Potato Lake (9,800′), San Juan Range

Potato Lake (9,800′), San Juan Range

Potato Lake (9,800′), San Juan Range

Spud Lake Trail #661 to Potato Lake is beautiful and short, with minimal elevation gain, making this an extremely popular hike. Passing through aspen glades, it offers excellent views of Engineer Mountain, Grayrock Peak, and Spud Mountain, along with good views of the Needle Mountains to the east. The natural lake has excellent fishing and a pleasant place to relax. This is a great summer hike for all ages, and the aspen leaves during the fall can be spectacular. Spud Lake has excellent fishing for brook trout and cutthroat trout.

Elevation Map Pancake Rocks

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GPS Route with Elevation

 

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Trail Directions

Drive approximately 28.5 miles north on U.S. 550. Just past the bridge over Cascade Creek, turn right onto Lime Creek Road, #591. Follow road for about 3 miles. High clearance vehicles recommended for last part of road. Trailhead is on the north (left) side of road across the street from a beautiful pond full of lilies. 

The trailhead is unmarked but the trail itself is well defined. There are no trail junctions, so just follow the trail to the lake, passing beside beaver ponds until you reach Potato Lake.

Trailhead Directions

Arikaree River (3,317′), Eastern Plains

Arikaree River (3,317′), Eastern Plains

Arikaree River (3,317′), Eastern Plains

The point where the Arikaree River flows out of Colorado and into Kansas is the lowest point in Colorado, at an elevation of 3,317 feet (1,011 m).

It holds the distinction of being the highest low point of any U.S. state, and higher than the highest points of 18 states and the District of Columbia.

The Arikaree River has been made one of the designated areas under the Colorado Natural Areas Program because it is “part of the largest and best remaining example of a naturally functioning Great Plains river system in Colorado.” It has several species of reptiles, fish, and amphibians that are native and uncommon. The area is a sanctuary for many bird species, including burrowing owls, ferruginous hawks, and greater prairie chickens. The habitat is near-pristine and there are high-quality riparian and native prairie plants.

Elevation Map Pancake Rocks

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GPS Route with Elevation

All the elevation maps indicate the lowest point is approximately 3,317′. My GPS on the hike recorded elevations in the 3,200′ range. This may be because I was able to walk on the river bottom or possibly a calibration issue with my GPS device, I’m not sure.

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Trail Directions

I was unable to find the recommended route to the Arikaree River basin near the Kansas border from resources online. I initially tried to access the basin from the south, but the area was fenced and looked like I had to cross private property. 

I then approached the basin from the north and found an unfenced area along the border. This is the route I took. I cannot recommend any route as I am not sure of the status of the area I crossed to get to the river. 

The river itself did not have water flowing when I visited in early May. I was able to walk along the river bottom with only a few pools of water scattered along the route.

The approach from the north also provides access to the Tri-Corners area, where the Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska borders meet. There is a road leading to the point and a plaque describing the area for visitors.

 

Trailhead Directions

Trappers Lake (9,627′), Flat Tops

Trappers Lake (9,627′), Flat Tops

Trappers Lake (9,627′), Flat Tops

Roughly a mile and a half long and half a mile wide, reaching depths of 180 feet, Trappers Lake is the second largest natural lake in Colorado after Grand Lake. You reach the lake by taking the Flat Tops Scenic Byway from Yampa or Meeker.

The area is as wild today as it was when it was first discovered. In 1891 White River, which includes the Flat Tops, became one of the first two National Forests in the U.S.

The trail around the lake is named for Arthur Carhart, whose survey near the lake in 1919 inspired him to recommend preserving the area without development for future generations to enjoy. Arthur Carhart’s efforts set the stage for the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the National Wilderness Preservation System which includes Trappers Lake and the rest of the Flat Tops Wilderness.

The trailhead is adjacent to the beautiful Trappers Lake Overlook.

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GPS Route with Elevation

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Trail Directions

From the end of Trappers Lake road, take the Arthur H Carhart Trail in either direction around the lake. The trailhead is next to the Trappers Lake Overlook. The trail is easy to follow in summer conditions.

Trailhead Directions

Garden of the Gods (6,400′)          Front Range

Garden of the Gods (6,400′) Front Range

Garden of the Gods (6,400′) Front Range

Garden of the Gods is a geologically unique 480 acre park, having one of the most complete and complex exposures of earth’s history anywhere in the country. It is popular for hiking, technical rock climbing, biking, and horseback riding. There are more than 15 miles of trails, with a 1.1-mile trail running through the heart of the park, that is paved and wheelchair accessible.

The main trail in the park, Perkins Central Garden Trail, is a paved, wheelchair-accessible 1.1-mile trail. It travels through the heart of the park’s largest and most scenic red rocks! The trail begins at the North Parking lot.

Dedication Plaque reads “Garden of the Gods is given to The City of Colorado Springs in 1909 by the children of Charles Elliott Perkins in fulfillment of his wish that it be kept forever free to the public.”

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Almagre Mountain (12,360′), Front Range

Almagre Mountain (12,360′), Front Range

Almagre Mountain (12,360′), Front Range

Almagre Mountain (Mt Baldy) is the only other peak, besides Pikes Peak, above treeline when viewed from Colorado Springs. Located in the Pike National Forest just south of Pikes Peak, this hike is rated easy, but getting there can be a challenge. In order to drive to the closed gate on FSR 379A you will need to navigate a moderate 4X4 shelf road. The reward is unobstructed views from the summit area, with exceptional views of Pikes Peak and the cog railroad.

Nearby Mt Rosa and Cheyenne Mountain are also excellent hikes in the area.

