Index of "Old Man Pack Trips"
"The Western Slope No-Fee Coalition was founded in 2001 by four renegrades from western Colorado who refused to pay $5 to drive on a dirt road.
Our activities, such as the protests we organized at Yankee Boy Basin and the resolutions we sponsored at the municipal, county, and state levels quickly attracted attention far beyond Colorado. We have evolved into a principal voice of the many Americans who believe in public ownership and public funding of public lands. We welcome support from people of all recreational pursuits and political persuasions.
We do not take a stand, for or against, on any other public lands issues."
These are OUR PUBLIC LANDS!
The above photo was taken on 22 April 2010. Note the fees (taxes) which are currently being collected by the BLM for any use of the trail, even for just walking on it. If the user fails to pay the fee, they are subject to a fine by the BLM. More and more trails and parking areas at trailheads are being subjected to fees by our Federal bureaucracy (BLM, USFS, etc). These public lands belong to us, the taxpayer. I urge you to contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives to protest. Urge them to repeal all such fees by supporting S.868 The Fee Repeal and Expanded Access Act of 2009
"Old Man Packtrips" by Pete Ross
The heading on this page probably demands an explanation. I call these "old man packtrips" because, at 77, I am an "old man", however, I still enjoy backpacking and hiking and am still able to carry a fully loaded, 30#, outside frame backpack without undue stress. Upon searching the internet for what I believe to be "old man hikes", I found none listed for Colorado.
Don't misunderstand. I am no longer a "gung ho" hiker by any means. A pack trip of 2 or 3 miles on fairly level ground is my limit these days*. I have been backpacking all over Colorado since 1963. I have been to the bottom of the Grand Canyon four times, (rim to rim to rim on my first trip), and to the top of Pike's Peak three times. I have hiked the Gore and Sangre de Cristo ranges in Colorado many times, and more recently, into the beautiful San Juan range. I am so thankful for my health, ability and the desire that I still have to continue participating in the wonderful activity of hiking and backpacking. I trust there are others of my age who have the same desire, so I choose to share some of my favorite hiking locations with you.
Update: March 2010 During the past year, I have worked on reducing the overall weight of my equipment. I carry an external frame Kelty pack. The large items that I have concentrated on for weight reduction are my tent and sleeping bag. I now have a single person, 3 season tent (weight 3.5 #) and a Big Agnes down bag (weight 2.2#). Weight reduction with these 2 items is over 5#. I have also taken a serious, objective look at the other items that I have been carrying, sorting out what has not been used or is not needed. I now have a total pack weight of < 28#, including a filled, 2 liter hydration bag inside the pack bag. Total weight includes enough food for 3 days.
* On 30 April 2010, I am going to make another exception to this limit. One other fellow and I will be taking a 4 day, 3 night, 15 mile pack trip into the Grand Canyon. Check the index above for a summary of my Grand Canyon backpack trip and to view the slide show.
If you are aware of trails in Colorado which are comparable to those listed below, please let me know: E-mail
1) Lost Park Wilderness Located on the eastern slope, north of Lake George, west of Deckers.
(Map name: McCurdy Mountian, CO) Trail Head south end: 39.17276 N,-105.37636 W
Difficulty: Easy (elevation: 8177'-8755', roundtrip distance= 7.5 miles)
One of my all-time favorite pack trips is into the Lost Creek Wilderness area. This area can be approached from either of two directions, south or north. Both are easy hikes on well groomed trails that have very moderate hills to ascend and descend, with the distance to a good campsite on the south end= 1.3 mile. (On the trail profile below, a suggested campsite is located at the point below "log bridge") Average grade on the south end to the campsite is 7%. There is a loss of 232' and gain of 249'. (May 2009: on this visit, the log bridge no longer exists at this point. Continue on the trail for another 0.3 mile along the creek to two log bridges)
Distance on the north end= 1.8 mile. Avg. grade north end for first mile is 4%. From that point to the campsite is 5% with a total elevation loss of 187'.
Both campsites are located on Lost Creek so there is plenty of water and possibly good fishing. Elevation is approx. 8200' to 8800'.
A side trip on the south end can be into the old Shafthouse drilling village. This will add another 2.5 miles of hiking, one way, north of the campsite but is well worth it. The remains of old buildings, machinery and equipment from the days of water exploration still exist. This was a failed attempt between 1891 and 1913 by the Antero and Lost Park Reservoir Company to dam Lost Creek underground at a site just below the confluence of Lost Creek and Reservoir Gulch. And this is one of the places on the creek where the water enters and exits a cave, hence the name Lost Creek. (This area is described on the trail profile at the 3 mile to 3.75 mile points) There are several of these caves located on the creek, some containing perpetual ice. Refrigerator Gulch, located at about 7 miles from the south TH, is one such area. As I recall, the creek goes underground 10 times. The gravesite of a hermit who lived in the village area for several years is located near the old cabins.
