at kettle ponds

Happy Hiking: Kettle Ponds

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For the first time since Memorial Day, I finally got to reconnect with Jim, Diana, and Danelle to hike Kettle Ponds.  My fellow hiking buddies, along with Zoe the dog, were staying up in Breckenridge Saturday night.  Annie and I arose early Sunday morning to meet them in Silverthorne, CO at the trailhead.

Selecting Kettle Ponds

Due to time constraints for Danelle and me, I looked for moderate six-mile hikes in the area.  On AllTrails, there weren’t too many choices unless we wanted to contend with mountain bikers.  We don’t have a problem with mountain bikers as everyone is out to get some exercise and enjoy nature, but hikes can get disruptive in popular areas, as we constantly step to the side.  Despite having the right of way, it is just easier for hikers to move over and most bikers are appreciative.

As a result of limited options, we settled on Kettle Ponds.  The 6.4 mile hike to Kettle Ponds is located in the Eagles Nest Wilderness.  Based on the comments on All Trails, we expected a quiet trek without encountering many people.  As such, we were surprised to see ten cars in the parking lot.  I was even more surprised by the dirt road that needed to be driven to the trailhead.

The Trailhead

I believe any car could make it up the road which is lined with dispersed camping, but it wasn’t the smoothest, and no one mentioned it!  Anyway, we all made it and began our hike around 8:45am, late for the summer, but a nice start time for the fall and cooler temperatures.

As we strapped on our packs and pulled on our gloves and hats, Annie and Zoe reacquainted themselves.  Zoe was the first dog Annie, with reactive tendencies, met in May when I adopted her.  This time Annie greeted her without a bark!  Too bad they had to be on leashes in the wilderness area or they could have played.  The training is working!

Annie’s Mishap

The trail begins at the Alfred M Bailey Bird Nesting Area recognized for the unusual bird life and high diversity of nesting species.  It follows along an old mining road and continues just under half a mile before it reaches a junction.  Unfortunately, we hadn’t even gone a tenth of a mile before our first mishap.  We had to climb over one of what turned out to be tons of fallen trees.

Alfred M Bailey Bird Nesting sign

Us human hikers needed to go to left to step over one log onto the other.  Annie followed me, leapt over the top log and slipped on the next one.  I think she misjudged the weight of the slightly unbalanced water and food in her orange backpack (so chosen so hunters don’t mistake her for a deer), and she landed on the jagged broken branches.

It was eerily reminiscent of the time I did that in Washington and had to drive myself to the ER with a stick in my leg.  Fortunately, Annie dodged any puncture wounds, but did wind up with some scrapes and left her fur on the pointy stump.  Crazy as she is, it didn’t seem to faze her, and after cursory inspection we continued to the trail junction.

Annie and I climbing over log in Eagles Nest Wilderness
She fared better on this tree

The Hike

The trail is not named Kettle Lakes, so it is important to either download the All Trails map (or similar) or know to turn left off of Rock Creek Trail and on to the Gore Range Trail which travels many miles.  I recommend downloading the map, as Gore Range Trail doesn’t end at Kettle Ponds.

Upon descending to the left, we followed a single track path down to a meadow with lovely views of jagged granite peaks.  Soon we crossed a tranquil creek and ascended through an absolutely decimated forest.

Thousands of beetle killed trees blanketed the ground.  Many crossed our path.  In fact, we scaled over, went around, and ducked under so many trees that we dubbed it the forest of fallen trees and wondered why we didn’t see many comments about it on the All Trails app.  It turns out that many of these old pines may have fallen the previous day in a windstorm.  One of the few sets of hikers we saw on the trail said trees were falling near their camp the previous night!

While several trees had been previously cut and cleared of the trail, the path could stand another visit from the busy Forest Service which is likely supporting other areas of our fire ridden state.  Regardless, maneuvering over all the trees was just as disruptive as stepping aside for mountain bikers.  At least we got a little more exercise!

Kettle Ponds

The Kettle Ponds are just that, ponds with slightly marshy edges.  We took a short lunch break here in the sun before we turned around.  The hike to Kettle Ponds began at 9,410ft, measured 6.4 miles and gained 1,138 ft.  Much of the gain was over a half mile, making this particular section steep. Overall, I rank Kettle Ponds as an “exercise” hike.  It was good to get out in nature, but I am thankful I had great company as the beetle devastation has taken away from the beauty of the forest.  I’m also glad I didn’t lug my camera and just used my iphone. ETB

Other Nearby Hikes You May Like


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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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