Cupid and Grizzly Peaks

On a breezy Monday morning, I set out for Loveland Pass for another adventure. By the time I got there, the actual pass itself was closed as they were repaving the road. So I chose to be more adventurous and park further down the road and bushwhack up towards the ridge.

Here’s some more info about my hike:

  • Date: August 12th, 2019
  • Miles Hiked: 6.3 Miles
  • Route: Cupid and Grizzly Peak via Loveland Pass

Getting There

Loveland Pass is easily accessible from Interstate 70 and gets a lot of traffic, including Hazmat vehicles that use the pass throughout the year as they are prohibited from going through the Eisenhower Tunnel.

The Route

From the start, I knew that getting up to the ridge line was going to be very tiring. And it took a lot of work that morning . Within 10 minutes or so, my pants were completely soaked trying to work my way through the willow bushes. Luckily, I dried off within an hour because the wind at the top of the ridge was absolutely miserable.

The spot where I started my hike near Loveland Pass.

Once I crossed a small creek, I was finally out of the willows and more than halfway to the top of the ridge.

A small creek.
Looking over towards the top of the pass.

After taking a quick break, I reached the trail that branches off of the Mount Sniktau trail towards Cupid Peak. This part was pretty straight forward but I was amazed at how tiny Route 6 looks as it goes over Loveland Pass.

The trail.
Looking down on Route 6.

Upon reaching the trail, I didn’t stop until I reached the summit of Cupid Peak.

Cupid Peak

Standing at 13,117 feet, the views atop Cupid Peak are simply astounding. Even more so on a beautiful August morning. With the wind howling, I stopped to take in the views and some pictures too.

From the summit of Cupid Peak.
Looking towards the south.
Looking towards the northeast.

Now it was time to continue the journey up to the summit of Grizzly Peak. But before that, something weird happened. As I was hiking, I began to hear two people laugh but there was not a soul anywhere to be found. After about 20 minutes or so, I finally encountered two people who were further down the trail.

I did question my sanity in that brief span of time as I had worked all night before I set out on this hike. Nonetheless, I kept hiking further up the trail towards Grizzly Peak with what felt like a constant 30 mile per hour wind somewhat slowing me down.

Looking out towards Grizzly Peak.

Aside from the wind, it was turning out to be a spectacular day. Amazingly, no thunderstorms formed nearby either.

Getting closer now!
Such a peaceful view.
Almost to the fun part!
Navigating through the rocky portion.

Grizzly Peak

At an elevation of 13,427 feet, the views atop Grizzly Peak are pretty unique in that you can see the two nearby 14ers of Torreys Peak and Grays Peak. While I was sitting at the rock shelter, I could see numerous people hiking up to the summit of those mountains. I was just happy to have the summit of Grizzly Peak all to myself that morning.

The rock shelter at the summit.
The nearby mountains.
Looking out towards the Dillon Reservoir.
Great view of Grays and Torreys Peaks.
One last pic before departing.

Before heading back down towards my car, I was lucky to find some mountain goat fur only a short distance from the summit. Definitely was not expecting that.

The Return Trip

Given how tired I was at that point, I’m pretty glad that it was an uneventful hike back down to my car.

Descending Grizzly Peak.
Looking back up at the rocky section.
Hanging out with a marmot.
Scattered clouds and mountains.
So close yet so far away from my car.

Overall, this turned out to be a great hike on a perfect summer day. I’m glad I took advantage of the great weather to get out and summit a couple of 13ers that I can now add to my growing list of mountains that I have reached the summit of.

Four Peak Monday

After working my 12 hour shift from Sunday afternoon into early Monday morning, most people would probably go to bed. But not me. I had much different plans for my Monday and none of them involved spending my day off sleeping.

With that in mind, I made my way out to Berthoud Pass to begin what turned out to be a pretty remarkable day. Here’s some more info about my hike:

  • Date: August 5th, 2019
  • Miles Hiked: 13.6 Miles
  • Route: Mount Flora, Mount Eva, Witter Peak and Parry Peak via Continental Divide Trail

Getting There

Berthoud Pass is easily accessible off of US Highway 40 just outside of Winter Park, Colorado. Their is plenty of parking too.

The Route

From Berthoud Pass, I headed up to the summit of 13,146 foot Mount Flora and made it up there pretty quickly. It was pretty foggy that morning with a chance of afternoon thunderstorms developing later on.