On the hike from the south trail head to the Shafthouse, the careful observer will see the remains of an old truck, either a model T or A, that is located down in the gully of one of the sharp turns of the trail. Walking towards the Shafthouse, the turn is to the left. (May 2009: on this visit, we were not able to locate the remains of the vehicle)
I have seen a large herd of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep near the campsite on the south end. These areas should be visited early in the season. May to mid June is suggested (although I have packed in during the months of March and April). Any later and mosquitoes can be quite severe until late fall.
Lost Creek and Goose Creek are one and the same. I have no idea why the name changes.
Note: Lost Creek Wilderness is located to the west of the disastrous Hayman fire area of the South Platte River Canyon. Don't let this dissuade you from visiting the beautiful Lost Creek area. The parking lot and trailhead are located in an area that was partially burned and the beginning of the trail will take you through a small portion of burned forest but the wilderness was not disturbed by the fire. Warnings are posted to be aware of possible dead timber falling, especially during windy conditions.
To view either of the photo albums of Lost Park Wilderness,
copy the link below and paste it into your browser:
Trail Profile South End
Trail Profile North End
Lost Park South
Lost Park to Old Cabins
2) Bench Trail West Located on the western slope, on the Grand Mesa. This trail will bring you to the top of a ski lift which is part of the Powderhorn ski area complex. (Map name: Lands End, CO)
Trail Head: 39.05237 N,-108.09857 W
Difficulty: Easy (elevation: 9769'-9837', roundtrip distance= 4.6 miles)
The is a very easy hike. Maximum elevation gain is 232' in the 2.3 miles to the campsite (Bench04) or an average grade of 3%. We have taken this hike in late September. Elevation is approx. 9800'. Grand Mesa is known for it's mosquito population but I have hiked there in June, July, August, and September and have not encountered the beasts. Could be the specific areas that I have been in account for the lack of mosquitoes. This area is heavily forested with occasional open spots. Water from small springs is nearby.
3) Dominguez Canyon North Located on the western slope, between Delta and Whitewater.
(Map name: Triangles Mesa, CO) Trail Head: 38.84923 N,-108.37253 W
Difficulty: Easy (elevation: 4735'-5571', roundtrip distance= 13 miles)
Turn off highway 50 at Bridgeport road. Drive to the end of the road to the trailhead. Walk 1.3 miles up stream to the new bridge across the Gunnison River, then on another .6 mile to the entrance of Dominguez Canyon. From this point on there are many places to camp. (Recent restrictions on camping in the canyon along the creek, for the first 1.5 miles. Look for advisory at TH) Water will be running through the canyon year round. The summer months are extremely hot in the canyon, so the best times for hiking this desert area are fall, winter, or early spring. There could be rattlesnakes in the canyon though I have not seen any. There is much evidence here of the habitation of the "ancient ones". Pictographs can be found here and there. The canyon provides many scenic views.
The trail continues on for approx. another 8.5 miles for a total of 13 miles within the canyon. The distance that I have covered is approx. 6 miles. The average grade is 5% with an elevation gain of about 700' in 6 miles. Average elevation is about 5500'. The hiking is not difficult except for the distance involved, and this you can modify to suit yourself. (DOM1 is the beginning of Dominguez Canyon)
Trail Profile from Parking Lot to TH
Trail Profile from TH to 4.5 Mile Mark
4) Firebox Creek-Fall Creek Located on the western slope, east of Cimarron. (Map name: Sheep Mountain, CO)
Trail Head: 38.19097 N,-107.42403 W
Difficulty: Easy (elevation: 11000'-12437', roundtrip distance= 12 miles)
Turn off highway 50 at the Little Cimarron Road. Drive approx. 20 miles to the end of this road and the trailhead into the Uncompahgre Wilderness area. Follow the Firebox trail until you arrive at Fall Creek valley, approx. 2 miles of almost level trail. At this point you will find the best campsites in the valley. Water is close by, both in the stream as well as springs which flow from the mountain side. The trail continues on south for many miles and provides access to many scenic overlooks.
This valley is very tranquil and scenic. Cutthroat trout can be found in Fall Creek. You will see an occasional elk and there is some evidence of mountain lion and bear. Be prepared for afternoon showers and thunder storms.
Elevation at the trailhead is 11,000', so plan your trip after the snow melt, probably into mid-June. Mosquitoes can be a problem in July or August but slack off in September. October can be a good month but be prepared for much cooler weather and possible snowfall.
Average grade is 5% with an elevation gain of 375' in the 2 mile hike to the campsite. This is an easy hike.
5) Flat Tops-Lost Lakes Located on the western slope, east of Meeker. (Map name: Ripple Creek, CO)
Trail Head: 40.10583 N,-107.29611 W
Difficulty: Easy (elevation: 10282'-10700', roundtrip distance= 9.5 miles)
Average grade is 5% with a distance of 3.3 miles to the campsite and maximum elevation gain of 400'. Elevation is 10,350'. This is an easy hike with plenty of water along the trail. The campsite is in a very scenic area affording views in all directions, inlcuding the China Wall. I recommend the use of a good water filter for drinking water as there are cattle located in the area.
