Road Trip to the Rockies: Windy Yet Wonderful Hike to Mills Lake

Mills Lakes

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park
Fees: $20 day pass as of post
Elevation: 9,240-9,955 feet
Distance: 5.3 miles

Another Saturday, another missed forecast…these weathermen!  We planned a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park to Mills Lake.  While we expected cold weather (27-35 degrees) and blue skies, 40 mph sustainable winds were not in the forecast.  The wind was supposed to be over on Friday!

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The Rockies: Breaking Trail at Meyer Ranch Park

Today I joined a group that was hiking Meyer Ranch, a 575 acre park which is part of Jefferson County Open Space. The land was homesteaded by Duncan McIntyre in 1870. He later sold the property in 1883 to Louis Ramboz who built a house in 1889 and operated the ranch for hay, timber, and cattle until 1912.

Throughout its years, the ranch has served as the winter quarters for the PT Barnum Circus animals as well as a ski hill. Jefferson County Open Space acquired the land from its most recent owners, Norman and Ethel Meyer, in 1986.

We got to enjoy just about every trail in the park today. We strapped on our MicroSpikes and blazed the trail through the newly fallen snow. It is the first time this season I have gotten to hike the day after a nice snow, which made for beautiful scenery.

IMG_3302 tree

The trail, Owl Perch, softly coated in fluffy powder led us through the open meadow past a grove of bare aspens and into a lodge pole pine forest. The evergreens, coated with the fresh flakes, reflected the light from the morning sun as we switched back and forth beneath the clear blue sky.

As we climbed Sunny Aspen Trail to Old Ski Run Trail, we eventually found a small overlook where we enjoyed the view of the snow-capped mountains across the valley. We also took a few off trail excursions around rock formations before trouncing down Lodgepole Loop and back to Owl’s Perch Trail. Overall, we gained nearly 1,500 feet along our five mile hike, much of which included breaking the trail. It was kind of fun to be the first to leave footprints in the snow on this glorious fifty degree day!

After lunch at Three Margaritas, I took a small detour to Tiny Town, which is just and area with a variety of tiny buildings…a perfect size for little kids. I snapped a photo as I drove by and headed back to Denver. Happy hiking…ETB

IMG_3304 tiny town


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The Rockies: Hiking Up Chief Mountain

February 17, 2013

So Kelley, a girl I’ve met a few times through a Texas friend, organized a group to hike Chief Mountain this weekend. We were all grateful for her research, as it takes some work to pull a hike together. I took a quick glance at a post on the web about Chief Mountain, located northwest of Evergreen, just so I knew what I was getting myself into, and the person claimed she took all her flat lander friends here because the hike was so easy. I feel sorry for her flat lander friends! It was short, only two miles round trip, but the beginning elevation is 10,670 feet and the summit clears 11,700. Gaining 1,000 feet in one mile at that altitude is anything from flat and easy, especially when you’re 41 years old and following a bunch of guys in their late 20’s!! I was certainly feeling my age as I was resting with a few other girls and they were climbing nearby trees, boulders, or running through the snow. We went too fast for me to break out my good camera, but the iPhone can snap some good shots once in a while!

20130220-135614.jpgwe had a poacher in the girls’ photo





The trailhead is across the street from mile marker 18 on Squaw Pass Road, marked by a stake. It isn’t very noticeable. The trail winds up through the trees where it eventually crosses above the timberline offering magnificent views of the surrounding snow capped mountains. At times, we faced brutal winter winds which blew Kelley’s hat right off her head! We looked forward to each turn that put the wind at our backs!! To my surprise we found a Bureau of Reclamation Benchmark at the summit. I looked it up on to see if I could log it, but it was not recorded…seemed odd! We gobbled a few snacks at the top, but it was quite chilly, so we turned for a quick walk down with our poles and traction devices. My Yaktrax were still broken from the day before, as we started our hike before REI opened at 10, but I’ll be ready for next weekend! ETB




The Rockies: Snow Hiking Black Bear Trail to Horseshoe Trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

February 16, 2013

This was my first time to Golden Gate Canyon State Park, located northwest of Denver and Golden. The park requires a $7 daily entry fee which can be paid at a self pay station or the visitors center located at the south entrance on Golden Gate Canyon Road. Black Bear Trail, 2.8 miles, is rated most difficult on the park’s literature and Horseshoe Trail, 1.8 miles, carries a moderate rating. The starting altitude is around 8,250 feet and the elevation gain is around 1,000 feet. Overall, both ratings seemed a little extreme.



Black Bear Trail immediately ascended from the parking lot up through a meadow. Eventually it wound through trees and around boulders. There were many ups and downs where we thought we had reached “the summit”, only to find out we were following the trail back down through the forest. Thankfully, the trail was well marked! The roller coaster hike allowed for several beautiful views of snow capped mountains in the distance, a bit of boulder scrambling, and an enjoyable variety. Our winter clothing was the only challenge…we found ourselves bundling up while going downhill in the wind and shade and stripping down while climbing uphill in the sun.





We came to a trail junction where we turned right and headed toward the Greenfield Meadow Campground. Here we connected to the Horseshoe Trail that gradually descended until we reached a small wooden bridge. We crossed the bridge, followed some snowy, switchbacks up the mountain and reconnected to the Black Bear Trail, heading back to the parking lot.


This was my first snow hike. I used traction devices called Yaktrax, that attach to the bottom of the hiking boot. I found out these are not the best…they broke the first try! Luckily I bought them at REI which will take all returns! I normally don’t return used items, but this time I think I will (and get something different) as after talking to several people, they have all said they don’t even know why REI sells Yaktrax because they always break! Regardless, I’ll be planning some more winter hiking as well as some snow shoeing soon! ETB