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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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

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

Pikes Peak (14,110′), Front Range

Pikes Peak (14,110′), Front Range

Pikes Peak (14,110′), Front Range

Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in North America. The prominent 14,115-foot (4,302.31 m) fourteener is located in Pike National Forest, 12 miles (19 km) west of downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado.  The summit is higher than any point in the United States east of its longitude. The uppermost portion of Pikes Peak, above 14,000 feet (4,267 m) elevation, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961.

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Trail Directions

Take HWY 24 west from Colorado Springs for approximately 14 miles until you see the sign for the Pikes Peak Hwy. Turn left and follow the signs.

The road is paved but lacks guard rails so can be unsettling for first time mountain drivers.

This is a toll road with an entrance fee at the base of the mountain.

Trailhead Directions

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.

Elevation Map Pancake Rocks

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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.

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

Mosquito Pass (13,185′), Mosquito Range

Mosquito Pass (13,185′), Mosquito Range

Mosquito Pass (13,185′), Mosquito Range

Mosquito Pass was built to connect the towns of Alma to the east, with Leadville to the west. It is the highest crossable vehicle mountain pass in the U.S. outside of Alaska. While there are higher vehicle passes, they are all out and back. The trail crosses the Continental Divide,  between the Arkansas and South Platte Rivers.

The Mosquito Range is also home to five 14,000′ peaks;  Mt Sherman Mt Democrat, Mt Cameron, Mt Lincoln, and Mt Bross.

Mosquito Pass Elevation Map

The top of the pass is the turnaround point for the 21-mile course of the Western Pack Burro Ass-ociation’s burro races, held the first weekend of August each year and part of the Leadville Boom Days heritage festival.

Each June, hundreds of people run to the top of the pass in the Leadville Trail Marathon and Heavy Half Marathon, part of the CenturyLink Leadville Race Series.

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Route Directions

From Fairplay, follow Colorado Highway 9 north for 4 1/5 miles to County Road 12 (Mosquito Pass Road) and turn left.  The tour begins quickly after turning off Highway 9.

Trailhead Directions

Stony Pass (12,592′), San Juan Range

Stony Pass (12,592′), San Juan Range

Stony Pass (12,592′), San Juan Range

Stony Pass Rd crosses the Continental Divide and follows small streams that make up the headwaters of the Rio Grande River. The road was created in 1872 to connect the area’s mining operations in Silverton to the town of Del Norte. The Continental Divide Trail crosses the road at Hunchback Pass (12,493′) on it’s way from Mexico to Canada.

The San Juan Range is home to world class outdoor recreation. American Basin, California & Hurricane Pass, and Mt Sneffels are a few examples of the natural beauty of the area.

 

The road crosses the headwaters of the Rio Grande near Kite Lake.

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Trail Directions

County Road 3 to Stony Pass (heading east) is a well graded and a easy drive to the top in a stock vehicle (in good weather). Once on the east side of the pass, an off-road vehicle is recommended because the road gets progressively more difficult until Kite Lake.

Pole Creek, a water crossing on the east side of the pass, can be very deep in the spring, making it impossible to cross.

 

Trailhead Directions

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 and Blue Lake 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.

Trailhead Directions

Flat Tops Scenic Byway (10,343′), Flat Tops

Flat Tops Scenic Byway (10,343′), Flat Tops

Flat Tops Scenic Byway (10,343′), Flat Tops

Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway (County Road 8), runs through the northern portion of the Flat Tops Wilderness. The Flat Tops is Colorado’s second largest Wilderness, spanning a total of 235,214 acres.

The Flat Tops are part of the White River Plateau, with an average elevation of 10,000 feet. Approximately 110 lakes and ponds, often unnamed, dot the country above and below the numerous flat-topped cliffs. The valleys and relatively gentle land above the cliffs offers over 160 miles of trails to explore.

Trappers Lake is located at the halfway point, and is well worth a short detour.

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Trail Directions

 Starting from the east side in Yampa, take County Road 8 to the west.

The road soon begins to climb until you reach Dunkley Pass at 9,763′.

After descending the pass, the road begins to climb again very quickly until you reach the highest point on the byway, Ripple Creek Pass 10,343′.

Continuing west you soon reach the Trappers Lake turnoff. This marks the 1/2 point of the byway.

Soon after the Trappers Lake turnoff the road becomes paved the rest of the way to Meeker. Its a slow decent with large ranches in the lush valley.

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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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

Hayden Pass (10,709′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Hayden Pass (10,709′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Hayden Pass (10,709′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Hayden Pass road crosses the Sangre de Cristo Mountains between Villa Grove in the west, and Coaldale to the east. The road is most challenging and scenic when started from Villa Grove, on the southwest side. With grades up to 20%, great views of the San Luis valley below can be seen.

This is one of only two vehicle passes over the Sangre de Cristo range. The other vehicle pass being Medano Pass, on the southern tip of the range. This pass travels through the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

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Route Directions

Start by accessing Hayden Pass RD (FR 6) from Coaldale on the east side of the Sangre de Cristo mountains or from Villa Grove on the west side.

The pass is more difficult if started on the west side (Villa Grove) because you are climbing on a very rocky trail.

