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

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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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

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

Humboldt Peak (14,064′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Humboldt Peak (14,064′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Humboldt Peak (14,064′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Humboldt Peak is part of the Crestones in the rugged Sangre de Cristo mountain range. The Crestones are a cluster of 14,000′ peaks comprising Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, Kit Carson Peak, Challenger Point, Humboldt Peak, and Columbia Point. Humboldt Peak is the least difficult hike (difficult Class 2). The rest of the Crestone Group is Class 3, 4, and 5 climbing.

As the trail winds up Humboldt Peak you pass the South Colony Lakes, the most popular back country camping site in the Sangre de Cristo Range.

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Trail Directions

The trail climbs the peak from the South Colony Lakes basin, accessed from the east side of the range. This basin is a popular site that is also the base for most climbs of Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle. You start the hike on a very rugged four-wheel drive road that was closed in 2009 as it follows the South Colony drainage.

Once near the lakes there will be Forest Service signs providing information on the area. Going NW (Humboldt Peak cutoff trail) at the junction, takes you to the Upper South Colony Lake.

The trail climbs steeply to the ridge from the upper lake. Once on the ridge stay to the center for the safest scramble to the summit. The northern side is treacherous with a steep drop for most of the remaining route.

Once on the false summit, head to the northeast to the true summit along large talus.

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

Shelf Road (9,494′), Fourmile Canyon

Shelf Road (9,494′), Fourmile Canyon

Shelf Road (9,494′), Fourmile Canyon

Shelf Road Gold Belt Tour National Scenic Byway is a dirt road passable with a 2WD vehicle in good weather. It follows the old stagecoach route between Cripple Creek and  Cañon City built in 1892. It twists along Fourmile Creek, with long bands of limestone towering above and below the road. 

The Gold Belt Tour was designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation as a National Scenic Byway in 2000. It is one of eleven America’s Byways designated in Colorado. Fremont Peak and the Royal Gorge Bridge are located not far from the southern end of the road and are a favorite in the area.

A sport climber’s dream, with bolted routes on stable limestone

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Route Directions

When entering the road in Cripple Creek there is a sign that recommends a 4×4 or a high clearance vehicle. The road, however, is well graded but issues could occur if snow or heavy rains hit the area. Any passenger vehicle can easily drive this road in good weather.

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

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

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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