Lake Basin Located
near Silverton, on the west slope, in the San Juan range of south
Trail Head, lower: 37.80722N,-107.77639W Trail Head, upper: 37.81044N,-107.77662W
Difficulty: Strenuous (Elevation: 10327'-12400', round trip distance= 6 miles)
Turn west off highway 550 at the Mineral Creek road (FS road 586) junction and go approximately 6 miles to the Clear Creek road turnoff (north). Turn right. This road is suitable for medium to high clearance vehicles but not for those with very low clearance. Travel approximately one mile to the first switchback where you will find a small parking area and the trail head to the Ice Lake Basins. This will save climbing an extra 500 feet in elevation which I assure you will appreciate! (An alternate trail head is located just a bit further west at the FS campground on Mineral Creek road. Here you will find a large parking lot.)
You will meet a small challenge after hiking about 150 yards from the upper trail head. A picturesque cascade of water forms a pool which must be crossed. Take your time and choose your steps carefully! Just after you cross the pool you will come to a junction in the trail with the left branch going down. Do not take left branch trail. Continue straight forward for a few hundred yards before beginning the uphill portion of the trail.
The total distance traveled from the trailhead to the Upper Basin will be approximately 3 miles with an elevation gain of some 2000 feet. Yes, this is a "pull" for an old man carrying a 38 pound pack. We made the hike in August of 2009 and the weather was perfect. We made it to our campsite (elevation 11,475') in the Lower Basin in about 2.5 hours, at the 1.7 mile mark. Our campsite was in an open meadow which provided early sun exposure to warm us up. The temperature ranged from a low of mid 40's at night to mid 70's during the day.
We made camp and settled in for the rest of the day. Words are not adequate to describe the beauty of this area. The lower basin is spectacular with at least 3 waterfalls or cascades and wildflowers everywhere. The walls of the basin project upward at a severe angle and are covered with green growth. Tomorrow we will take our day hike to the Upper Basin. We turned in early with anticipation of seeing the Upper Basin after a good night's sleep.
We awoke just at dawn the next day, had breakfast, packed our day packs and headed up the steeper part of the trail, gaining about 800 feet in less than a mile. This part of the trail is somewhat hazardous in that there is much loose rock combined with the steepness. We arrived at the Upper Basin (elevation 12,400') in about 1.5 hours.
I earlier described the Lower Basin as spectacular. The Upper Ice Lake Basin is stupendous! Ice Lake is a most beautiful blue color with a background of spectacular mountain peaks and an unending carpet of wildflowers.
The link below will take you to a photo album of our adventure. Copy and paste in your browser.
The duration of our trip was 4 days, 3 nights. As mentioned before, the weather was perfect. We had brief sprinkles of rain the first 2 days. The third day it began to rain at about 1:30 in the afternoon and gently rained all night until about 6:00 AM the next morning. Keep in mind that in the Colorado mountains, it is not IF it will rain, but WHEN.
I highly recommend this hike to anyone who is in reasonably good health. I would rate it as being one of the more difficult trips that I have taken in the past few years, not because of distance but rather the severe elevation gain in such a short distance. I presently live at an elevation of 6000 feet and experienced some minor difficulty in breathing during the hike.
Trail Profile from TH to Lower Basin
Trail Profile from Lower Basin to Upper Basin
11) Monument Trail within the Colorado National Monument (Map name: Colorado National Monument, CO)
Trail Head, south end: 39.07694N,-108.72917W Trail Head, north end: 39.10833N-108.70139W
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate* (elevation 6120'-5297', round trip distance= 6 miles)
Enter the Colorado National Monument (CNM) at the west entrance. From Grand Junction, drive west on Interstate 70 to exit 19, turn left on road 340. Continue on 340 for approx. 2.5 miles. Look for the CNM sign on the right. Turn here, Rim Rock Road, and proceed into the Monument. Continue on, looking for the sign on the left which identifies the Coke Ovens Overlook. (Be careful to not drive off the road: it's a long way down!) Continue on and just after this overlook you will arrive at the Monument Trail trailhead parking area. Distance from the Monument entrance to the TH is approx. 8.7 miles.
*The reason for the "Moderate" rating on this trail is now in front of you: from the TH is a series of switchbacks on the most hazardous part of this trail. The trail descends some 700' in about ½ mile with an average grade of 16%, and requires caution as the trail, on some turns, is narrow and uneven. (Trek poles recommended) Once down the first half mile, the trail becomes very easy to hike.
