Tag: hiking

CO Hike Series: Hartenstein Lake

Lesser known destination in Buena Vista, CO accessed from the Denny Creek Trailhead I was so fortunate to get a few days this fall to hike with my family. My Mom, Dad, Lucas, and Kelsey flew in to visit and we spent time in Buena Vista, CO. One of our favorite small towns. No, absolutely, our top favorite small town. We love to be on a trail and this weekend we were graced with absolutely perfect fall hiking weather! The trails were nearly empty, the sunshine was warm, and the fall colors made a breathtaking backdrop. Although we have several favorite hikes in the area, Hartenstein Lake was a new destination for us! How fun to explore a new spot in an area we’ve been vacating in for over ten years. I’ve been on the lower portion of this trail before with my mom. We climbed Yale together on my 19th birthday! It was her very first fourteener and I think my second. Great memories from that day. The trailhead is about 10 miles from the town of Buena Vista, off CR396 before you get to the top of Cottonwood Pass. The road is paved and there is a huge parking lot with plenty of room in the fall. We didn’t start our hike until around 11am on a Sunday. The initial ascent out of the Denny Creek Trailhead parking area will test your mental fortitude. Just know that this climb will ease (slightly). I enjoyed that much of this hike comprised of steep inclines followed by short reprieves of flat terrain. There are two trail splits to be aware of. The first comes about 1-1.5 miles in. Stay left to continue on to Hartenstein Lake and Browns Pass. Right will take you up to the summit of Yale. We took several breaks on the way up to search the surrounding high peaks for elk herds. It all looked so idyllic: I know there were elk in the area. We just couldn’t ever spot them! Oh well, the rest was needed after 10+ miles of hiking the previous days. Just as we were ready for an extended break and a lunch stop, we came into a flat meadow. Peaking through the trees we saw a reflection on water and knew we had made it! Shwew! You just kinda pop right onto the banks of this lake. We thought it seemed like the perfect lake for a moose. Alas, no moose. Earlier in the day, my Dad had purchased some Tamales from the Farmer’s Market in South Main. I packed them up to the lake and they were a surprisingly great trail food! We laughed about the mix of flavors and spice and celebrated a final afternoon in Colorado. The trail really shows its distance on the way down. We made great time, but I can tell you seeing the pavement at the bottom was a welcome sight. Our roundtrip hike distance was around 6 miles and time was about 4 hours; a decent effort for a fall jaunt. Have you hiked near Buena Vista? Tell me your favorite hiking spots and mountain town restaurants! Shop my Hiking Favorites:

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CO Hike Series: Oh Be Joyful!

Lovely hike through Crested Butte’s wildflower-rich valley Summer hiking is my absolute favorite. This season has been challenging. The trails are crowded. Coloradans are out enjoying our home state since there has been a significant halt on travel. I’m all for getting outside and exploring everything this state has to offer; but, man, the crowds are frustrating! My solution has been to escape to lesser-known gems and small mountain towns, like Crested Butte. I most often visit CB in the “shoulder seasons”– the spring and fall outside of peak tourism months. The spring is still *quite* chilly, and many trails are under snow. But the Fall….. The fall is magical. I love the cooler mornings and warm sunny mid-day. The leaves are beginning to change and the animals are more active. I found this hike while browsing my All Trails app and considering a quick getaway to Crested Butte. I wanted a little less elevation gain (not in the mood for a big mountain climb), but I was still seeking some high-mountain views. The Oh-Be-Joyful trail took me through a long gradual meadow, ending in a high basin. It was lovely! The trailhead is about 7 miles from the town of Crested Butte, off CO374 (Slate River Road). The road turns to dirt about a mile from the parking area, but it is accessible by most passenger cars with decent clearance. There was plenty of parking, I arrived just about 9am on a Saturday. Note that the Oh Be Joyful campground is a BLM-managed campground that takes reservations for tent spots and RVs. If I were staying overnight, I would certainly consider staying here! The trail begins across a footbridge over the river. Follow well-marked signs to enter the forest on the south side. The climb is very gradual. You’ll wind through cottonwoods, pines, and aspen groves before opening up to a large meadow. The majority of the mileage is accrued in this meadow that follows the stream. Expect lots of sunshine! You’ll come to an old cattle fence. By my estimate, this fence is about halfway to the top of the basin. Taking a breather about halfway up. As you leave the meadow, you’ll begin to climb a bit higher until you reach treeline. There is a trail split here. Left will take you into _ basin, while continuing straight goes up to Oh-Be-Joyful Pass and . I went left and pushed a bit higher before finding flat ground again as I wound through willows. Even in September, there was snow on the peaks surrounding the basin. Looking back, I could see Mount Crested Butte and a few of the ski runs of the resort. It took me about 2-2.5 hours to make it up to the basin. I took a quick break and photo op before heading back down. The walk out really showed me the distance I had gone! This full hike was about 13 miles roundtrip. However, if you’re not feeling the full effort the out-and-back makes it simple to modify. Simply walk how far you want, then turn around. You’ll still be rewarded with magnificent views! Post-Hike I set up my hammock by the creek and enjoyed a nap in the shade. I later made my way into the town of Crested Butte where it was busy with tourists! I had some amazing tacos at BONEZ. *Highly recommend* My roundtrip hike distance was around 12 miles and time was about 4 hours; a decent effort for a fall jaunt. Have you been to Crested Butte? Tell me your favorite hiking spots and mountain town restaurants!

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Rocky Mountain High

I fell in love with the mountains of Colorado the very first time I visited. I grew up with incredible family vacations- we’d pack up the car and drive across the country, heading out west for a stay on a dude ranch. The 30 hours of close quarters were exciting and bearable, knowing a week of refreshment in the rocky mountains was just on the horizon. I can remember weeks of preparation, researching and planning JUST the right activities crammed into one week. “Can I hike Tuesday morning and still make it back in time for Mexican lunch and then go horseback riding in the afternoon, but still have enough energy to SquareDance that evening?!” As kids and especially as teenagers, my siblings and I would forgo sleep in favor of making as many memories as possible with ranch friends. The weeks flew by- and there was never enough time. The drive home left us rejuvenated, a bit sad, and already thinking of the next year- What did we miss out on?…And How can we make it all fit? In college, I maximized my “vacation” by spending my full summer on staff at the ranch in Colorado. It truly was hard work, but I loved every bit of it. I’d work six days a week, and enjoy one glorious day off. Those days off made my summer. Just like as a kid, I’d spend plenty of time looking forward and planning to fit in as much as possible in that ONE day. “Can I hike a mountain, explore a ski town, and make it back for a soak in the hot springs before midnight?” There was always more to DO and SEE.. I was captivated. The end of the summer meant going back to school in Virginia. By spring, I was counting down the time until I could pack up and go back to Colorado. As I neared graduation, I made my plan to move out west. Within a week of earning my degree, I was driving across the country with everything I had—ready to make Colorado my forever home. As much as I miss my family and friends back east, I wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else. You are not IN the mountains; The mountains are in YOU. -John Muir Today, as an “adult” in the “real world” {a phrase that I still don’t feel can possibly describe ME}, I still look to the mountains for rest and refuge. When real life gets overwhelming, stressful, emotional, you name it- I find my peace on a trail. A deep breath of pine forest and the quiet solitude of mountain air immediately settles me. I experience both a sobering loneliness and a profound sense of belonging.

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