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. 

Elevation Map Pancake Rocks

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Trail Directions

From the upper trailhead I made a loop that includes both the south and north summits. If you choose to hike the loop counterclockwise like I did, head southeast along the Bartlett Trail for a little over a mile. As the trail begins to wrap around the Greenhorn Mountain summit cone, leave the trail on the southern side of the mountain, and continue a half-mile climb to the summit.  Note: There is no trail to the summit.

From the summit, you can retrace your route back to the trailhead if wind and bad weather are a problem. If the day is clear, a more scenic option is to traverse the easy ridge heading north. To return to the trailhead, I decended off the second saddle, down the west slope of the ridge back to the Bartlett trail close to the trailhead.

Trailhead Directions

Music Pass (11,450′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Music Pass (11,450′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Music Pass (11,450′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Music Pass is a east/west pass across the southern Sangre de Cristo range connecting the Wet Valley in the east with the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve on the western side. Without a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle you should park at the Grape Creek Trailhead and hike the last 2.5 miles to the Music Pass trailhead. The trail stats assume that you are beginning your hike at the Music Pass Trailhead. 

At Music Pass, you have a stunning views of the Upper Sand Creek basin that includes 13ers Marble Mountain, Milwaukee Peak, Music Mountain, and Tijeras Peak.

Elevation Map Pancake Rocks

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Trail Directions

From the parking area at the end of Music Pass Road the trail immediately enters a dense conifer forest as it begins climbing toward the pass. Initially you won’t see much but trees, but after about a mile the forest starts to become more open, giving you some great views of the Wet Mountain Valley on the east side of the Sangre de Cristo Range.

Finally, just before reaching the pass you will pass a sign indicating that you are entering the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve, an extension of the Great Sand Dunes National Park on the western side of the range. This point also marks the eastern boundary of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area.

Trailhead Directions

Lily Lake (12,385′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Lily Lake (12,385′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Lily Lake (12,385′), Sangre de Cristo Range

This trail is one of the more beautiful in the state with lots of bang for your buck.  The trail starts out at 10,400 feet, hiking in an beautiful valley surrounded by huge mountain scenery, and is virtually flat.   So if you don’t want to make the climb up to Lilly Lake you still have amazing views and really great creek fishing with lots of good camping options on the valley floor.

If you make the hike up, you can see Mt. Lindsey, Mt. Blanca, Mt. Ellingwood, and the Iron Nipple from Lilly Lake.  From the Valley you can see all but Lindsey. Lilly Lake offers amazing views, an alpine environment just above treeline, and great fly fishing in the lake.

Elevation Map Pancake Rocks

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Trail Directions

From the trailhead, follow clear signs to the Lily Lake Trail (there are no other trails at this TH). Head south and walk through a large meadow. From here, you can see the Blanca Massif straight ahead, with the Iron Nipple (13er) across the basin to its left. Hike one mile on mostly flat, clear terrain before coming to a trail junction with a sign for Lily Lake. Stay right (left will take you up Mt. Lindsey).

Continue up through the forest on excellent trail. You’ll continue to gain little elevation – just 1,500 ft over almost 3 miles from this point on. For most of the hike, Huerfano River will be on your left. At about 3 miles from the trailhead, at 11,600 ft, cross it and come to a large clearing with some boulders ahead and to your right. Loop up and back to your right, dipping briefly back into the forest. Just before the lake you come to a headwall just below the lake. Continue up and reach the lake at around 12,385 ft.

Trailhead Directions

Pancake Rocks (11,060′), Front Range

Pancake Rocks (11,060′), Front Range

Pancake Rocks (11,060′), Front Range

Pancake Rocks Trail shares the trailhead used to reach Horsethief Falls for the first .7 miles. The trail climbs trough heavy forest before leveling out near the two trail junctions. At the second junction you can go straight for a .5 mile trip to Horsethief Falls, or turn right to reach the interesting stacked pancake looking granite formations 2 miles away.

The Crags are also nearby and a great hike to a scenic overlook.

Elevation Map Pancake Rocks

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Trail Directions

The trail starts on the SE corner of the parking lot. Trail #704 to Horsethief Park begins by climbing steeply into a dense forest. Once the terrain levels out you come across a left turn marked with a ring-the-peak signpost. Say straight at the junction to continue to Horsethief Falls.

There is ample signage at the second trail junction, where you will head to the right (south) up Pancake Rocks Trail. The are many switchbacks and the trail is steep. 