This trail is best hiked when the weather is cool, mid-fall through mid-spring, as the Canyon is located in high desert, with temperatures reaching into the high 90's or low 100's during the summer season.
Be sure to bring along a camera as there are many beautiful sandstone formations located here, of which Independence Monument is one of the most attractive. This gigantic formation is generally considered to be our destination and turnaround point at the 3 mile mark, although the trail does continue on for another 2.5 miles to the northern TH. A through hike (5.5 miles) could be taken with appropriate transportation planned.
Located in an open area, just to the right (west) of Independence Monument and a few yards left (north) of the trail, are two large flat surfaced slabs of stone which are laying almost parallel to the ground. As you approach these stones, the one on the left is engraved on it's top with a portion of the Declaration of Independence. This was done by the first caretaker of the Monument, John Otto and his wife in the early 1900's.
For more information and photos: http://www.nps.gov/colm/planyourvisit/freedom-flies-high.htm
The numerous pinnacles and formations which are located within the Monument attract many rock climbers and if you are fortunate to hike the trail when they are present, you will witness some breath taking action. Combine this with the possibility of seeing the Desert Bighorn sheep, Collared lizards, Coyote, Antelope squirrel, and Canyon wren which live here in this wonderful canyon and you will want to return again and again.
The Monument trail, along with many other trails located within CNM, make this a fine location for day hikers.
Trail Profile, West TH
11.5) Monument Trail within the Colorado National Monument (Map name: Colorado National Monument, CO)
Difficulty: Easy (elevation 4756'-5297', round trip distance= 4.6 miles)
An alternative and less stressful route to the Independance Monument rock would be to enter at the eastern trail head (not the eastern entrance to the CNM itself). This TH is located just off South Broadway in the Redlands area. Suggest using a GPS with coordinates 39°06'30"N---108°42'05"N entered to find the exact TH location.
Trail Profile, East TH
12) Blue Lakes on Mount Sneffels (Map name: Mount Sneffels, CO)
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous (elevation: 9331'-11035', round trip distance= 6.6 miles)
Trail Head: 38.03582N-107.80673W
From Ridgeway travel west on highway 67, look on the left for the sign "East Dallas Creek road" and turn left toward Mount Sneffels. Travel approx. 3.5 miles to the parking lot at the end of the road. Be sure to take the trail due south to the Blue Lakes. The trial is fairly steep for the first 2.2 miles (13% grade), then levels off (8% grade) for the remainder of the hike to the lower lake area. There is usually water near the trail at the 0.5 mile and 1.85 mile points, and is dry from there to the lower lake.
The Blue Lakes live up to their name as the color of the water is a beautiful azure. The lower lake is set in a spectacular basin with a high bank on the east side. Campsites are available on the west and south side of the lake. Elevation here is close to 11000'.
The trail continues on up the mountain to the other two Blue Lakes and then beyond to the Blue Lakes Pass (13000' with 21% grade), then it descends into Yankee Boy Basin. Distance from the lower lake to the pass= approx. 2.5 miles with many switchbacks to the top.
Best to wait until mid-June and snow melt for this hike. The overall setting is spectacular!
Music Pass, Sand Creek Lakes, Music Valley, Sangre de Cristo Range
(Map name: Crestone Peak, CO, Beck Mountain, CO)
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous (Elevation: 10633'-11757' Round trip distance: 5 miles)*
Trail Head, upper: 37.92474N-105.48763W Trail Head, lower: 37.93071N-105.45709W
* Elevation specified is from the upper TH to the Upper Sand Creek Lake. The hike into Music Valley requires climbing 11397' Music Pass then descending into the Valley and proceeding to a suggested campsite located at elevation 11010', waypoint 37°56'07"W--105°31'21"N. The distance is approx. 2.5 miles. The Upper Lake is located approx. 1 mile from the suggested campsite. The Lower Lake is located approx. 1.1 miles from the suggested campsite. There is a spring (for drinking water) located on the eastern side of the Pass, on the north side of the trail, just before the steep ascent. Once over the pass, there are some intermittant brooks located on the descent.
Fishing in the upper lake is generally good for
cutthroat trout but rather sporadic in the lower lake. Alternate
campsites are located closer to the lakes. My experience with camping
at the upper lake is generally good with one exception: a very strong
wind kept us in our tents for some 5 hours, the wind so strong that
it was difficult to stand. Fishing was impossible as was any other
activity that required us to be outside the tents. This experience
convinced us to camp at a lower elevation and take day hikes to the
upper lake, which is above timberline and with very little shelter.
