The days are starting to get shorter and shorter, so I’m trying to get in as many after work hikes as possible before day light savings time. I met up with a friend in Golden this week to hike South Table Mountain— one of the first hikes I ever did in Colorado! This is a short but steep trail, with great views of the foothills, front range and city.
The parking lot is in a residential neighborhood (street parking) and snakes up the side of table mountain. The trail is narrow and rocky, but easy to find and winds through the willows. Once at the top, there was plenty of space to socially distance and watch the sunset— great quick weekday hike!
We continued our desert hikes by exploring McInnis Canyons National Conservation area, right on the Colorado /Utah border. We took the Rabbit Valley exit, then followed the dirt road to signs for Rabbit Valley. The trailhead is accessible by 2 WD and had plenty of parking. The sign for the trailhead does list the trail mileage wrong— it says the loop is 4.8 miles.
The first 1.2 miles of the trail steadily climbs elevation. This section is not the most scenic, since it overlooks the interstate. However, once to a mile we did not really hear the road noise. This section of the trail was also pretty rocky and eroded in certain areas. Once to the top of the Mesa, you have a beautiful view of McInnis Canyons and the Colorado River. Once on the top of the mesa, the trail elevation tapers off considerably. There were quite a bit of pinyon trees which offered a bit of shade. We only saw one other group of people the whole time!
We visited my parents on the western slope this past weekend while the drive is still snow free. We decided to hike at the Colorado National Monument late afternoon, choosing this easy hike to explore a new part of the park. We parked at Devils Kitchen trailhead, which had limited parking, and started the hike from the eastern lot. The trail starts off wide and gently slopes down to the first junction, where we veared right to No Thoroughfare Canyon Trail.
The trail more or less follows the wash towards the first pool and waterfall. There are a few different paths that braid through the wash and higher banks. A few times we lost the path we were on, but we easily found cairns leading back to a trail. Once you get to the first pool, the trails begins to gain some altitude, starting with a section of stairs leading above the first pool. As we approached the first water fall, we startled some big horn sheep that were grazing in the shade of the canyon. No water at either the first pool or the first waterfall, but it was cool in the shade of the canyon.
This past weekend I met my friend down in southern Colorado for a fall backpacking trip into the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It was a great way to see the aspens before they are all gone— this area was definitely at peak. The trailhead is close to the town of Crestone, in the Rio Grande National Forest (no daily fee required). There is a backcountry registry at the trailhead and plenty of bear activity— make sure that you put trash, food and scented items in your trunk.
The trail begins with a slow gradual uphill next to the creek for about the first mile. This stretch had magnificent aspen views and felt cool and shaded next to the creek. Once to the switchbacks, the trail becomes significantly more narrow and rocky. The majority of the elevation (~1K ft) is packed into the next mile of the trail. This section of the trail is also pretty exposed without shade, so you feel the full blast of the heat on you as you crank uphill. At about 2.5 miles, the trail elevation gain becomes more gradual and there is a beautiful view of the valley below. It was so pretty to be above the aspens!
The trail has a slight downhill towards the trail junction with North Crestone Lake and the Comanche-Venable loop. Before you reach the trail junction (near mile 3), there is a creek crossing, followed by two large campsites. We were happy to find no one else had set up camp here! We took the campsite farthest from the trail, and began to set up camp. Once camp was set up, we hiked a little further following the North Fork trail, which had beautiful views of aspens and the valley. Great moderate backpack! It was still pretty warm there at night and we slept pretty comfortable.
Quick bonus story— when we finally got to our camp site and took off our packs, we realized that we forgot the tent poles 🤦🏼♀️. Luckily, I had brought a pretty big rope and we had a lot of paracord. We were able to secure the tent using rocks inside the tent, then tying the paracord to rocks / trees nearby. We strung the large rope between the two biggest trees, then used a carabiner to clip the top of the tent to the rope. Check out the pic below! I’m really proud that we stuck it out, found a solution and still were able to camp!!
Holy mountain bikes! I would not recommend hiking this trail this time of year— definitely not hiked friendly. The trail was very narrow and bikes tended to fly past with no regard for hikers. The loop is easy enough and close to boulder— gradual downhill followed by gradual uphill. It feature views of the canyon, foothills and flatirons. It’s beautiful around sunset. I would look online and hike this on a day mountain bikers are not allowed.