Once you gain the ridgeline, the rest of the hike is on easier terrain. The trail winds along the ridge and drops in elevation before reaching Pancake Rocks.  

Trailhead Directions

Fremont Peak (7,273′), Royal Gorge

Fremont Peak (7,273′), Royal Gorge

Fremont Peak (7,273′), Royal Gorge

Fremont Peak is the high point along a narrow ridge of hills rising near the eastern edge of the Royal Gorge’s north rim. The desert peak is part of a very small sub-range of mountains called the Gorge Hills. These peaks are relatively low and are covered in desert flora. Great views of the Royal Gorge, the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, and Pikes Peak can be seen along the trail and summit.

Don’t miss the Elkhorn Loop Picnic Area and Overlook to get a closer look of the bridge and the Royal Gorge, only a couple minutes drive from the EastRidge Trailhead. Great views just steps from your car, check out the last two pictures.

Summers in this area can be dangerously hot, plan accordingly.

The Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest bridge in the United States. It spans 880 feet across the Arkansas river at a height of 955 feet. Built in 1929, it was the highest bridge in the world until 2001.

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Trail Directions

From the Eastridge trailhead head downhill and to the left (heading south) to get on County Road 389B.

Folllow County Road 389B until it ends at the radio towers

From the end of the road, you will see Fremont Peak across a saddle to the southeast. Follow the the trail heading in that direction.

You quickly come across a trail junction with a sign for the Summit trail. Follow the trail towards the peak (southeast).

Once underneath the peak, pick a social path up the steep slope to the summit. There is no maintained trail.

Trailhead Directions

The Crags (10,856′), Front Range

The Crags (10,856′), Front Range

The Crags (10,856′), Front Range

The Crags Trail #664 follows Four Mile Creek through deep forests and lush meadows, ending at a rocky dome with unobstructed views in all directions. At the summit of the windswept dome there are views of the Rampart Range, Pikes Peak Mastif, Catamount Reservoirs, and distant mountain ranges to the west and north.

The majority of the Crags trail has a gentle elevation gain, with the first and last half-mile gaining the most elevation.

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Trail Directions

Take the clear and well-used path over a bridge and through the forest.

After climbing for 1/2 mile you will see the trail junction with the Devil’s Playground #664A, stay to the left on 664 to The Crags.

Continue following Fourmile Creek northeast through a valley. The trail will be wooded at first, but will eventually open up into a meadow with views of rocky cliffs and the rough western flank of Pikes Peak.

During the last 1/2 mile the trail re-enters the forest and gains elevation as it turns north along a small ridge.

The trail ends on the top of a rocky outcropping with excellent views all around.

Trailhead Directions

Hanging Lake (7,290′), Glenwood Canyon

Hanging Lake (7,290′), Glenwood Canyon

Hanging Lake (7,290′), Glenwood Canyon

Hanging Lake, in Glenwood Canyon, is a beautiful travertine lake formed high up in Deadhorse Canyon. The lake was formed when an acre and a half of the valley floor sheared off from a fault and dropped to what is now the shallow bed of the lake. This travertine lake is extremely sensitive, so please respect the special regulations to preserve the lake.

The beautiful turquoise colors of the lake are produced by carbonate minerals that have dissolved in the water. The fragile shoreline of the lake is composed of travertine, created when dissolved limestone is deposited on rocks, logs, and shoreline. Hanging Lake was designated a National Natural Landmark in 2011.

Hanging Lake is closed due to the impact from a 2020 wildfire. More information can be found here.

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Trail Directions

The trail is a steep and rocky scenic trail that climbs from the bottom of Glenwood Canyon, up through Deadhorse Creek Canyon, to the Lake.

The Spouting Rock trail at Hanging Lake will take you to a towering limestone wall and the source of Hanging Lake.

Trailhead Directions

Lake Helene (10,630′), Front Range

Lake Helene (10,630′), Front Range

Lake Helene (10,630′), Front Range

There is no signage and you must follow a social trail to get to the lake, but despite it’s obscurity, Lake Helene is a spectacular destination inside Rocky Mountain National Park. The lake is situated at treeline, between Flattop Mountain (12,324′) and Notchtop Mountain (12,129′).

Even lesser known Two Rivers Lake is a short walk from Lake Helene, and also worth the visit while in the alpine valley.