Morning fog near the summit of Mount Flora.

From there, I made my way over to 12,884 foot Witter Peak which is on the way to Mount Eva. At the point, the fog was beginning to dissipate revealing a peaceful morning. I only encountered a handful of people in the eight hours that I spent out in the wilderness that day too.

Witter Peak in the distance.
From the summit of Witter Peak looking east towards Denver.
The view to the south.

After taking a quick break atop Witter Peak, it was time to continue on. Upon walking back to where I had originally veered off trail, I chose to continue further on towards the summit of 13,130 foot Mount Eva. It was pretty uneventful and before long I was signing my name in the summit register and taking in the views of the surrounding area.

Took a quick moment to relax and reflect on life.
Debris from an old building on Mount Eva.

After reaching the summit of three mountains that day, I simply was not content so I continued on my journey towards Parry Peak. At this point, thunderstorm clouds were beginning to form far off to the north. I figured I would make it quick and then retrace my steps back down towards the trailhead.

Parry Peak.

As I was making my way up Parry Peak, I was starting to definitely get tired but the end was in sight! So I soldiered on. But damn I was so relieved when I finally made it to the summit of 13,392 foot Parry Peak. I sat down at one of the rock shelters and ate nearly all of the food that I had brought with me. It was pretty amazing to be up there looking down and marveling at how small Winter Park actually looked.

Near the summit of Parry Peak looking back towards Mount Eva and Mount Flora.
Several rock shelters atop Parry Peak.
Looking north towards the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Winter Park.

The Return Trip

With storm clouds rolling in, it was soon time to head back. But it wasn’t that easy. Although all of these mountains are connected by rolling tundra, hiking back required reaching the summits of both Mount Eva and Mount Flora again in order to get back to Berthoud Pass. My calves were definitely burning when all was said and done.

Mount Eva straight ahead.
Looking back at Parry Peak from the lower slopes of Mount Eva.
Thunderstorms moving in to the north while I was descending Mount Flora.

Reaching the summit of four different mountains in one day was an incredible experience. I’ll never forget it. And by the time Monday night rolled around, I was definitely happy to go to bed for the first time in two days!

Mount Parnassus and Woods Mountain

On a sunny late July morning, I headed out for yet another cool hiking adventure. On this particular occasion, I set out to summit both 12,940 foot Woods Mountain as well as 13,579 foot Mount Parnassus. By my standards, it was a relatively easy day. Here’s some more information:

  • Date Hiked: July 23rd, 2019
  • Miles Hiked: 7.9 Miles
  • Route: Watrous Gulch Trail to Woods Mountain and west slopes of Mount Parnassus
  • Class: 2

Getting There

The Herman Gulch trailhead is accessible by taking exit 218 off of Interstate 70. As soon as you go down the exit ramp, you will want to take two quick right turns and go on a dirt road. Plenty of parking can be found here, but definitely get there early if you plan on going during the weekend!

The Route

From the beginning of the Herman Gulch trail, I reached the intersection where both the Herman Gulch and Watrous Gulch trails split apart from each other and continued up the Watrous Gulch trail.

Where the trails intersect.

Below treeline, the trail is surrounded by a lot of trees and is pretty relaxing. The further up I started to get, I noticed that it does get pretty steep rather early on. Upon reaching a small creek, I was also greeted with a large uprooted tree!

Large uprooted tree.
The trail among the trees.

Before too long, the trees start to thin out. The surrounding area starts to come into view with remarkable views of nearby 14er Torreys Peak too.

Looking to the south towards Torreys Peak.

It was really turning out to be a nice morning. With nothing but blue skies around, I continued up the Watrous Gulch trail and made a quick stream crossing to stay on the trail. Right after the stream crossing, I came to another intersection for the Bard Creek trail but continued on the Watrous Gulch trail for a good while after that. You can still reach the summit of Mount Parnassus if you do end up taking the Bard Creek trail too.

Watrous Gulch.
Working my way up towards Woods Mountain.

Finally, I found myself out of the woods and above treeline. I probably say it all the time, but being above treeline and among the mountains is unlike anything else.

Looking back to the south.

Now, it was time to head up the southern slopes of Woods Mountain. An easier route does exist but it seemed pretty circuitous at the time. Nonetheless, I found myself on the trail at the top of the ridge before too long anyway.

