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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.

Mt Flora Map

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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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Arapaho Pass (11,950′), Front Range

Arapaho Pass (11,950′), Front Range

Arapaho Pass (11,950′), Front Range

From the east, access to Arapaho Pass can be found along a rough 2WD road that provides access to the Fouth of July Trailhead. The trail begins in dense forest with wonderful fields of wildflowers blooming in the summer months. For part of the hike to the top of the pass, the trail follows an old stage-coach road. It also passes the remains of the Fourth of July Mine near treeline. Miners dug silver ore from the Fourth of July Mine in the late 1800s. In the early 1900s they switched over to searching for copper. Over the 300-foot mine shaft once stood a timber head frame, where miners and equipment were lowered into the main tunnel, which was over a mile long. At the top, Arapaho Pass sits on the famous Continental Divide that runs through the Colorado mountains.

Map of Arapaho Pass

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Trail Directions

From the Fourth of July Trailhead, the Arapaho Pass Trail climbs the northern slope of the North Fork, Middle Boulder Creek drainage into the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The Diamond Lake Trail intersects after 1.2 miles.

At 1.8 miles, Arapaho Pass Trail reaches the Fourth of July Mine and the Arapaho Glacier Trail intersects. The Arapaho Pass Trail continues west on an old road 1.2 miles farther to Arapaho Pass.

The Arapaho Pass Trail continues north (right) from Arapaho Pass and drops 750 feet down a series of switchbacks to Caribou Lake. From here, Arapaho Pass Trail continues nine miles to Monarch Lake.

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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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Black Canyon of the Gunnison N.P. (8,500′)

Black Canyon of the Gunnison N.P. (8,500′)

Black Canyon of the Gunnison N.P. (8,500′)

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison park contains 12 miles (19 km) of the 48-mile (77 km) long Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. The national park contains the deepest and most dramatic section of the canyon. The canyon’s name comes from the long shadows, where portions of the gorge only receive 1/2 hr of sunlight a day.

The park has a north and south rim, with the south rim being the most popular. The South Rim Road runs along the edge of the the canyon, being a little over 8 miles long with 12 viewpoints. The viewpoints showcase some of the world’s oldest exposed rock, Precambrian or “basement” rock that is nearly 2 billion years old.

Intresting stats:
Painted Wall – 2,250′ – tallest cliff in Colorado
The Narrows – 40′ wide
Chasm View – narrowest point on the rim – 1,100′ wide
Warner Point – deepest point – 2,722′

Dogs are allowed in the park at all the overlooks. However, the canyon below the rim is designated a wilderness area, where dogs are not allowed. 

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Trail Directions

There are two primary entrances to the park: the south rim entrance is located 15 miles (24 km) east of Montrose, while the north rim entrance is 11 miles (18 km) south of Crawford and is closed in the winter. The park contains 12 miles (19 km) of the 48-mile (77 km) long Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. The national park itself contains the deepest and most dramatic section of the canyon, but the canyon continues upstream into Curecanti National Recreation Area and downstream into Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area.

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Argentine Pass (13,207′), Front Range

Argentine Pass (13,207′), Front Range

Argentine Pass (13,207′), Front Range

Argentine Pass is the highest named vehicle-accessible pass in Colorado. Vehicle travel is only possible on the Georgetown side of the pass (during the summer months) by a four-wheel drive vehicle with high-clearance. The trail on the Horseshoe Basin side is only accessible by foot or by mountain bike. The pass is also the highest point on the American Discovery Trail, perched on the Continental Divide.

The pass has many great hiking destinations, and provides a ridgeline walk to Gray’s Peak (14,270′), a great alternative to busy Stevens Gulch if you have a 4×4.

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Trail Directions

Take exit 228 from I-25W, go under the freeway and take a right (west) at the 4 way stop. Follow the signs to Guanella Pass through the historic downtown area of Georgetown. 

About 2.5 miles out of Georgetown watch for a small parking lot on the right side of one of the switchbacks. This will begin the road to the pass, FR248.1. As of this writing, there are no signs to the pass, so bring a map.

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Rollins Pass (11,671′), Front Range

Rollins Pass (11,671′), Front Range

Rollins Pass (11,671′), Front Range

Rollins Pass is located on the Continental Divide, approximately five miles east of Winter Park, when approaching from the west. The abandoned rail route over the pass was designated a National Register of Historic Places in 1980 because of engineering feats accomplished by railroading efforts in the early 20th century.

The 4×4 trail takes you along one of the highest and most dangerous railroad routes ever built. The railroad had to deal with huge snow drifts, arctic climates, and steep grades, causing many incidents over the years. The route was used until 1927, when the nearby Moffat Tunnel was completed.

The route chosen was to climb to the pass from the west side heading east. Regardless, the route from either side is out and back. The route across the pass is closed from the Continental Divide to the Needle’s Eye Tunnel to motorized traffic.

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Trail Directions

Take the Corona Pass Rd turnoff on the northbound side of US-40 just south of Winter Park. The pass once had a town called Corona at the summit, which is why the road has it’s name. The road is very rocky at the begining, and in sections all the way up. Stay on the main road all the way to the pass.