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Trail Directions

Follow the Bear Lake trail for less than 1/2 mile to the Odessa Lake Trail Junction and take the trail to the right. The trail climbs above Bear Lake to the Flattop Mountain trail junction. Continue towards Odessa Lake, climbing through forests and meadows. After approximately 3.5 miles from the trailhead you will see social trails on your left for Lake Helene. The lake is partially concealed from the trail and spurs are fairly easy to miss. If you make a sharp hairpin turn north (right) and begin descending, you’ve passed it.

Two Rivers Lake is near treeline just downstream of Lake Helene. A thick forest and boulder field stand between the main trail and lake, making it easier to walk east from Lake Helene through the forest and meadows.

Trailhead Directions

Mills (9,965′) and Jewel (9,990′) Lake, Front Range

Mills (9,965′) and Jewel (9,990′) Lake, Front Range

Mills (9,965′) and Jewel (9,990′) Lake, Front Range

Located within Glacier Gorge in Rocky Mountain National Park, Mills and Jewel Lake provide dramatic views of the surrounding peaks. The Longs peak area is prominently visible from the valley. The summer route initially takes you to Alberta Falls, another popular destination in the park.

Mills Lake is named in honor of Enos Mills (1870-1914), who is considered the father of Rocky Mountain National Park.

The view from Mills Lake towards Longs Peak is the image used on one side of the 2006 Colorado State Quarter.

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Trail Directions

The winter route was utilized , bypassing Alberta Falls and intersecting with the summer trail about 50 ft from the Loch Trail/Glacier Gorge intersection.

Trailhead Directions

South Colony Lakes (12,000′), Sangre de Cristo Range

South Colony Lakes (12,000′), Sangre de Cristo Range

South Colony Lakes (12,000′), Sangre de Cristo Range

The South Colony Basin lies in the heart of southern Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Range, home of the South Colony Lakes. Surrounded by Crestone Needle (14,197′), Humboldt Peak (14,064′), and Broken Hand Peak (13,573′), the basin is one of the most beautiful alpine settings in the Southern Rockies.

It was once possible to drive a vehicle to within a half-mile of the lakes, where most climbers set up a camp. Today, low-clearance vehicles park at the lower trailhead and walk 2.75 miles up the road to the upper trailhead. It’s another 2.5 miles from there along the closed road to the old trailhead, where the trail heads into the basin.

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Trail Directions

The trail follows the permanently closed old 4×4 road. At about 2.6 miles from the upper trailhead you reach a trail junction and turn right, leaving the road and continuing west along a single track trail. After a mile on this trail, you reach tree line and continue through willows to the north of the creek and Lower South Colony Lake. Follow the trail northwest up the hillside above to the upper lake and take in the views.

Trailhead Directions

Mt Rosa (11,500′), Front Range

Mt Rosa (11,500′), Front Range

Mt Rosa (11,500′), Front Range

Mt Rosa is located in the Pike National Forest just south of Pikes Peak and is the only cone shaped summit in the area. This provides rare unobstructed 360 degree views from it’s small but lofty summit, one mile above Colorado Springs.

From it’s summit you can see Rosemount Reservoir, Pikes Peak, Almagre Mountain, Cheyenne Mountain, and the Sangre de Cristo mountain range to the southwest.

The mountain was named for Rose Kingsley, an aristocratic young English woman who lived in Colorado Springs and started its first library. She was an avid hiker, and earned the nickname Rosa del Mont, or Rose of the Mount.

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Trail Directions

From Old Stage Road, turn onto Forest Service Road 379, which goes to Frosty’s Park. You MUST have a high clearance vehicle to proceed the last 1.5 miles up the road to Frosty’s Park. After the meadow turn right and hike along Trail No. 672, also known as Nelson’s Trail, for less than 2 miles. Turn right on Trail No. 673, which pushes steeply up .75 miles to the small rocky summit.

Trailhead Directions

Mitchell and Blue Lake (11,360′), Front Range

Mitchell and Blue Lake (11,360′), Front Range

Mitchell and Blue Lake (11,360′), Front Range

Mitchell and Blue Lake are located in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, west of Boulder, Colorado. Brainard Lake itself is a small lake at the junction of two major valleys in the east central Indian Peaks Wilderness. The northern of the two valleys holds Mitchell and Blue Lakes, while the southern valley holds Long Lake and Lake Isabelle.

Mt Audubon (13,223′) is another example of the beautiful trails located in the park.

