view of snowcapped mountains from three mile creek trail

Roadtrip to the Rockies: Three Mile Creek Trail

Several years ago, I hiked Three Mile Creek Trail on a cold October day with my friends Cat and Chas.  It had iced the previous evening, so we spent most of our time snapping photos of cool icicles hanging off the bridges and didn’t make it very far.

Three Mile Creek Trailhead

While I thoroughly enjoyed inspecting the ice, I have always wanted to go back to finish the hike.  Today, I did that.  The biggest surprise was finding that the trailhead location had been moved farther south and to the west side of Guanella Pass Road.

Fortunately, I plugged in the directions from AllTrails as I didn’t feel like looking for the small dirt turnout.  Now, Three Mile Creek Trail is located at a paved parking lot complete with bathrooms and a large sign indicating the beginning. 

Three Mile Creek Trailhead

The Ascent

The path starts on the west side of the road and parallels Geneva Creek for the first half mile before a bridge guides hikers across the road to the old trailhead.

Here, Three Mile Creek Trail begins climbing through an evergreen forest past granite rocks.  The trail, peppered with wildflowers, criss-crosses the delightful Three Mile Creek several times as it gains elevation at a moderate pace, a little over 500 feet per mile.

Creek Crossings

Due to the heavy snows this winter, two of the last three water crossings required wading or excellent balance on unstable, water-soaked logs.  Not certain I would remain standing on the precarious “bridges”, I waded.

creek crossing

After the three crossings, the trail soon opens into a meadow which provides views of the surrounding cliffs, and a flat spot for camping or a snack.  I carried on, however, because I thought there might be a view of distant snow-capped peaks from 11,500 feet.

The View

I was rewarded with a lovely view but learned that the trail continues beyond the 9.4 mile roundtrip trek recorded on AllTrails.  It was a little disappointing to stop without reaching the end which intersects into Rosalie Trail, but I had only planned to go as far as the tracked distance on the app.

While I could have changed my plans, storms were threatening, and I had told my parents what time to expect me home.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so I turned around, once again, having not completed the entire Three Mile Creek Trail!  Oh well, at least I made it farther and the stopping point featured excellent views!

The Descent

I escaped the rain upon my return to the car.  Along the way, I surprised some hikers holding a large log.  One exclaimed, “You made it across?”

Pointing to my wet shoes, I answered, “Yes, I waded through this section and the next one.”

With a look of dismay, they wondered if it was worth placing another log in the creek, if they had to wade through the next section.  But with the log in hand, they continued, and I imagine the next set of hikers will be appreciative. 

pretty wildflowers in middle of creek

Location and Solitude

I was the first hiker on the trail this Friday morning at 7:30am which is always nice for solitude and wildlife sightings.  I spotted three deer who hopped into the forest before I could get my camera raised.  The trail was rather quiet.  I only came across about ten others and a few dogs upon my descent.  

The weekend, however, will be a different story, as Three Mile Creek Trail, located in Pike National Forest, is less than 1.5 hours from Denver and will attract many. The popular hike shares parking with Geneva Creek Trail too, so be sure to arrive early to take advantage of the improved, yet still limited parking.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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