At the summit you will be in what was once the town of Corona. The route across the pass is closed from the Continental Divide to the Needle’s Eye Tunnel to motorized traffic, so retrace your route back down.

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Lower Fish Creek Falls (7,420′), Park Range

Lower Fish Creek Falls (7,420′), Park Range

Lower Fish Creek Falls (7,420′), Park Range

Lower Fish Creek Falls is a 283′ waterfall located about 5 miles to the east of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. There are two trails which provide great views of the falls. First is the Overlook, a 1/4 mile handicapped-friendly accessible trail, which is relatively flat. The second trail, a National Recreation Trail ​, is also 1/4 mile long but drops 100′ down to a foot bridge at the base of the falls.

Another destination worth exploring is a 1/2 hour south of Steamboat Springs. Outside the town of Yampa, lies the eastern end of the Flat Top Scenic Byway. The Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway (County Road 8), runs through the northern portion of the Flat Tops Wilderness.

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Trail Directions

There are two hiking trails from the parking lot at the end of Fish Creek Fall Road.

Fish Creek Falls Overlook: 1/4 of a mile (400 m) of paved trail which is handicap accesible and relatively flat.  It ends at a viewing station where the entirety of the falls can be seen.

Base of the Falls: the 1/4 mile trail goes down into the U-shaped valley formed by glaciers. At the bottom of the valley is a foot bridge over Fish Creek with a close up view of the falls. The trail continues on to Upper Fish Creek Falls and then to the Wyoming Trail, a long trail running the northwestern mountains of Colorado to Wyoming.

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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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Wager Gulch (12,350′), San Juan Range

Wager Gulch (12,350′), San Juan Range

Wager Gulch (12,350′), San Juan Range

The road up Wager Gulch (high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle recommended), leads to the remnants of the abandoned mining town of Carson, on the way up to the Continental Divide and beyond. Founded in 1889, Carson reached its peak at the turn of the century when some 500 miners worked the mountain. Carson fell victim to the harsh winters of Colorado, being situated almost directly on the Continental Divide. It was considered one of the most inaccessible mining camps in Colorado. To access, take Wager Gulch road located south of Lake City, immediately off the Alpine Loop.

While in the area you may also want to explore Hurricane (12,730′) and California Pass (12,960′)  which intersect further northwest along the Alpine Loop. Stony Pass provides a route to the headwaters of the Rio Grande river.

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Trail Directions

 

From Lake City enter the Alpine Loop on County Road 30. From there take the Wager Gulch Rd turnoff heading south.

As you start Wager Gulch road continue uphill following Wager Creek. Continue on switchbacks as you climb above the creek and head through the forest. Stay on the main road.

After numerous switchbacks the road will cross an open area of the gulch with Carson Mountain to the west. At the next intersection the left road will take you to the ghost town of Carson, which is visible just across Wager Creek. There is an area to park and explore the buildings. Keep in mind that they are private property so repect the property. A short distance up the gulch from the town are the tailings of two mines. The road will top out on the Continental Divide and descend southward.

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Alpine Loop (12,800′), San Juan Range

Alpine Loop (12,800′), San Juan Range

Alpine Loop (12,800′), San Juan Range

The Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway is a rugged 4×4 road that winds through the spectacular scenery of the San Juan Mountains, connecting Lake City, Silverton, and Ouray. The loop traverses passes up to 12,800 feet while showcasing old mines, ghost towns, natural wonders, beautiful wildflowers, and abundant wildlife. Take a 10 minute detour while on the way to Cinnamon Pass to treat yourself to American Basin, one of the most beautiful places in Colorado.

Tackling the loop in its entirety is easily an all-day adventure. However, the main loop is only part of the experience; miles of designated side routes allow visitors to either take a short tour or extend their trip to multiple days. Hurricane (12,730′) and California Pass (12,960′) are two such examples that take you north from the Alpine Loop. For something closer to Lake City, tackle Wager Gulch to the Continental Divide.

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Trail Directions

Tucked away in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado is the Alpine Loop National Backcountry Byway. Located northeast of Silverton, Colorado in San Juan and Hinsdale Counties, the circular route makes its way from Lake City south along CO-149, to County Road 30, which turns west over Cinnamon Pass (12,640 feet) to Animas Forks, and then returns east over Engineer Pass (12,800) back to Lake City along County Road 20. The loop is best traveled in a clockwise direction.

From Lake City enter the Alpine Loop on either County Road 30 or County Road 20. From Silverton enter the Alpine Loop on County Road 2. From Ouray enter the Alpine Loop on County Road 18.

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Greenhorn Mountain (12,352′), Wet Mountain Range

Greenhorn Mountain (12,352′), Wet Mountain Range

Greenhorn Mountain (12,352′), Wet Mountain Range

Greenhorn Mountain is the highest summit of the Wet Mountain range, located on the southern end of the range. Greenhorn Mountain can be seen from Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Trinidad, and also from along Interstate 25 rising over 7,000 feet (2,100 m) above the great plains to the east. The mountain range is protected within the secluded Greenhorn Mountain Wilderness Area, which has few trails, accessible for hiking or horseback only.

The seclusion of the area means driving on a dirt road for over 20 miles to reach the upper trailhead. During the summer of 2021 the road was well maintained and can be easily travelled by most stock vehicles in dry conditions. 

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