On August 18th, 2018, I set out to summit 13,794 foot Square Top Mountain on a day that I will not soon forget. Even though it was summertime, the weather that day really felt anything like you could possibly imagine for that time of year. To get to the trailhead, I drove from the western suburbs of Denver all the way out to Georgetown, Colorado on Interstate 70. From there, I proceeded onto the Guanella Pass road until I reached the trailhead which also happens to be nearby a trail leading to the top of Mount Bierstadt.
Upon arriving at the trailhead, it was right around 45 degrees at 7:30 AM. I wasted no time grabbing my trekking poles and before long I was on my very way. It was a somewhat cloudy day with the sun peaking through at times.
The further up the trail I went, it kept getting colder and so it was time to bring out the winter hat and gloves. Once I finally got through all of the willow bushes and crossed a small stream, I found myself at a small lake. It felt quite serene having this lake to myself while also hearing nothing but the wind and be far away from any kind of man made noise whatsoever.
After enjoying this tranquil lake for a short time, I continued onward up the trail. With each passing step, the landscape was starting to get more and more barren. After reaching the intersection with the Square Top Lakes trail, I started relying on cairns to stay on track.
Despite the temperature starting to get much colder now as I kept going up, the views of the surrounding valleys and mountains just continued to get better. I was also starting to hear the sounds of pikas out gathering food to prepare for the long winter ahead. Additionally, the trekking poles I had brought with me became of utmost importance closer towards the top as the terrain started to get much steeper.
Continuing on, I began to see some small patches of snow and the wind started to pick up quite a bit at this point as I was getting closer to the summit. Shortly thereafter, a snow squall moved in and dropped a little bit of snow as I had finally reached the summit. I’ve always found it quite intriguing to literally be as high up as the clouds are and to just look over and see them coming directly towards you.
After walking around for awhile and taking a short break at the summit, it was time to head back down the mountain. No more than 15 minutes later, the weather started to dissipate rather quickly to the point that you would have never guessed that it had even snowed that day.
Overall, this hike will always be memorable to me as it was the first 13er that I ever completed. Just being able to hike so far out into the Arapaho National Forest and not hear any kind of traffic noise made for a truly remarkable experience. This hike surely did not disappoint and had a little bit of everything. Considering that it was the middle of August, I was truly surprised at the lack of people but was absolutely delighted to have the summit of the mountain all to myself that day. In regards to animals, all that I really saw that day were several deer and the pikas running around foraging for food.
Things to Remember
The Guanella Pass road is typically closed from late November through the winter months and does not open completely until May. Square Top Mountain is a relatively easy class 2 mountain but I would still recommend bringing trekking poles along. Definitely be prepared for the weather and make sure to bring plenty of water because their is hardly any shade on this trail.