I went straight up from this point.
Looking back down towards where I came up the mountain.
The trail on top of the ridge.

From this ridge, I continued east until I reached the summit of Woods Mountain. I took a well deserved break at the summit before continuing onto Mount Parnassus. Even from here, it was pretty awesome to look around at all of the neighboring peaks and see the ones that I have already reached the summit of.

Woods Mountain Summit

The views of other nearby 13ers was pretty remarkable as well!

Looking over towards Mount Parnassus and Bard Peak.
Looking out to the west towards Pettingell Peak and The Citadel.

After pondering for awhile and admiring the remarkable landscape, I picked a line and started to make my way up the western slopes of Mount Parnassus. The sun was starting to beat down but was nothing a little bit of sunscreen couldn’t handle!

Starting the journey up Mount Parnassus.
Almost to the summit!

The Summit

The summit of Mount Parnassus is just downright amazing. The route to nearby Bard Peak and Engelmann Peak becomes visible.

Mount Parnassus Summit.
Looking over towards Grays and Torreys Peaks.
Looking west.

The views in every direction were remarkable. And I figure that I probably spent more than thirty minutes at the summit. But it was getting closer to noon so it seemed like it was time to head back down in the direction of the trailhead.

The Return Trip

On the way down Mount Parnassus, I hiked towards the saddle between Woods Mountain and Mount Parnassus. From there, I headed for one of the side trails that cut off from the main trail up Watrous Gulch. But don’t worry I took a lot of pictures along the way back!

Looking up towards Woods Mountain.
Love this one.
The trail down to Watrous Gulch.

Overall, this hike was splendid. It had amazing scenery with remarkable views in every direction. I’d recommend it and look forward to doing it again sometime.

Mount Sniktau

With each passing day, I’ve found myself becoming more addicted to both hiking and reaching the summit of mountain peaks. Reaching the summit of Mount Sniktau definitely made me realize this.

Specifically, I woke up late Sunday morning and worked my twelve hour shift until 3am. Instead of going to bed, I stayed up and drove to Loveland Pass on Monday morning and have no regrets. Here’s so more information about my hike:

  • Date Hiked: July 1st, 2019
  • Miles Hiked: 3.5 Miles
  • Total Elevation Change: 1,250 Feet
  • Summit Elevation: 13,240 Feet

Getting There

Loveland Pass is easily accessible from Interstate 70. Plenty of parking can be found at both the top and just below the summit of the pass. It also happens to be located on the Continental Divide as well and the views are just absolutely remarkable.

The Journey

Even from the parking area, the views were just off the chart. Being so high up already at nearly 12,000 feet, the trail itself was a steep path straight up the side of the mountain with the views becoming more incredible with each step.

The view from the Loveland Pass parking area.
The beginning of the trail on a beautiful Monday morning.
The view near the end of the steep section with Loveland Pass down below.

It does level out for a brief period of time before it continues to climb some more. I must admit that I was pretty surprised to still see that much snow up there too. Doing this hike was the perfect way to start the month though!

Continuing on up the trail.
Nothing but snow covered peaks with the Eisenhower Tunnel down below.
Just so breathtaking!

And about 1.75 miles later, I found myself at the summit! Although it’s definitely a shorter hike, I still got a good workout from it and was nothing less than impressed.

The Summit

Even though it was windy and still a little cold, I didn’t let that deter me from sitting at the summit for half an hour. While I was sitting up there, a nice little pika was kind enough to make an appearance for me too!

From the summit of Mount Sniktau looking east with Interstate 70 way down there.
Another lovely view!
Looking down in the immediate valley.
A pika blessing me with its presence.
So dreamy.

I really didn’t want to leave because it just felt so peaceful. But I was pretty tired too and figured it was time to go home and get some sleep. So that’s exactly what I did. But the return trip proved to be more eventful than I figured it would be.

The Return Trip

As I was heading back, a group of Mountain Goats came out of nowhere and ended up crossing the trail in front of me. Although they were gone in a flash, I was able to get a couple pictures of them enjoying the day and what not.

Mountain Goat mania.
Mountain Goats with a view.
One last photo of the surrounding mountains.

All in all, I’m glad I stayed up a full 24 hours to do this hike. It was so worth it. I’d have to say that this is an excellent beginner 13er with incredible views. I definitely recommend it and would do it again anytime.