The lower lake is below treeline and does not experience the violent
As you top the pass, the view to the west is beautiful. Concentrate on the valley below, you will see the open meadow. The suggested campsite is located in that meadow, at the end and to the far right, in the corner. A small brook (for drinking water) is located near the campsite, in the trees to the west. You will most likely see bighorn sheep close to the campsite, sometimes coming right into camp!
It is not uncommon to have a daily rain/hail storm in the area, usually around noon, accompanied by lightening, so be prepared.
Beginning the hike from the upper TH will require
driving a 4WD vehicle to that trail head, a distance of some 2.5
miles from the lower TH. DO NOT try this with a 2WD
vehicle. On one trip a fellow decided that he could make it in a
standard station wagon. He made it for about 1/2 mile then the
vehicle ended up with a punctured radiator and we had to tow him all
the way back to Colorado Springs! This trail is rough but not
dangerous. The trail should be clear of snow by mid-June. Mosquitoes
can be a problem later in July.
Follow highway 69 south out of Westcliffe and look for the Colfax Road turnoff. Then carefully follow road sign directions to Music Pass/Rainbow Trail. At the end of the road, there will be a large parking lot and outhouse located near the lower TH. You will immediately cross the Rainbow Trail as you begin the hike or drive to the upper TH.
Trail Profile (Upper TH to Campsite)
Trail Profile (Campsite to Upper Sand Creek Lake)
Trail Profile (Campsite to Lower Sand Creek Lake)
Lower TH to Upper TH (4WD Road, High Clearance ONLY!)
Upper TH to Music Valley
Eaglesmere Lakes, Gore Range (Map
name: Mount Powell, CO)
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous (Elevation: 8756'-10394', Round trip distance= 7.2 miles)
Trail Head: 39.83972N-106.31338W
The road to the trailhead is located approx. 2.5 miles south east of the village of Heeney, on the south side of Green Mountain reservoir. Look for the sign that indicates the road heading south to Cataract Creek, Cataract Lakes. Continue straight ahead for approx. 2.2 miles to a junction in the road, near the lower lake, then veer right to the parking area and TH to Eaglesmere Lakes. Do not take other turnoffs, stay on the main road.
I have packed on this trail many times over the years. The first 1.5 miles of the trail has always seemed strenuous to me with the grade at 13%. I suppose this could be "first part of the trail syndome" if there is such a thing. From that point on it is still uphill but seems to be not so severe. Views from the trial are spectacular with abundant wildflowers bordering on both sides. As you climb, look carefully toward the head of the canyon to your left and you will see the giant Cataract falls through the trees in the distance. Nearly the total hike is made through thick, lush aspen and evergreen forest.
Near the 3 mile mark, you will join the famous Gore trail, once a main thoughorofare of local Indian tribes. Turn right on this trail and continue to the lakes. The trial will bring you to the rather marshy outlet of the lower lake. Suitable campsites can be found on either side of the lake, east or west. The lakes are rather small but quite pretty. Fishing is fair for small rainbow trout.
Trail Profile, Eaglesmere TH to Gore Trail
Trail Profile, Gore Trail Jct. to Lakes
15) Cataract Lake (upper), Gore-Eaglesnest Wilderness, Gore Range (Map name: Mount Powell, Colorado)
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous (Elevation: 8596'-10796', round trip distance= 16 miles)
Trail Head: 39.83972N-106.31338W
To reach the trail head, follow the directions as listed above in the summary of the Eaglesmere Lakes hike. At the end of the road, bear LEFT to the Suprise Lake TH. The trail imediately crosses a small foot bridge and heads uphill. Proceed approx. 2.4 miles to the juction of the Gore Trail. Turn right on the Gore Trail and proceed approx. 0.75 miles to the junction of the Cataract Lake trail. You will notice Suprise Lake on your left as you hike this leg of the journey. Turn left off of the Gore Trail, onto the Cataract Lake trail and hike approx. 2.2 miles to the lake. You will come to a smaller lake first, Cat Lake, then on to Caratact Lake. The large lake is good for large brook trout. There are many good campsites around the lake. The area has become popular and may be somewhat crowded. Good campsites can be found nearby at the smaller Cat Lake.