Hayden Pass summit is a large flat area after a continuous climb. The views from the road here are blocked by thick forest.

The road on the east side of the pass is better maintained and not as rocky.

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

Tincup Pass (12,154′), Sawatch Range

Tincup Pass (12,154′), Sawatch Range

Tincup Pass (12,154′), Sawatch Range

Tincup Pass gets its name from prospector Jim Taylor, who in 1860 brought his gold strike back to camp in his tin cup. The pass was used to move supplies between St. Elmo and the town of Tin Cup starting in 1881, when a wagon road was built.

The views and hiking opportunities along the road are abundant. There are 13,000′ peaks that can be easily accessed from 267 (Tin Cup Peak, PT 13,050, and Fitzpatrick Peak). In addition, the prominent Continental Divide Trail and Colorado Trail cross Tin Cup Pass Rd (267) about 4 miles from St. Elmo.

The Sawatch Mountain Range is home to fifteen 14,000′ peaks, such as Huron Peak, La Plata Peak, Missouri Mountain, Mt Antero, and the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains, Mt Elbert.

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Trail Directions

Starting from the south side of the pass at St. Elmo, the 4WD road climbs west toward Tincup Pass following the North Fork of Chalk Creek.

After 4 miles the road climbs to the north toward Tincup Pass.

Another mile in brings you to treeline with a good view of the remainder of the route to the pass. The switchbacks ahead are very narrow.

Once up the ledge road and switchbacks you will be at Tincup Pass, about 6 miles from St. Elmo.

Heading down the north side of the pass, the road is rough for the first mile while it winds through the tundra.

The road gradually widens and becomes more maintained.

After crossing a creek you will drive on a section of road made up of large talus along the edge of Mirror Lake. This section is rough so use caution.

Once past the lake the road becomes passable by passenger vehicles.

Trailhead Directions

Mt Antero (14,269′) and Mt White (13,667′), Sawatch Range

Mt Antero (14,269′) and Mt White (13,667′), Sawatch Range

Mt Antero (14,269′) and Mt White (13,667′), Sawatch Range

Mt Antero is one of only a handful of 14,000′ peaks that has a road that travels to within a short distance of the summit.  The road up the mountain is difficult, rough and rocky, requiring four-wheel drive, eventually topping out at 13,800′. From the end of the road at point 13,800 it’s a 1/2 mile and 470′ scramble to the summit.

In 1881, a Salida man by the name of Nelson Wanemaker discovered gems high on Mt Antero. His discovery was publicized a few years later, and the mountain became a famous collecting area for aquamarine, phenacite, fluorite, topaz, and smoky quartz crystals. It has the highest concentration of these minerals anywhere in the US. With findings far above timberline, this is the highest known gem field in the lower 48.

The Sawatch Mountain Range is home to fourteen other 14,000′ peaks, such as Huron Peak, La Plata Peak, Missouri Mountain, and the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains, Mt Elbert.

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From the end of the very steep road at 13,800′, it’s a 1/2 mile and 470′ climb to the 14,269′ summit of Mt Antero

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Route Directions

Turn onto #277 jeep road (Baldwin Gultch) and drive 3 miles to a road junction at 10,850′. Turn left on the #278 road and cross Baldwin Creek.

Continue another mile to tree line as it climb’s Mt Antero’s west slopes. Stay left on 278A at the next 2 junction’s, reaching 13,200′.

From 13,200′ to 13,800′, the road becomes extremely steep with hairpin
switchbacks. You may want to consider parking here as most vehicles
wont make it. Continue up the steep south side to reach the end of the road, Point 13,800′.

Trailhead Directions

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, Hallett 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.

Trailhead Directions

Hurricane Pass (12,730′) and California Pass (12,960′), San Juan Range

Hurricane Pass (12,730′) and California Pass (12,960′), San Juan Range

Hurricane Pass (12,730′) and California Pass (12,960′), San Juan Range

The National Water and Climate Center reported that the SWE (snow water equivalent) for the San Juan Mountains, including Hurricane Pass and California Pass, in May of 2019 was 728% above normal. It was such a heavy snow year that most of the back country at higher elevations was still buried in July. The heavy amounts of snow also caused a significant number of avalanches in the state. The only option out of Silverton to the Alpine Loop this July was to take SH 100 to Gladstone. Heavy avalanche debris still blocked the route to Animas Forks from Silverton using County Rd. 2.

Heading out of Silverton on SH 110, you pass Gladstone, which sits in a flat meadow where the five forks of Cement Creek meet. The town began in the late 1870’s from the surrounding mines including a sawmill just below the town site. As the mines grew, the sawmill was needed by other mines in the area, so a wagon road was graded up Cement Creek. In 1879 this wagon road went over Hurricane Pass and down Poughkeepsie Gulch as the route from Silverton to Ouray.

Today Poughkeepsie Gulch is generally for high clearance 4×4 vehicles that don’t mind a few road scars. The route today includes Hurricane and California Pass, and eventually leads down to Animas Forks.

The San Juan Mountains offer incredible outdoor beauty, including areas such as American Basin, Mt Sneffels, and Stony Pass.

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This area is part of the Alpine Loop, a 4X4 lover’s dream. There are countless trails all leading to incredible alpine beauty and history.