Long Canyon, Moab, UT

Long Canyon is a fun way to the Island in the Sky mesa from Moab. A moderate offroad route just by virtue of the very top end, Long Canyon offers brilliant views of the La Sal Mountains framed by a canyon setting found nowhere else in the world than the Utah canyonlands.

Long Canyon is just another example of the gems you can find, simply by looking at a map and taking the road less traveled.

Access to Long Canyon Rd. from Moab is simple; north out of town on the main drag, just turn west (left) on Utah Route 279, signed as Potash. Route 279 follows the north bank of the Colorado River, as it winds through the canyon during the first segment. Long Canyon will be a right turn from UT-279, just after the Jug Handle Arch. There is parking to hike to the arch at the beginning of Long Canyon Rd., signed.

Heading up Long Canyon near the beginning. In late November, the steep canyon walls keep the sun from reaching the canyon floor until the afternoon. Photo above was taken around 11am. As you gain in elevation, as evident in the photo, the canyon opens up and the walls stop blocking the beautiful, warm sun.

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Aspen Ridge

Aspen Ridge features open meadows, dense forests, and wide views of the Collegiate Peaks. An extensive aspen forest gives this area its name, and is a beautiful area in all seasons.

They call it Aspen Ridge because it’s a ridge that’s covered in aspen trees. Who would’ve guessed? Aspen Ridge is traversed by Forest Road 185, which provides a fun little offroad route from the Fourmile Area/U.S. 285/24 to Salida. Aspen Ridge is passable by stock SUVs in dry conditions, and features open meadows, dense forests, old mines, wide views of the Collegiate Peaks and plenty of dispersed campsites.

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Heading up Aspen Ridge, traveling southbound towards Salida

For a several miles you’re pretty much driving through a forest consisting exclusively of aspen trees. Unfortunately, when we did this trail, it was too late in the fall for the leaves to still be the magnificent yellow/orange/red they become. But it was still a fun trail and certainly a place on the bucket list to return to next September during the peak color season for aspens. It’s a great trail to run right after doing Lenhardy Cutoff or Sevenmile Creek Rd., just to the north in the Fourmile Recreation Area.

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Labor Day Weekend Adventures

Three days of adventures. Switzerland Trail out of Boulder, Left Hand Park Reservoir, Peak-to-Peak Highway, Red Feather Lakes, Dispersed Camping, Deadman Lookout, Sand Creek Pass.

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.

Act I

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.

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Salt Cabin Park

Just a lowly forest road, meandering its way through the woods in northern Pingree Park. Good dispersed camping and views of White Pine Mountain.

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.

 

Looking southeast down the valley from the top of the ridge.
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Old Flowers

Sometimes you’re on a backcountry road and wonder, “why does this road even exist?” The industries which built the West are often the reason, and Old Flowers Rd. is no exception.

Today, 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.

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Emmaline Lake

An excellent hike in Pingree Park takes you to an amazing area high in the Northern Colorado Rockies.

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.

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Mt. of the Holy Cross

The Halo Ridge route is challenging but rewarding. It offers the best views a hike on the Mt. of the Holy Cross can offer.

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.

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Mt. of the Holy Cross (rightmost peak), viewed from Notch Mountain. The snow which forms the cross is clearly visible.

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Arkansas River Valley

The whole area offers am endless amount of dispersed campsites, offroad routes, day use areas, and river access. Buena Vista and Salida provide the valley with the oasis of civilization.

The vast expanse that is the Arkansas River Valley is also notably cozy. On the south end, you have the town of Salida. In the middle, you have Buena Vista. At Buena Vista, highway 24 splits northbound towards Leadville, Minturn and I-70, while U.S. 285 heads south to Salida, Alamosa, and ultimately through New Mexico and Texas. North of Buena Vista, U.S. 24 and the valley climbs in elevation towards Leadville.

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Long Draw

If you like getting high and wild, then Long Draw is the place for you. You’re in deep at Long Draw Reservoir, surrounded by high 12,000ft peaks and rugged, wild mountain valleys accented by wildflowers and rolling meadows.

If you like getting high and wild, then Long Draw is the place for you. You’re in deep at Long Draw Reservoir, surrounded by high 12,000ft peaks and rugged, wild mountain valleys accented by wildflowers and rolling meadows. Long Draw Reservoir is close to the end of Long Draw Rd. At the end of Long Draw Rd is the trailhead for La Poudre Pass, a hiking trail that takes you over the continental divide and ends in Rocky Mountain National Park. From this trail you can also access the ghost town sites of Lulu City, once 40 buildings strong, and home to several hundred residents and a post office, and nearby Dutchtown, the outcast town founded by those cast out of Lulu City.

Long Draw Rd snaking through the high mountain valley. Picture date: November 2016.
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Buckhorn Canyon

Almost immediately after cresting Pennock Pass, you are granted with magnificent views of the Mummy Range and the Stormy Peaks. The rest of Buckhorn Canyon offers a bounty of offroad trails relatively close to town.

Buckhorn Canyon is located roughly halfway between the Poudre Canyon and the Big Thompson Canyon (U.S. 34). Larimer County Road 44H follows Buckhorn Canyon before crossing Pennock Pass and intersecting with Pingree Park Rd (CR 63E). Buckhorn Canyon is a great back route to/from Pingree Park, and also offers its own assortment of recreational opportunities. The road is maintained and generally passable by all vehicles. However, inclement weather can give vehicles with 4WD or AWD an advantage. Additionally, there are numerous spurs and forest roads accessible from Buckhorn Rd, many of which are offroad trails.

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