My first backpack trip in Colorado was to Cataract Lake, in 1963. I was encouraged to make the trip by a friend and co-worker, John Cleveland. Our route to the lake was somewhat different in that we hiked the Eaglesmere Lake trail to the Gore Trail, then headed east on that trail to the Cataract Lake trail. (It turns out that the original Cataract Lake trail, now closed, followed the east side of the drainage valley of Cataract Creek and was much steeper and shorter than the present trail.) Today, the total milage for the Eaglesmere route to Upper Cataract Lake is 8 miles as compared to the Suprise Lake route, 5.5 miles. I have made the hike numerous times via the Eaglesmere Lake route with an overnight stop at the Eaglesmere-Gore trail junction on the way in. Today a good plan would be to hike the Surprise Lake route to Suprise Lake, spend the night and continue to Cataract Lake the next day.
This is one of the most beautiful areas in Colorado that I have witnessed in my many years of backpacking and is well worth the effort. The trails are generally well maintained and pass through virgin timber. I am thankful for those who had the foresite to create the Gore-Eaglesnest Wilderness.
Trail Profile, Cataract Lake Trail
16) The Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous (Elevation: 3700'-7190', round trip distance= 15 miles)
Date of the hike: 28 April- 4 May 2010
Trail Head, South Kiabab trial: 36.05228N-112.08275W Trail Head, Bright Angel trail: 36.05740N-112.14465W
Observations: This was a hike that I had been longing for but for a while I was not certain that I was up to it physically. I began taking hikes in our local area, up and down dirt/gravel trails, for 3 months in advance, after the corrective surgery on my left knee had healed. I began by carrying just a day pack with hydration bag and gradually increased the weight to a full backpack. Distances varied from 2 miles to 7 miles. This was a good, effective plan. I had absolutely no knee pain and no soreness on the next morning during the Grand Canyon hike. A little stiffness, but no soreness. I had already resigned myself to the fact that this would be my last hike into the Canyon due to my advanced age (nearly 77). During the hike, I would walk for ½ hour then rest for 15 minutes; drink copious amounts of water; eat salty snacks. Apparently this was the proper thing to do to reduce or eliminate muscle fatigue. It worked for me!
Our route took us some 5 miles down the South Kiabab trail to the Tonto trail. We camped in area BJ9 which has "open camping" but no water is available, not on the trail nor at the campsite. Day 2 was spent hiking west across the Tonto trail. Water was accessible at the 1.8 mile point on this trail, about half way to the Bright Angel trail. Water was available at Indian Garden on the Bright Angel trail and at the 3 mile and 1.5 mile rest house on this trail. (Water is turned on May 1 at the 3 mile and 1.5 mile rest houses. Not available here before this date.)
The weather was perfect for this extended hike (4 days, 3 nights in the Canyon) though a little windy at times. This is the first year and first serious hike of the year that I used "trekking poles". What a tremendous advantage this was for me. I never fell once while hiking some fairly difficult terrain and trail conditions. Without the poles I believe that I could have fallen at least 6 times! I am "sold" on these hiking tools.
Another useful tool that I had not used before was the 2 liter hydration bag which was tucked safely inside my external frame pack bag. What an easy way to remain hydrated while walking, which is extremely important to prevent soreness in muscles, especially in the desert climate. The hose to the hydration bag was draped over my shoulder for easy access.
This was my fourth hike into the magnificent Grand Canyon, the first taking place in the early 1970's, rim to rim to rim. As noted, we did not travel all the way to the bottom this time, just to the rim of the inner gorge. The scenery, flowers, animals, and trails are still magnificent. We encountered deer, elk, squirrels, birds, lizards, frogs, a large variety of wildflowers, and many friendly people who had the same interests as ours.
During our second day at Indian Gardens, we hiked to Plateau Point, a round trip distance of 3 miles. The 360 degree view of the Canyon is wonderful!
I had a fine companion with me on this my final hike into the canyon. We met and spoke with some fine folks on the trail and shared many thoughts with each other.
The National Park Service is doing a good job of maintaining the trails and facilities in our Park, a major achievement considering the number of people who visit each day.
I gave thanks over and over to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for the strength that I had, to be able to hike there once again, and for the beauty of His magnificent creation, this Grand Canyon! It was sad to say farewell.
To view photo album of the hike,
Copy the link below and paste
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South Kiabab Trail Profile (South Rim to Tonto Trail) 7190'-4149'; 5 miles
Tonto Trail Profile (South Kiabab to Bright Angel) 4022'-3700'; 5 miles
Bright Angel Trail Profile (Indian Garden to South Rim) 3726'-6667'; 5 miles