This is easily one of my favorite hikes of the year, both because it satisfies the ‘well-rounded adventure’ requirement and because of the amazing variety of terrain. It’s in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, which is accessed via 4th of July Road. Passing through the town of Eldora and riding up the 4th of July road is cool enough, and if you have a stout 4×4 you can mercifully knock a mile or so off of the 15 mile total. Depending on the weather, this may also prevent you from having to walk an appreciable distance through a giant puddle. Either way, you add a short but mildly technical off-road jaunt to your otherwise human-powered day. As icing on the cake, the final stretch deters most motorists, leaving the limited parking at the end of the road a pretty good bet.
We chose a doubleheader for our first 14ers of the year and it did not disappoint! The hike itself is pretty straightforward: am obvious trail departs from the road and leads you via the path of least resistance up Grays and then Torreys. An optional knife-edge trail descends from the summit of Torreys, which we omitted, but could be used as a nice way to vary the scenery on the return trip. It doesn’t really change the mileage but ads some exposure. Both summits offer glorious views of the Summit County mountains. But the factor that really takes the cake for me is the stunning alpine valley from whence you begin. The best way (IMHO) to tick off these peaks is to drive up Stevens Gulch Road the day before until you get to the end or until you’d rather not punish your vehicle any further. The road peters out nearby an extensive alpine meadow sprinkled with mining remains and ample opportunities for car camping. Get an early start, find a nice camp spot and take in some world-class views while you acclimate. Waking up at the trailhead really takes the edge off of a 14er and the ambiance is second to none!
It occurred to us the other day, that for some reason we haven’t been backpacking once yet in Colorado! Clearly this was unacceptable, so Kelly picked out a nice warm-up outing so we could get our backpacking legs under us for the season. We booked a spot at Ouzel Lake, which has an upper and lower site. The lower spots were filled so we settled for the upper sites. The upper site is a tad farther from the trail-head, though in either case the whole walk would have been roughly 10 miles round trip. Would have been…
I’ve been meaning to put together an edit from this little jaunt for a while now, but just never managed to get around to it until now. This departure from our normal people-powered adventure was schemed up to satisfy two goals: to conduct some backcountry skiing recon in the Rollins Pass region, and to find something adventurous (but not too adventurous) to do with Kelly’s mom.