2 Months of Backpacking and Camping in Colorado

For all of August and September 2017, my wife and I lived out of our truck and tent while traveling around and backpacking in our great state of Colorado. We did over a dozen backpacking trips in various mountain ranges throughout the state, including the Flat Tops, Gore Range, Sawatch Range, San Juans, Sangre de Cristos, and Indian Peaks. I’ve posted my various photo journals from each trek on the Trip Reports page of my gallery site; here links to all those journals, in chronological order.

You can also see a gallery of all my favorite photos from the 2 months here!

Colorado, Flat Tops, columbine, wildflowers
Flat Tops Wilderness – July

In late July we did a quick one-nighter backpack trip in the Flat Tops Wilderness of Colorado, from Trappers Lake up towards Trappers Peak. We camped near one of hundreds of lakes that dot the high alpine plateau and enjoyed a sunset at the top of Trappers Peak.

» See the photos here «

Colorado, Gore Range, Peak C, Eagles Nest Wilderness
Mount Powell, Gore Range – August

In early August we backpacked into the rugged north end of the Gore Range and Eagles Nest Wilderness for three nights. We hiked the Upper Piney River Trail for while, branched off on a faint boot trail then camped the first night in the high basin below Mount Powell and Kneeknocker Pass. On day two we crossed over the pass and hiked to the summit of Mount Powell, the highest peak in the Gore Range. I’ve wanted to hike Mount Powell for about 20 years but never got around to it, so it was quite satisfying to finally stand on the summit! After some rough off trail routefinding we spent the next two nights at a remote alpine lake before hiking all the way back out the way we came.

» See the photos here «

Colorado, Gore Range, Willow Lakes, Eagles Nest Wilderness, reflection, Zodiac Ridge, sunrise
Willow Lakes, Gore Range – August

After our backpack trip in the northern Gore Range, we drove over to the east side and backpacked into the Eagles Nest Wilderness again, this time to Willow Lakes. I’d backpacked here 12 years ago and I was excited to show Claudia this place and hopefully to photographic some nice light too! We spent a couple nights up there, generally relaxing and exploring this beautiful basin. I was fortunate to photograph some of the best sunrise light of the summer here!

» See the photos here «

Colorado, Holy Cross Wilderness, Sawatch Range, reflection
Exploring the Holy Cross Wilderness, Sawatch Range – August

In early August we set out into the Holy Cross Wilderness (in the Sawatch Range of Colorado generally between Vail and Leadville) for a 3-night backpack trek. We spent our first night at the super popular Missouri Lakes then explored an off trail route over a high ridgeline to a remote and pristine lake where we spent the second day and night. We spent our third night near Blodgett Lake before hiking back via Fancy Pass and Holy Cross City, completing an irregular loop through this beautiful wilderness area.

» See the photos here «

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, Colorado, Ice Mountain, Lake Ann, Sawatch Range, The Three Apostles
Hanging Around Huron Peak, Sawatch Range – August

In mid-August we backpacked around the headwaters of the South Fork Clear Creek near Huron Peak in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and Sawatch Range of Colorado. The last time I hiked in this area was back in 2008, but this time we hiked the long way in here from the south from Taylor Park and Texas Creek, via the Continental Divide Trail and a high pass above Lake Ann. Though we spent three days out here, most of my photos below were from one fantastic evening watching sunset atop an unnamed peak above Lake Ann.

» See the photos here «

Colorado, San Juan Mountains, Sunshine Peak, 14er
Tour Through the San Juans – August

After spending my birthday with some friends in Ouray, we drove up some of the jeep roads above Red Mountain Pass and car camped a few nights up there. We drove rough high elevation old mining roads eastward through the San Juans over Corkscrew Pass, Hurricane Pass, California Pass, and Cinnamon Pass, then did a one night backpack trip into Cataract Gulch near the 14er Sunshine Peak.

» See the photos here «

Colorado, Ellingwood Point, Sangre de Cristos, South Zapata Lake, reflection, 14er, Sangre de Cristo Wilderness
South Zapata Lake, Sangre de Cristo Range – August

A quick one-night backpacking trip to South Zapata Lake on the west side of the Sangre de Cristo Range

» See the photos here «

Colorado, Great Sand Dunes, wildflowers, sunflowers, sunset
Sunflowers in the Great Sand Dunes – August

While hiking to South Zapata Lake the day before, we got a good view of the Great Sand Dunes, and I could see vast fields of sunflowers all around and in the dunes. I took a mental note of where the largest sunflower fields were and the next day we hiked into the dunes towards these areas. Though we intended to camp in the dunes for the night, enormous thunderclouds rolled in and scared us out of there! Fortunately I was able to photograph the sunflowers without getting struck by lightning!

» See the photos here «

Broken Hand Peak, Colorado, Crestone Needle, Sangre de Cristos, 14er, sunrise, Sangre de Cristo Wilderness
South Colony Lakes, Sangre de Cristo Range – September

In late August/early September, we spent five days camped at South Colony Lakes in the Sangre de Cristo range in Colorado. Surrounded by three 14ers, including the rugged Crestone Needle towering directly overhead, this basin is supremely awesome — one of the classic gems of Colorado. During our stay here we summited Crestone Needle and Humboldt Peak, along with lots of chilling out around the lake in between.

» See the photos here «

Colorado, Mount Elbert, Mount Massive Wilderness, North Halfmoon Lakes, Sawatch Range, 14er
Below Mount Massive, Sawatch Range – September

In early September we spent a night up at North Halfmoon Lakes below Mount Massive. Though our plans to hike the peak were thwarted by high winds and hazy skies from the wildfires in the northwestern US, we still enjoyed an evening and morning at the lake.

