Feb 16, 2009 at 4:34 pm #1234108
I am planning a 2 or 3 week long backpacking trip in colorado sometime between may 15 and july 1st. The earlier the better. I am wondering if anyone has any suggestions as to where to go. I dont mind snow but my car doesnt handle it well so I need to know if trailheads are melted out by then ( I realize that this is a very broad question). Does anyone have any experience with trailheads and access roads for the Flat Tops Wilderness or the Weminuche Wilderness? I figured that since these are relitivly large areas that there would be some low(er) elevation access.
I am also wondering when the mosquitos start to come out.
Any help is greatly appreciated.Feb 16, 2009 at 6:00 pm #1478314
Joe KusterBPL Member
How many miles overall are you looking for?
What elevation are you coming in from?
What difficulty are you looking for (i.e. summits are high altitude and steep but gorgeous)
What's your level of acceptable other people?
I've been hiking here for 2 years around the front range (denver area to rocky mountain national park) and here's my observations for that early in the season:
Plan on the mosquitoes being out in droves, even in the areas still full of snow on the trail. For many areas, plan on slogging through tons of melting snow drifts even if the weather is in the 80's at the trail head.
Bring snow baskets on your poles. Consider snow shoes if you'll be summiting from the north side. No amount of waterproof shoes and knee high gaiters will prevent your feet from being soaked if you are on a trail with snow melt.
Some spots are practically glaicers with combinations of re-freezing snow melt and slippery slops into raging rivers – Katoohla Microspikes wouldn't be a bad investment in spots as crampons offer a lot more safty.
They don't start giving out wilderness permits until June 1 for a reason – trails over 8,000 feet that aren't in southern exposure are often in horrible condition until mid June at least. the trails look like snow drifts every 6 feet with a river running under foot. You start up a drift and end up punching through and slogging through until your hip deep. It drains energy and slows you down to a crawl.
Lost Creek Wilderness has a lower average elevation and may offer suitable options. Indian Peaks is excellent, but not that time of year (slosh fest). Probably the same from many trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. I unfortunately haven't been to Flat Tops Wilderness or the Weminuche Wilderness during that time of year to tell you, but the rangers around here are helpful and often quite knowledgable, so call the ranger district and ask for advice.
Find yourself trails that are on the southern exposure for your best bet. Many of them are already clear (it's been sunny and in the 50-60's), even over 10,000 ft, but as soon as your in the shade it can be 4-6 feet deep.
All that said, I'll be out there hiking too, so at least you won't be suffering alone. My hiking season started 2 weeks ago, I just learn to adjust my trails to shorter spans that are melted off or ask the rangers for the most compacted snow trails so I only need to pack microspikes and can forgo the snow shoes.Feb 16, 2009 at 9:15 pm #1478372
Thanks for the informative post, very helpful. To answer your questions . . .
I am looking to hike somewhere around 100 miles or so. I am interested in the big wilderness areas because of all the loop possibilities. I havent seen maps of the weminuche but have been to the flat tops and know that there are alot of options.
I am coming from 1000 feet. Im sure the altitude won't affect me. HA! Seriously though, I plan on being a tourist and car camping as high as I can get for 3 or 4 nights to give myself time to adjust. I have done this before and feel pretty good (not 100 percent) after a few days.
I'm not looking for a whole lot of difficulty. I don't mind big climbs and deep snow (to a point) and almost never manage to keep my feet dry so wet isn't a problem. I doubt I will be tackling any summits but you never know.
I am planning on bringing kts crampons and an axe for safety.
I don't mind people, especially when I am alone but would like to avoid high use areas (are there alot of hikers about in late may/june?)
Thanks again.Feb 17, 2009 at 9:59 am #1478433
Joe KusterBPL Member
You aren't likely to run into a lot of other hikers on anything but areas that have day hikes in the sun or people from out of state who think May is a great time to visit RMNP. The only exception would be if it's a snoeshoeing or backcountry skiing track – if it's that, you'll see a bunch of people.
Here is a BPL article on early season trekking. The photos and video show pretty much exactly what to expect for that time of year for most of Colorado.
If you feel up to it I'd suggest planning your trip to hit up some of the lower summits such as the 8,000 ft ones and such. Plan it after you've been at elevation for a few days and you should be granted amazing views. That should be in your range of ability.
I doubt you'll need the ice ax unless your summitting something over 10K, but I'd bring it with you and leave it in the car if the trail doesn't call for it.
I'd still stick with calling the ranger's station sometime soon and ask what trails would be mostly cleaned off by then. They should be able to tell you want to expect. Granted, it's Colorado and we've had blizzards in June…Feb 25, 2009 at 2:24 am #1480549
les lloydBPL Member
@denaliguideLocale: new zealand & alaska
i have extensive experience of the flat tops. in 1976 when i was a young lad of 18 and going to school at colorado mtn. college my dog and i did a solo traverse from glenwood springs to yampa and back. the trip was 30 days. the flat tops will be a beautiful trip. fishing in the high lakes was one of the highlights for me. i hiked up grizzly creek (not easy, not much of a trail) and then north to rim lake then down to yampa to resupply. back via trappers lake, south fork of the white river, heart lake, and down no name creek.
didn't see a whole lot of people and had a great time. i think it was in late june.
if this might be something you would be interested in and have TOPO! for colorado i could do a .tpo file of the route i took.
lesFeb 25, 2009 at 8:07 pm #1480813
The flat tops wilderness is a really nice place. I was fortunate enough to get to spend a few days there in July 07. A friend of mine and I hiked from Stillwater Resevoir to West Lost Lake and then back over the chinese wall and devils causeway(my avatar). Nothing like your trip however. That must have been a great time. I don't have TOPO or I would take you up on your offer.
The flat tops seem like they might work for an early season trip since the elevation isn't too extreme and the high country is flat. I guess it will all depend on what kind of winter was had in CO. From what I have gathered the snowpack so far is a little above average. Am I right?
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