Mount Flora

During the last full weekend of this past August, I decided to just pack up all my hiking gear in the car and set out for an adventure. I had no specific trail in mind that morning and a full tank of gas. About an hour later I found myself at Berthoud Pass outside of Winter Park, Colorado. Having driven past it numerous times, I figured today might as well be the day that I stop and explore this particular area. Considering that it was still really nice outside, I was quite surprised to find plenty of parking spots too.

The Continental Divide Trail runs through here as it spans from Montana in the north to New Mexico in the south.

Because I didn’t really have any kind of specific plan for that day, I decided to just walk around at the trailhead and see what kinds of trails were accessible via Berthoud Pass before I made any kind of final decision.

If you cross Route 40 from the parking lot, you have several options. You can either choose to embark on either the Berthoud Pass Trail or the Stanley Mountain Trail. If you choose to stay on the side that the parking lot is on, you have even more choices to pick from. The Colorado Mines Peak Trail is a fairly short hike if you don’t have a whole lot of time but still want that feeling of being high amongst the mountains and is on the way to the summit of Mount Flora.

However, I had plenty of time and decided to make this hike as worthwhile as I possibly could. With that being said, I chose to take the Mount Flora trail and possibly go even further than that if both time and weather permitted.

The sign pointing the way to the Mount Flora trail from Berthoud Pass.

Towards the beginning, I found myself going up numerous switchbacks that seemed like they were never going to end. Before too long, the numerous mountains nearby started to become more visible offering excellent views.

One of the first views you get of the surrounding mountains.
Another view from a little further up the trail.

After you get through the switchbacks, the trail becomes quite well defined and you really start to get an idea about where you are going. Despite being the last full weekend of August, small patches of snow were still visible from the past winter. It’s kind of crazy to think about considering how hot it was over the course of the entire summer, Nonetheless, the trail meanders its way up the mountain and you can even see people further off into the distance. From here, you still have quite a way to go before reaching the summit.

The beginning of the well defined trail.
The trail as it meanders by the edge of a cliff off in the distance.

As you can see from the photos, this hike is not too difficult and can easily be done without the help of trekking poles. The only area that you might possibly need them would be for navigating a small area closer towards the summit where some boulders can be found. The closer I got to the summit, I was beginning to hear pikas and even had a marmot run right in front of me across the trail. . In addition to that, it also starts to become much windier with each passing step. With that in mind, I would definitely recommend dressing in layers simply for that reason.

Looking back at Colorado Mines Peak.
Looking towards the mountains.

Upon reaching the summit, you will see a trail that leads further down that if taken will lead you to Bill Moore Lake. But before you do anything, make sure to take sometime and take in the scenery from the summit. At the summit, you will notice some rock wind shelters as well as some cairns. If you look down directly below into the valley, you will see Ethel lake which is fed from all of the runoff coming off of the nearby mountains. Additionally, you will also see that you can hike further onto other peaks such as Mount Eva, Parry Peak as well as Mount Bancroft. Although I did not get a chance to hike further on that day due to time constraints, I do plan on going back sometime soon.

Ethel Lake fed from the melting snow of the surrounding mountains.
Another view from the summit.
Looking towards the other peaks in the area that you can hike to.

More Information

Mount Flora is 13,146 feet in elevation and is rated as a class 2 mountain. The summit can actually be seen when you are heading west on Interstate 70 from Denver in the vicinity of Floyd Hill. It does get quite windy so make sure to dress accordingly and to keep an eye out for changing weather conditions as well.

From the Berthoud Pass Trailhead, the round trip distance is just under 6.5 miles with a net elevation gain of 1,825 feet. Overall, this was a really enjoyable hike along the Continental Divide and I look forward to doing it again in the near future as well as going further onto the other nearby peaks.

Square Top Mountain

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.

Towards the beginning of the trail.
Further up the trail where you can see it snowing at the top of Square Top Mountain.
The view of the top a little bit further on.

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.

The view of the tranquil lake.

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.

Following the cairns up the trail.

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.

The sun trying to peek through the clouds.
Some small patches of snow as I look back towards the east down the mountain.

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.

Continuing on towards the summit.
Amongst the clouds.
Lightly snowing at the top of Square Top Mountain in August!

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.

The weather starting to dissipate.
Starting to descend as the sun comes out and the clouds seemingly disappear.
Looking east towards Mount Bierstadt and Mount Evans.
A unique view of the trail as it meanders down the mountain.

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.