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GPS Route with Elevation

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Trail Directions

From Old Stage Road, turn onto Forest Service Road 379, which goes to Frosty’s Park. You should have a high clearance vehicle to proceed the last 1.5 miles up the road to Frosty’s Park as of this writing. FSR 379A will be to the right further up and immediately begins climbing more steeply than FSR 379. If you do not have a 4X4 high clearance vehicle you will want to park at the intersection.

Trailhead Directions

Mt Evans (14,264′), Front Range

Mt Evans (14,264′), Front Range

Mt Evans (14,264′), Front Range

Mt Evans can be accessed via the highest paved road in North America, reaching an elevation of 14,130′. The Mount Evans Scenic Byway, maintained by the Forest Service, offers easy access to Colorado’s inspiring high mountain environment. A drive up, and short walk to the top of Mt Evans, will take your breath away in more ways than one.

From Mt Evans you will see another 14,000′ peak in close proximity, Mt Bierstadt (14,160′).

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GPS Route with Elevation

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Trail Directions

Follow the only paved road, Hwy 5,  14 miles to summit parking lot. Once there, take a short 1/4 mile hike and you will be standing on the summit!

Trailhead Directions

Zapata Falls (9,250′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Zapata Falls (9,250′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Zapata Falls (9,250′), Sangre de Cristo Range

The Zapata Falls Recreational Area is approximately three miles south of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve entrance.

The falls are located inside a cave and have a 30 foot drop that freezes in the winter months. Even in winter, water can still be heard flowing deep underneath the ice.

Directions

GPX Route with Elevation

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Trail Directions

From the Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center, drive south about 8 miles, then turn left (east) onto a dirt road. Drive the remaining 3.5 miles to the trailhead.

To view the falls, hike about 1/2 mile, cross the creek, then scramble up the rocks and stream into a crevasse where the 30 ft. high falls cascade down.

Trailhead Directions

Paint Mines Park (6,791′), Eastern Plains

Paint Mines Park (6,791′), Eastern Plains

Paint Mines Park (6,791′), Eastern Plains

Paint Mines Park is located on the eastern plains near Calhan, Colorado. The 750 acre park features geological formations including spires, chasms, overhangs, and carved walls. These formations were created through erosion, creating gullies and exposed layers of clay and jasper. Oxidization of iron deposits created the colorful clays, which range from light yellow to deep red.

Another interesting geological site on the eastern plains is the Picket Wire Canyonlands Tracksite. Further south on the eastern plains, it is home to the largest dinosaur track site in North America.

Elevation Map (select to enlarge)

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GPS Route with Elevation

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Trail Directions

From either trailhead the best approach is to head for the west side of the park as this is where 90% of the rock formations are located that make this park distinct.

Taking the loop from Paint Mines Rd trailhead, the trail initially heads east and curves to the south. Once heading south you’ll have views into the valley and a bench to soak it all in. The trail then descends into valley with white carved walls and spires immediately to the west.

Shortly after the white spires you’ll approach a trail junction. Take the trail to the right (south), which leads deeper into the gully area. There are many beautiful dead-end spurs that take you closer to the formations. This is a great place to take your time and explore all of these side trails. The canyons here range in color from deep reds, to yellows, to white.

The main trail continues east and gradually climbs out of the gully. There are more formations to the north before leveling out on grasslands. From here the trail continues east to a junction with a second trailhead. Take the left trail northwest over vast rolling grasslands to continue the loop. The trail widens here and provides views of Pikes Peak far off to the west along with a bench on top of a slight rise.

There are a couple of smaller formations to the south as you continue to the southwest. Eventually you’ll come back to the original trail junction. Head straight (west) to get back to the trailhead.

Trailhead Directions

Spruce Mountain (7,635′), Front Range

Spruce Mountain (7,635′), Front Range

Spruce Mountain (7,635′), Front Range

Spruce Mountain is located on the Palmer Divide, on the eastern fringe of the Front Range. The top of the mesa offers great views of the Palmer Divide, with interesting sandstone formations along the trail. Hiking to the upper loop is a quick climb through shady forests to a well maintained trail that circles the top of the mesa.

There are abundant outdoor opportunities in the area, including Mt Herman, and Devils Head Lookout.

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GPS Route with Elevation

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Trail Directions

The Spruce Mountain Trail switchbacks 400 feet up the north side of Spruce Mountain. Once you reach the Upper Loop Junction, you’ll be hiking on a fairly flat 1.7 mile loop.

Along the top, be sure to take in the views from several rocky overlooks. The first lookout offers views of the Greenland Trail and Greenland Open Space below. You also have great views of Pikes Peak and the Palmer Divide. Douglas County provides a brochure for trail maps and additional information.

Trailhead Directions

Alberta Falls (9,400′), Front Range

Alberta Falls (9,400′), Front Range

Alberta Falls (9,400′), Front Range

Alberta Falls, located in Glacier Gorge, is one of the more popular hiking destinations in Rocky Mountain National Park. The scenic 30-foot waterfall thunders down a small gorge along Glacier Creek, with the short trail following Glacier Creek to the falls. The falls are fed by snow melt year around, being most dramatic in the late spring and early summer.

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GPS Route with Elevation

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Trail Directions

The trail starts at Glacier Gorge trailhead and heads south, paralleling the creek. At about 0.3 miles, the trail intersects with two others, one branching back toward the north to Sprague Lake. Continue on to the Bear Lake junction turning left.

The trail passes several aspen groves, and into a pine forest. The trail parallels Glacier Creek to the falls, a short .6 mile walk on an excellent path. On arrival you will see Alberta Falls roar through a granite chute just off the trail.

Trailhead Directions