This week’s training hike took us alongside the headwaters of Elk Creek as we hiked into the Pike National Forest. Elk Creek is the stream which passes very near our ranch on its way to the North Fork of the South Platte River. The South Platte heads north from Denver into Nebraska and then east to the Missouri River. The Missouri then dumps into the mighty Mississippi and into the Gulf.
The trailhead is hidden with the Park County community of Harris Park and can be very confusing to locate. Once there, the trail begins at an elevation of 9,000′ and immediately crosses Elk Creek.
The fractured granite trail base gives it a groomed appearance and climbs at a comfortable 5-7% grade continuously as you make your way up through a mix of aspen and conifer forests. Immediately we were presented with some glorious fall colors.
Aspens towering over the trail. This portion of the trail featured several small stream crossings and was a bit muddy in spots. There were also interesting boulder fields to navigate and several springs were observed bubbling up from the ground.
The vistas were spectacular, and we were lucky to be on the trail this week as the fall colors at 10,000′ elevation come and go very rapidly. I would expect that most of the aspen leaves shown on this post will have fallen within a weeks time.
We encountered our first snow at 10,750′ elevation, very near the end of Meridian Trail. At this point, Meridian meets Cub Creek Trail at a “T” intersection. If you head east you are on your way toward the Cub Creek Trailhead near Maxwell Falls in Evergreen. A left turn takes you west and further uphill into the Mt. Evans Wilderness. We turned west and continued uphill.
This portion of Cub Creek Trail is so heavily wooded that it was nearly impossible to see anything other than the trail and closely spaced spruce trees. Rarely, you could see a vista through the forest. In this photo the camera is pointed east and you can barely make out the Denver skyline and eastern plains, approximately 40 miles away.
We continued climbing Cub Creek Trail until about 1:30 when we decided to stop for lunch. We ate along the trail and shortly thereafter encountered a group of hikers from the Colorado Mountain Club making there way down from the 11,400′ saddle just above us. They indicated the saddle was just above timberline and offered spectacular views of Mt. Evans, Mt. Rosalie and Colorado eastern plains. We were at 10,900′ elevation when we decided to turn back and leave the saddle for a future hike.
The hike down was beautiful but when we encountered the loose fractured granite trail we slid on nearly every step for about a mile. Nevertheless, it was a great 8+ mile hike in wonderful conditions.