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Trail Directions

The wooded trail enters the Indian Peaks Wilderness near the Mitchell Creek bridge. It continues to Mitchell Lake, crossing a second bridge over the inlet. From the lake you can see Mt Audubon across the water. Another 2 miles of trail climb more steeply, following the creek into an open valley to Blue Lake. This lake lies at tree line below Mount Toll, a cone-shaped pinnacle on the Continental Divide.

Trailhead Directions

Lake Haiyaha (10,244′), Front Range

Lake Haiyaha (10,244′), Front Range

Lake Haiyaha (10,244′), Front Range

Lake Haiyaha his a secluded, boulder-riddled lake in lower Chaos Canyon. Hallett Peak (12,713′) and Otis Peak (12,486′) tower over Lake Haiyaha on the Continental Divide, making for spectacular scenery.  Bouldering is a popular activity around the rocky lake.

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Trail Directions

The trail begins alongside Bear Lake and climbs westward towards Tyndall Gorge, passing Nymph Lake along the way. Past Nymph Lake the trails climbs again to Dream Lake.

Once there, the trail moves up a southward slope into the Chaos Canyon drainage and arrives at Lake Haiyaha, located at timberline along Chaos Creek. The lake and Chaos Canyon are known for excellent bouldering.

Trailhead Directions

Mt Herman (9,104′), Front Range

Mt Herman (9,104′), Front Range

Mt Herman (9,104′), Front Range

Mt Herman is the highest point on the Palmer Divide, just west of Monument, Colorado. It lies along the Rampart Range of the Front Range, between Denver and Colorado Springs. The area is popular for hiking and mountain biking, paragliding, and 4×4 trails heading west. Look for marker 716 on Mt Herman Rd to find the trailhead.

Other mountain trails in the area include Cheyenne Mountain, Mt Rosa, Almagre Mountain, and Pikes Peak.

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Trail Directions

The trailhead is at a small parking area on a switchback on Mt. Herman Road. The trail begins along the the right side of a small creek, climbing gradually. Quickly you arrive at an unmarked junction and follow the trail on the far right.

The trail will begin to steepen immediately. There are sections as you head up where the trail is hard to follow, so when in doubt, head up. The summit will be on your left once along the ridge. The are lots of cairns along the last section of the trail.

Trailhead Directions

Nymph (9,705′), Dream (9,905′), and Emerald Lake (10,110′), Front Range

Nymph (9,705′), Dream (9,905′), and Emerald Lake (10,110′), Front Range

Nymph (9,705′), Dream (9,905′), and Emerald Lake (10,110′), Front Range

Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lake are located inside Rocky Mountain National Park, west of Estes Park. From the popular Bear Lake Trailhead, the trail passes Nymph and Dream Lake on the way to Emerald Lake.

There are prominent views along the way of Longs Peak, Glacier Gorge, Flattop Mountain, and Hallett Peak. If you have limited time to explore, this should be on your list for it’s beauty and accessibility, even in winter (additional gear required).

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Trail Directions

From Bear Lake the trail makes a steady climb up to the south side of Nymph Lake, which is usually filled with pond lilies in the summer. Once around the lake, follow the trail for a fairly steep climb for a short section. There are spectacular views of Longs Peak, Pagoda Mountain, Storm Peak, and the Keyboard of the Winds to your left.

At just over a mile you will reach the Lake Haiyaha junction. Stay to the right and you will arrive at Dream Lake after a short distance. Follow Dream Lake along it’s northern shore. The views here are spectacular.

Once past the lake the trail begins climbing a series of steps. On your left Tyndall Creek rushes down Tyndall gorge, and the jagged peaks of Flattop Mountain can be seen in front of you. Upon reaching Emerald Lake, 12,713′ Hallett Peak will be the mountain in front of you and on the right will be the jagged spires of 12,324′ Flattop Mountain.

Trailhead Directions

Great Sand Dunes National Park (8,700′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Great Sand Dunes National Park (8,700′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Great Sand Dunes National Park (8,700′), Sangre de Cristo Range

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve contains the tallest sand dunes in North America, rising about 750 feet (230 m) from the floor of the San Luis Valley at the western base of the Sangre de Cristo Range. The dunes  cover about 19,000 acres (7,700 ha).

Researchers estimate that the dunes started forming less than 440,000 years ago, which is recent in geological times. A Visitor Guide by the park provides plenty of ideas for activities while in this unique area.

While in the area, Zapata Falls lies just outside the park and is worth the small excursion.

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