Labor Day weekend is the official unofficial end of summer. It’s also the only three day weekend most people get before warm days start running out.
The itinerary for the weekend was packed, starting with an impromptu offroad trip out of Boulder, a return to Fort Collins to gear up, and an 11th hour drive to the Red Feather Lakes area for a two night camping trip. This post is somewhat novel for this blog; here I’m featuring a few never-before-featured areas, as well as some familiar areas that have been featured before.
Switzerland Trail, Left Hand Park Reservoir, the Peak-to-Peak Highway
Out of Boulder Canyon/highway 119, there are plenty of old roads to explore. Switzerland Trail is accessible via Sugarloaf Rd and Sugarloaf Mountain Rd, less than ten miles from Boulder up the canyon. Sugarloaf Rd climbs steeply up from highway 119 in the canyon, and is paved. Sugarloaf Rd mainly provides access for residents along it, but Sugarloaf Mountain Rd branches off to the north and provides access to public lands, the Switzerland Trail, and other opportunities.
Salt Cabin Park Rd. is a nice little route through northern Pingree Park just south of the Poudre River. It is a loop which starts and ends along Crown Point Rd. (Forest Road 139). Just a lowly forest road, meandering its way up a hill then back down. There are some nice dispersed campsites, and excellent views of West White Pine Mountain. The Stormy Peaks are visible, as well as Crown Point.
OTodaTodToday, Old Flowers Road is simply another forest access road, and alternate (offroad) route from Stove Prairie & Rist Canyon to Pingree Park. Old Flowers Road actually consists of two parts, East Old Flowers, between Stove Prairie and Pingree Park, and West Old Flowers, from Pingree to the the trailhead for Flowers Trail, a hiking trail.
Mining history. Mining history is something which Colorado has plenty of. This visit to Cripple Creek and then Victor was another spur of the moment shindig. Instead of going straight from Salida back to Denver via US 285, we decided to take a slight detour and go via US 50 to Cripple Creek, and then via Rampart Range back to the Denver metro area.
This excellent hike in Pingree Park takes you to some amazing lakes high in the Northern Colorado Rockies. It is 5.7 miles one way from the trailhead. Emmaline Lake is incredibly scenic and takes about a day for most people (even if you’re faster, you’ll want to take the whole day and explore). At and near the top, you are surrounded on three sides by the high mountain ridges of Comanche Peak and Fall Mountain. There are ways to the top, but they almost all require some scrambling. There are multiple little ponds, large rocks to climb on and explore, and it’s overall a nice little area that is kinda fun to spend a day.
One of the lowest 14ers in elevation, at 14,011 ft (USGS), Mt. of the Holy Cross is a challenge as well as a spectacle. It is such named due to the cross-shaped snowfield on the northeast face. The first recorded ascent of the mountain was in 1873, but it is very likely to have been previously ascended by Native Americans or mining prospectors. Holy Cross is the highest peak in the northern Sawatch Range.
The Swamp Creek area offers a plethora of choices for offroading, camping, and shooting. Make no mistake, there are often RVs, generators, shooting, and people riding OHVs. For a drunken weekend in the hills the area is perfect.
Forest Road 171 is just south of Red Feather Lakes and offers plenty of recreational opportunities. Geographically, the area in which the 171 network of roads is located is in the Swamp Creek drainage. FR 171 is actually a loop back towards the main road from which it starts, County Road 69/Manhattan Road. 171 also has numerous spurs and branches, indicated by letters and hence the “network” designation. All spurs are accessible by the parent, nonlettered 171 road, but not all spurs provide access to other spurs (though some do).
This whole area offers a plethora of choices for offroading, camping, and shooting. Hiking is comparatively limited but for a drunken weekend in the hills this area is perfect. You are less than 15 minutes from the town of Red Feather Lakes, which has reliable cell service, two general stores, a sporting goods store, restaurants, a coffee shop, and a hardware store.
This offroad trail is a fun way to get into the 171 network and off the main roads sooner. It isn’t really that technical, but there are several sections which might prove tricky for lower clearance vehicles and/or require four wheel drive. There are several creek crossings, as well as a portion of the trail which runs through Sevenmile Creek. Note: there is another “Sevenmile Creek Road” in Chaffee County, which is completely different, obviously.