A short (1.5 mi), side hike over a moderate hill (350' gain, 11% average grade) will take you to scenic Lost Lake. Another 1.4 mile hike to the west and a little south from the campsite will take you through a valley that is filled with wildflowers, down to the Lilly Pond. The pond is rather large and is filled with lilly pads as it's name implies. We made the hike in late August. The temperature was pleasant and there were very few insects.
6) Lottis Creek-Gunsite Trail Located on
the western slope, north of Gunnison, on the road to Taylor Park.
Trail Head: Parking, 38.77194 N,-106.62222 W GunsiteTH, 38.76917 N,-106.62028 W
Difficulty: Moderate (elevation: 9139'-9912', roundtrip distance= 5.5 miles)
Turn off at the Lottis Creek Campground. The trailhead elevation is 9139' with the suggested camp site at 9890' and 2.7 miles from the trailhead. This site should be able to handle 3 pack sized tents. Average grade is 6%. This is a fairly easy hike into a beautiful area. Water is nearby from a small flowing stream. Beavers have dammed this stream below the campsite.
A good side hike would be to continue on up the trail for another 3.5 miles to Henry Lake at 11,718' elevation, a gain of about 2000' with an average grade of 10%. Be prepared for occasional afternoon thunder storms. No problem with insects.
7) Lost Lake-Dollar Lake Located on the
western slope, between Paonia and Crested Butte, west of Kebler Pass.
Trail Head: 38.86883 N,-107.21022,9651 W
Difficulty: Easy (elevation: 9651'-10038', roundtrip distance= 3 miles)
Park at the Lost Lake Campground which is located on Lost Lake Slough. The trailhead is located on the west side of the Slough. (There is a trailhead on the east side of the Slough but I suggest taking the one on the west side going to the lakes.) Elevation at the trailhead is 9651'. The distance to Lost Lake is .58 mile with elevation at 9862'. Dollar Lake is 1.5 miles from the trailhead with elevation at 10,038'. Average grade is 7%. This is an easy hike with fantastic views. Both Lost and Dollar lakes are very serene. Between Lost and Dollar lakes is located a small water fall, just off the trail.
A junction in the trail will take you to Dollar Lake and this point is at the highest elevation on the hike. Taking the short trail from Dollar Lake back to the main trail, you have the choice of returning to the west trailhead or turn right and take the east trail to the east trailhead and to your vehicle. The east trail is not shown on my topo map, but I have hiked it and plotted it on the map freehand. The distance back to the vehicle on the east trail is virtually the same as the west trail, and it is a good trail. The average grade on the east trail is 8%, just a little steeper than the west trail.
I made this hike in July. The weather was perfect and I did not notice any insects. Numerous varieties of wildflowers abound in the area. This was truly a fine hike! I did not try fishing any of the waters. The area offers you a wide choice of campsites and water is readily available.
Trail Profile West Trail
Trail Profile East Trail
8) Crag Crest Loop (upper segment of the Loop) Located on the west slope, atop the Grand Mesa.
(Map name: Grand Mesa, CO) Trail Head: 39.04261 N,-107.99845 W
Difficulty: Moderate (elevation: 10278'-11151', roundtrip distance= 12 miles*)
*If hiking the total loop, the total distance will be 10 miles. If hiking from the west TH to the east TH, total distance will be 6 miles.
The trailhead and parking lot is located off highway 65 on the west end of the Crag Crest Loop and across (north) from Island Lake. Elevation at the trailhead is 10,450'. Distance to the suggested campsite is 2.3 miles, uphill most of the way. The average grade is 7% with an elevation gain of about 700 feet. Elevation at the campsite is 11,092'. This is an easy to moderate hike. The trail is mostly covered with trees but there are several fine vistas of the surrounding area.
The suggested campsite is located just a few yards from where the slopes on both side of a ridge come together to form a much narrower ridge.
We made this hike in June, the weather was very pleasant and we were not bothered by insects. Keep in mind that Grand Mesa is known for it's mosquito problem and severe thunderstorms are frequent.
Crag Crest Loop, West TH
Crag Crest Loop, Upper Portion
Crag Crest Loop, Upper Portion Profile
9) Crag Crest Loop (lower segment of the Loop) Located on the west slope, atop the Grand Mesa.
(Map name: Grand Mesa, CO) West Trail Head: 39.04261 N,-107.99845 W East Trail Head: 39.04869 N,-107.93671 W
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate (10278'-10658', distance TH to TH= 4.6 miles)
This section of trail can be accessed from either the west (elevation 10,450') or east (elevation 10,168') trailhead. The distance from the west trailhead to Forrest Lake (Upper Hotel Lake) is about 2.6 miles. This route takes you past Wolverine Lake and has an elevation gain and loss of about 300 feet. It is an easy to moderate hike.
The route from the eastern trailhead to Forrest Lake (Upper Hotel Lake) is about 2 miles with about 200' elevation gain.
In my opinion, hiking from the West TH to the East is easiest.
Again, be aware of the possibility of severe afternoon thunderstorms and the presence of mosquitoes during the summer months. I have not fished in either of the lakes.
Trail Profile, lower trail
All of these hiking areas are plotted on
digital topographical maps, complete with GPS waypoints. I shall be
happy to share these with you upon request, no charge.