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.

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Route Directions

Starting from Silverton, exit Highway 550 onto Greene St./Hwy 110

Continue on Hwy 110 through Silverton (1.2 Miles)

Turn left to stay on Hwy 110 (6.4 Miles)

Slight left onto County Rd 10/Hurricane Pass

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

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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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

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.

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Trail Directions

The trail begins along the west shore of Monarch Lake. The trail is level as it follows the northern shore of the lake. There are occasional switchbacks as the trail follows Buchanan Creek through pine, aspen, and spruce forests. There are several waterfalls along Buchanan Creek and later along Cascade Creek, including Cascade Falls.

There are two trail junctions, both of which are clearly marked. At ~3.5 miles stay right on the Cascade Trail at the junction for Buchanan Pass Trail. At the junction ~6.5 miles, stay right to head toward Crater Lake. The trail to the left continues to Pawnee Pass Trail. After a short climb you’ll come to an open meadow with a large boulder field on the left-hand side. The trail crosses a large flat rock bed and is marked by 5-6 cairns. After following the cairns back onto the clearly defined trail, several steep switchbacks take you up to the basin.

The trail appears to end at Mirror Lake as you walk around the side (right) of the lake, but the trail picks up on the west side of Mirror Lake and takes you to Crater Lake, a very short distance.

Trailhead Directions

West Spanish Peak (13,625′), Sangre de Cristo Range

West Spanish Peak (13,625′), Sangre de Cristo Range

West Spanish Peak (13,625′), Sangre de Cristo Range

West Spanish Peak (13,625′) and East Spanish Peak (12,684′) have world class geological features that made the two peaks a National Natural Landmark in 1976 and designated as a Wilderness Area in 2000. The peaks rise 6,000 ft from the edge of the eastern plains, and were used as a navigation aid for centuries for people heading west.

The Spanish Peaks are world class examples of “stocks” and “dikes”. Stocks are large masses of igneous (molten) rock which forced their way into seams of the sedimentary rock which eroded more quickly over time. East Peak is a nearly circular stock about 5.5 miles long by 3 miles wide while West Peak is a stock about 2.75 miles long by 1.75 miles wide.

The other structures, hundreds of dikes which radiate out from the two mountains, were formed in the same way, but instead of a large pool of molten rock, the magma filled cracks in the soft sedimentary layer. Erosion wore away the softer sedimentary rock leaving dikes (walls) of granite rock up to 100′ high, 100′ wide, and 14 miles long. This scenic combination of two stocks (West Spanish Peak and East Spanish Peak) and hundreds of unique dikes is second to none with it’s size, diversity and beauty.

While in the area, just a short drive west on Hwy 160, is another geological wonder, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Zapata Falls, which lies just outside the park, is also a favorite.

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While the Spanish Peaks are categorized as belonging to the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, the are not geologically part of a chain of mountains, having been formed independently by different processes.

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Trail Directions

The trail is fairly level as it meanders through forests and meadows for about 2 miles (3.2 km) to treeline. At treeline there is a massive cairn signaling the beginning of the steep section of the trail. There is a rough path on talus (scree) up the southwest ridge of the peak for the 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of steep climbing. When in doubt stay to the left and close to the ridge, the climbing is on more solid footing.

Gaining the false summit, the actual summit comes into view, not far away and on much more even terrain. There is a cairn and large branch on the summit.

Trailhead Directions

La Plata Peak (14,336′), Sawatch Range

La Plata Peak (14,336′), Sawatch Range

La Plata Peak (14,336′), Sawatch Range

La Plata Peak is known for it’s distinctive Ellingwood Ridge, and is one of the highest 14,000′ peaks in Colorado. Traverseing the Southwest Ridge route, with Huron Peak and the Three Apostles providing a backdrop, makes for stunning scenery. 

“La Plata” is Spanish for “The Silver”, a reference to the many silver deposits in the area. You can find remnants of old mines along the trail.

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

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