Roadtrip to the Rockies: Fraser

I’m fortunate to have a handful of Denver friends who also have homes and condos in Fraser and Winter Park.  This week I got to join Brad and Angie at their beautiful home in Fraser.  While at Brad and Angie’s, when we weren’t discussing camper vans and photography, we were hiking.  At least Angie and I were, as Brad would rather mountain bike and had to work.

Getting to Devils Thumb Pass

Angie and I hiked to Devils Thumb Pass.  I found this hike in the Colorado Mountain Club Guidebook Colorado Lake Hikes.  The directions specified we should drive up County Road 8 just on the outskirts of Fraser.

CR8 is a well-graded dirt road. Angie set her odometer to 0 and clocked the 8.3 miles to a small sign which was to indicate the Continental Divide Trail.  It turns out, these instructions are slightly outdated.

Moose Sighting!

While we saw a sign to Devils Thumb Trailhead, a good indication that this was the turn-off, it was a half mile too soon and the incorrect name.  As a result, we continued further to be sure.  I’m thankful we did as Angie spotted a bull and cow moose in the meadow with a hot air balloon rising above them in the distance!

moose in Fraser

Of course we stopped, got out of the jeep and crept from tree to tree until there was only an open meadow left between us and the moose. Unfortunately, they were a bit far for my zoom lens, but none-the-less, we got thirty minutes to ourselves with the moose before they tired of grazing and headed off into the forest.

moose in Fraser
fully zoomed!

Devils Thumb Trail and the CDT

Thereafter, we backtracked to the Devils Thumb Trailhead and learned this is where the hike to Devils Thumb Pass began.  Of course, this seems logical, but the book stated we’d be hiking the Continental Divide Trail, which we did in fact connect with after 1.5 miles.

The trail begins next to an aqueduct where it travels next to the creek.  The path gradually ascends through the forest ¾ of a mile to a trail junction where we turned right for Devils Thumb.  After a short jaunt over easy terrain, we faced a steep and hard incline for the next two miles!

creek on Devils Thumb Trail

Through the protection of the pines, the climb felt stifling hot, but soon we reached treeline, and some relief came.  It probably helped that we stopped more frequently to enjoy the expansive views and slopes of wildflowers. 

the Continental Divide Trail in Fraser

Regardless, it wasn’t until we sat down on Devil’s Thumb Pass overlooking Devil’s Thumb Lake to eat our snack that we finally donned jackets.  The brisk wind certainly cooled us down!

Devils Thumb Lake
Devils Thumb Lake

After enjoying some photography at the pass, we retraced our steps for an easy, yet steep trek down.  It was fun to hike with a fellow photographer.  While we still got our exercise with a swift pace, we stopped when something intrigued us on the 7.9-mile roundtrip.

On The Way Home From Fraser

Since we were weekday hiking to have nature to ourselves, Angie could only join me one day as she works.  The following day, on my way home from Fraser, I tackled Mount Flora.  Little did I know the trailhead was located at Berthoud Pass.  By 7:45 am, the perimeter of the giant parking lot was already full.  I, along with one other car, started a row through the middle.

Hike to Mount Flora

I immediately texted Angie saying, “This will be a dud” as I prepared myself for the masses.  The hike began up a moderately graded dirt road.  Surprisingly, there were few people on it.  Not surprisingly, it was boring!

I’m not fond of hiking up roads.  Fortunately, after ¾ of a mile as I emerged near treeline, a sign marked a trail to the left for Mount Flora.  Whew…this was a relief!  Additionally, the hikers on the trail did not seem commiserate with the number of cars in the lot.  Perhaps that was because trails branch out in several directions.  Regardless, I was quite happy for the reasonable solitude.

As I climbed through the tundra for the next mile, the trail afforded me views to the north of Hwy 40 weaving through the mountains.  To the east is Colorado Mines Peak topped with a significant amount of communication equipment.

Colorado Mines Peak

Upon reaching the ridge, I enjoyed expansive views of mountains and lakes below, but I continued at lively pace as the wind was relentless.  Only the bird seemed to enjoy the wind as it bobbed up and down by the trail before gliding down to the valley. I was cold in a long-sleeved shirt in August while climbing UP a 13er.  I suppose I could have stopped to slip on my windbreaker, but I passed the only two folks in front of me while the hikers on the peak were coming down.

Bird Playing in the Wind Video

view on the way to Mount Flora

The Summit of Mount Flora

If I kept my pace, I might be lucky to snap a photo of the summit without anyone else on it.  Always a treat!  I got my wish.  One girl was just leaving, and a family of three were ducked out of site behind a wind break, so the view was unimpeded. 

Judging by the number of wind breaks on the large summit, it is clearly regularly windy here. Fortunately, the east side of the ridge offered a reprieve.  I sunk down low on the rocky slope and enjoyed my snacks with the view of two lakes and an extended trail. 

view from the summit of mount flora

17 second video view from the summit

There was another trail that continued to the north slightly further to Breckinridge Peak too.  I briefly considered knocking out a second peak, but as a safe hiker should do, I stuck to my plan. I was surprised, however of the network of trails and will be back. 

Aside from the wind which literally blew me sideways and required both a puffy and windbreaker on the way down to keep warm, this six-mile roundtrip to Mount Flora was very rewarding and not “a dud”.  What a great two days of hiking near Fraser. ETB

OTHER ARTICLES YOU MAY LIKE ABOUT THE HIGH LINE CANAL

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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