Sunday, September 26, 2010

Stromy Peaks Pass to Signal Mountain

The North Fork Big Thompson and the Bulwark Ridge (Signal Mountain) trails out of the Dunraven Trailhead are two trails that I have run many times, but always in out and back fashion. A few weeks ago, I finally hit both of these trails in a single loop. The "big loop" was about 30 miles and took me all the way to Pingree Park. Hoping for a shorter loop option, I decided to explore the unmarked trail that extends from just about a half-mile up the Stormy Peaks Pass Trail from the North Fork Trail (about 2 miles South of the pass) over to Signal Mountain. This trail is shown on old USGS topo maps, but not on any recent trail maps. There are also no signs indicating this trail option.

The start of the trail from the West is easy to find, just take a right at the first mileage sign (7.9 miles to Pingree Park?) near the top of the steep switchbacks heading up toward the pass. The first half a mile of the trail is easy to follow. I lost the trail when it reached a meadow at the headwaters for Pennock Creek. Instead of spending much time looking for the trail, I just headed straight toward Signal Mountain in hopes that the trail would come back to me. I would have been better off trying to maintain the top or close to the top of the ridge, as I dropped down too low toward the valley and got into some rough travelling. I ascended back up the ridge and did find the trail again, only losing it slightly a couple times after that. Luckily, quite a few cairns have been placed along the trail to guide the way. The trail opened up too many great views in all directions along the way, eventually climbing up above treeline on the approach to Signal Mountain. After about 4 miles, I hooked up with the Bulwark Ridge Trail on the saddle between Signal and South Signal Mountains and made my descent back to the Dunraven Trailhead. The total loop is about 17 miles with a just a little under 4000 feet of climbing. I'm sure that I will be back to do this loop many more times (in both directions) and eventually should have little problem following this great connector trail.

GPS data

The view to the West (The Mummy Range)

The view to the South (Longs and Meeker)

The view to the North (Pennock Creek Valley)

Approaching Signal Mountain around the North shoulder of South Signal

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Above the Clouds

It was nice to get a little moisture here over the weekend, but we could still use a lot more. Fort Collins sat in a dense fog for most of the morning while it was clear up in the foothills. Just like last week, I put in about 17 miles and 4000 feet of climbing. This time it was all within Horsetooth Mountain Park. I like to plan routes where I don't retrace (no out and backs) or criss-cross any of my tracks along the way. This was a pretty good one with plenty of climbing.

Today's route:
Southridge-Audra Culver-Horsetooth Mountain-Soderberg-Wathen-Westridge-Towers-Mill Creek-Loggers-Sawmill-Stout-Towers-Spring Creek-Herrington-Stout-Spring Creek-Horsetooth Falls

Start and Finish at Horsetooth Mountain Trailhead.

Reservoir Road Fire outbreak last Sunday

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Storm Pass Trail

The aspens are starting to glow and the elk are bugling, just a great time to be on a Colorado mountain trail. The Storm Pass Trail is a great trail run option in Rocky Mountain National Park. Despite having one trailhead near Longs Peak and the other near Bear Lake, I find very little traffic on this trail. I took off from Lily Lake (the eastern trailhead) before dawn and ran the entire length of the trail to its western trailhead on Bear Lake Road. The one-way length is just a little over 7 miles and tops out at Storm Pass, elevation about 10,300 feet. I crossed Bear Lake Road and tacked on the climb up to Bierstadt Lake for a little extra mileage and climbing. Bierstadt Lake is rather uninspiring, but the views from the ridge just below the lake were worth the climb.

The Glacier Basin as viewed from just below Bierstadt Lake

I turned around at Bierstadt Lake and returned the same route. This out and back totalled just over 17 miles and just under 4000 feet of climbing. There is a great loop option which I've done a couple of times taking Boulder Brook/North Longs Peak up to Granite Pass and then back down the main Longs Peak trail. There are also endless trails heading out of Bear Lake. I was happy staying below treeline today, however, especially after doing big miles last Monday.

One of many great views from the Storm Pass Trail

I'd like to give a shout out to Nick C for winning his first 100-miler (first of many?) at Wasatch this weekend. Also, to Pete S for finishing Wasatch to complete the Grand Slam.

GPS data for today's run.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Stormy Peaks/Pingree/Signal Loop

The loop in red.

I have been wanting to do this loop for some time going from the Dunraven trailhead. Finally got it done today. Forgot the GPS but I estimate the distance at around 30 miles and the total climbing around 7500 feet. Really just two big climbs. The first over Stormy Peaks Pass (11,600 ft elev) and the second over Signal Mountain (11,200 ft elev). I took the loop in the clockwise direction since the North Fork trail offers some nice gradual uphill running to warm up on (even a little downhill to the river at the start).

I got up to Stormy Peaks Pass well before sunrise and experienced a nice little snow flurry. I think the days of snow-free trails up high are numbered. Soon after, I was able to turn off the headlamp and enjoy some nice trail and spectacular views as I descended about 5 miles down to Pingree Park. My first time on this part of the trail.

Overlooking Pingree Park

This loop requires a few miles of road running (it is dirt) from Pingree Park over to the Signal Mountain trailhead. Instead of running all the way to the trailhead at Pingree Park, I turned onto the trail for Twin Lake, cutting out a good chunk of the run on the main Pingree Park road.

Twin Lake Reservoir

The run up Signal Mountain from the North side is quite mellow the first few miles, but gets very steep on the last couple of miles to the top. Also, my first time on this trail as I have only come up the mountain from the South. It wasn't snowing on Signal, but the wind was nearly blowing me off the mountain. I met my first hiker on my descent from Signal. There were lots of cars at the trailheads, but I don't know where everyone was hiding.

I plan to explore a shorter loop option some other time. There is an unmarked trail that goes directly between Signal Mountain and Stormy Peaks. This trail is shown on old topo maps, but there are no signs for it.