» See the photos here «

Colorado, Gore Lake, Gore Range, Eagles Nest Wilderness
Gore Lake, Gore Range – September

In mid September we returned to the Gore Range again, this time spending a night at the beautiful Gore Lake towards the south end of the range.

» See the photos here «

Colorado, Indian Peaks, sunset, reflection
Indian Peaks Wilderness – September

From the Gore Range we drove further north to Indian Peaks, were we backpacked to a remote and beautiful basin where we spent two nights. Indian Peaks was where I did most of my first backpacking trips back in my college days at CU Boulder, and I quickly became a backpacking fanatic after that! It’s been over a decade since I’ve returned, and it felt like seeing an old friend again.

» See the photos here «

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, elk, Moraine Park
Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park – September

After our backpacking trip in Indian Peaks it was about time for a rest, so we spent a few nights camping at the Moraine Park campground in Rocky Mountain National Park. I must say it was quite magical to fall asleep each night listening to the elk bugling in the big meadow below us during their autumn rut.

» See the photos here «

Colorado, Indian Peaks, Lone Eagle Peak, Indian Peaks Wilderness
Lone Eagle Peak, Indian Peaks – September

In late September with a forecast for a quick but powerful autumn snowstorm, we returned to Indian Peaks to one of my favorite spots – Mirror Lake and its incredible view of Lone Eagle Peak. After spending the night in an intense blizzard we awoke to bluebird skies and a glorious snow-smothered scene. This was our final backpacking trip of our two months on the road in Colorado, and it was fitting that my favorite photo of the whole trip came that morning!

» See the photos here «

Green River, Utah
Escape to the Desert, Green River, Utah – September

After some our snowy backpacking trip in Indian Peaks, Claudia had had enough of the cold, so we escaped to the desert of Utah for dry land and warmer weather. We spent a couple nights relaxing and hiking at one of our favorite spots on a remote plateau high above the Green River, then spent a night at Swaseys Beach just north of the town of Green River. This was a relaxing end to our two months on the road!

» See the photos here «

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Cedar Point, moonlight, Gunnison River
Black Canyon – September

On the way back home from Utah we spent one last night camping at the South Rim of the Black Canyon. The next day we drove back to Crested Butte and started moving back into our condo, and our big summer trip was official over.

Powderfest at the Fowler/Hilliard Hut

Colorado, Fowler Hilliard Hut, Gore Range, January, moonlight, hut. 10th Mountain Division
Fowler Hilliard Moonlight : Prints Available

A full moon shines through breaking snowstorm clouds at the Fowler/Hilliard Hut in the southern Gore Range, Colorado – January.

It had been snowing for nearly three weeks straight in the northern mountains of Colorado. With the northwest storm flow forecasted to dump a few more heavy punches before finally clearing out, last week I checked the 10th Mtn. Division Huts schedule and to my delight I was able to make last minute reservations for three nights at the Fowler/Hilliard Hut, located on a snowy ridge in the mountains north of Leadville, south of Vail. Claudia and I spent a few nights there last spring and had a great time skiing the endless ski terrain around the hut. This trip was shaping up to be even snowier! Continue reading “Powderfest at the Fowler/Hilliard Hut”

Jackal & Fowler/Hilliard Huts

Jackal Hut, Gore Range, Mt. Elbert, Sawatch Range, Colorado, winter

Winter at the Jackal Hut, in the southern Gore Range, with a view towards Mt. Elbert (left) and the Sawatch Range.

Last week we spent four days and three nights on a 10th Mountain Division ski hut tour in the southern Gore Range of Colorado! The first leg of our trip took us to the Jackal Hut, which is perched on a high ridge with expansive views towards Leadville and the highest peaks of Colorado in the Sawatch Range.

Jackal, hut, Gore Range, Mount of the Holy Cross, March, Colorado, moonlight

Prints Available

Snow covered Jackal Hut in the moonlight with a view towards Mount of the Holy Cross – March.

Our trip coincided with the full moon, and it would have been a perfect night for some moonlight skiing but we were too whooped from breaking trail up through Pearl Creek to the hut to motivate. Lesson learned: stay at least two nights at each hut so you can spend a day skiing… that’s the whole point after all!

After one night at the Jackal Hut, we made the grueling 7-mile trek to the Fowler/Hilliard Hut – again breaking trail all the way up from Resolution Creek to the ridge of Resolution Mountain. Normally putting in a skin track isn’t so bad, but it’s a different story with a heavy pack!

Continue reading “Jackal & Fowler/Hilliard Huts”

Snow Peak

Snow Peak, Gore Range, Colorado

I just dug this photo from the dusty depths of my hard drive. I took this sunset shot of Snow Peak (13,024 ft.) way back in March 2004. I was living in Denver at the time, and took advantage of an unseasonably warm spell in March to go winter camping up on this high ridge in the Gore Range, just east of Vail.

One of the great things about the Gore Range is that on the west side of the range there are numerous high points and ridges that are relatively safely accessible in the winter, offering awesome panoramic views of the main spine of the range. Better yet, the west side of the range gets great sunset alpenglow light since there are no large ranges directly to the west. From a photography point of view, sunset shooting is always a bit easier since you don’t have to wake up early, and you can spend the afternoon casually scoping out photo possibilities. On this evening, I had a really fun photo shoot; there were so many photo possibilities in every direction, and the wind-sculpted sastrugi snow formations on the ridge provided lots of interesting foreground possibilities. You can see some more photos from this evening here, here, and here.

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