Base Camp Denver: 101 Hikes in Colorado's Front Range

Base Camp Denver: 101 Hikes in Colorado's Front Range

by Pete KJ
Base Camp Denver: 101 Hikes in Colorado's Front Range

Base Camp Denver: 101 Hikes in Colorado's Front Range

by Pete KJ


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Denver is known the world over as the gateway to Colorado’s magnificent Rocky Mountains.

Four national forests, a national grassland, scores of regional and city parks and preserves, and Rocky Mountain National Park offer hundreds of hiking and walking trails—all within one to three hours of downtown Denver. Base Camp Denver offers you 101 of the best of these great hiking destinations to choose from. Take a day to explore an alpine meadow, walk to a waterfall, hike through a forest, or stroll suburban parklands. Enjoy a spectacular day of spring wildflowers or fall foliage, and still be home by dinnertime. Scramble to the top of a mountain to enjoy a sunrise and still make it to work by eight. With Pete KJ as your guide and Denver as your base camp, the splendor of Colorado’s Front Range is yours to enjoy one day—or even just a few hours—at a time.
  • History, geology, flora, and fauna for each hike
  • Best hikes for each season, and where to enjoy spring wildflowers & fall foliage
  • Ratings from 1 to 5 for trail conditions, difficulty, suitability for children, and more
  • Detailed driving directions to trailheads and info about elevation, hiking time, parking, and restrooms
  • Regional maps showing all trails in each chapter; route map for each hike
  • Best hikes for dogs, kids, and teens
  • Hikes that offer solitude … or plenty of company!
  • Hikes by interest: birdwatching, stargazing, wetlands, wildlife, and more
  • How to prepare & what to take
  • 101 great hikes to choose from!

  • Product Details

    ISBN-13: 9781945501135
    Publisher: Imbrifex Books
    Publication date: 04/02/2019
    Series: Base Camp , #2
    Pages: 384
    Sales rank: 639,719
    Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)
    Age Range: 15 - 18 Years

    About the Author

    Pete KJ began explorations at age three in the wooded ravine that was his backyard in Seattle. He also began a lifelong writing habit. Backyard expanded as Pete stomped all over the Cascades and Olympics as a youth, and headed onward to the Pyrenees, Alps, Himalayas, and Andes. Peace Corps service in Africa cemented his deep desire to always be out in the world, and when he finally sat in a cubicle as a chemical engineer, it was in places like Puerto Rico and India. Long absent from the cubicle, he moved on to raise kids, travel the world with them, and write about it—and also write novels. Career originally brought Pete to Colorado in the 1990s; its gravity and beauty drew him back and continue to captivate him. In his continuing quest to experience everything this remarkable region has to offer, Pete has hiked hundreds of trails in the front range and beyond.

    Read an Excerpt

    [1] Pawnee Buttes

    This easy hike to two buttes in the eastern prairie gives you spring flowers, birdsong, windblown solitude, and views stretching off to infinity. It’s a journey through time and a blast for everyone, kids included.

    At a Glance

    Difficulty Distance/Time 4.5 miles/2 hours
    Trail Conditions ●●●● Trailhead Elevation/Gain 5,200 feet/200 feet each way
    Children ●●●●● Features Eroded landforms, prairie, birds, spring wildflowers
    Scenery ●●●● Best Season All year
    Photography ●●●● Other Users Horses, dogs
    Solitude ●●●● Notes Toilets at trailhead, very little shade
    Property Pawnee National Grassland Jurisdiction U.S. Forest Service

    The drive to this trail near the Wyoming border is crazy circuitous, and things just get weirder at the trailhead, where two buttes appear out on the prairie: startling, boxlike, rising like two gigantic birthday presents. You know you’re in for a different kind of treat, no matter how old you are!

    Distances are difficult to judge here. The buttes look reachable within minutes, yet the sign says they are two miles away. Begin walking on Pawnee Buttes Trail toward some cliffs to their west called The Overlook. A cacophony of birdsong rises over the sounds of breeze and feet scraping trail, especially in mornings during migration seasons. You might see the long ears of a jackrabbit fleeing. A traditional windmill spins to the left; on the horizon churn dozens of modern wind turbines. Several crude oil “grasshoppers” bob on the plains.

    At 0.7 miles, you’ll pass through a gated fence and descend into a craterlike valley studded with spiked yucca. In spring there are wildflowers: yellow evening primrose, blue penstemon, purple vetch and phlox. A juniper grove graces the dry snaking streambed, contrasting with whitish cliffs above. It’s difficult to stop taking pictures.

    Soon you rise into prairie, but West Butte looks no closer than it did at the start. Is it an optical illusion? Land falls away northward as you ford another dry stream and traverse grassland. This prairie is anchored by buffalo grass and blue grama, whose roots form tough sod that holds well against the wind. It took settlers several generations and a Dust Bowl to realize this stuff should never be plowed. On closer examination the diversity of vegetation is impressive. Over 400 native species grow here.

    The trail dips to arrive beneath the domineering form of West Butte. What is this? A bit of Mars? A hunk of comet? A corroded alien spaceship? Whatever it is, it looks otherworldly, especially in slanting sunlight. And inaccessible! Ringed at the top by 30- to 50-foot cliffs, there appears to be no way to stand on top.

    The buttes are very much of this world. Remnants of ancient High Plains that didn’t erode into the South Platte, they are protected by caps of sandstone and conglomerate that formed 3 to 20 million years ago. Below the hard caps is softer sediment of the Brule Formation, described geologically as “white to pale-pink blocky tuffaceous claystone and lenticular arkosic conglomerate.” It formed 25 to 40 million years ago, before there were words that big.

    A trail slants down and up toward East Butte, beckoning you to visit it as well. On the way you’ll pass a sign that reads, “Private Land Ahead, Respect Owner’s Rights,” but it doesn’t tell you not to proceed. The Forest Service owns all of West Butte, but only part of East. In fact, most of Pawnee National Grassland is privately owned.

    You will arrive at East Butte within minutes. You can enjoy it from the base or circumnavigate it on a trail of sorts. Rockfall and clay-fall are hazards, so don’t linger beneath precipices. On the east side, gorgeous rippled “clay barrens” melt into prairie. On the north, notches cut into the Brule mark where some people have attempted to scale the butte. Tempting . . . but even if you made it up, how would you get down? Better to enjoy this close encounter from below and respect the summit as a no-go zone.

    On the way back you can skirt to the north side of West Butte and confirm there is no summit access there, either. Or you can trust me.

    From Denver. Take I-25 north to Exit 269A, then CO 14 east for another 36 miles. Turn left onto CR 77, drive 15 miles, then turn right onto CR 120. Proceed 5.8 miles, veer left onto CR 87 for 0.8 miles, then turn right on CR 122 and drive 0.7 miles into Grover. Turn right onto CR 390 (Railroad Avenue), continue 5.8 miles, and turn left onto CR 112. Proceed 6.4 miles, turn right on CR 107/CR 112, drive 300 feet, then go left to stay on CR 112. In 2 miles turn left at the sign to Pawnee Buttes. The trailhead and its large parking area are 2 miles farther on the left. 2 hours, 40 mins.

    Table of Contents

    Before You Hit the Trail 11

    Fort Collins 29

    1 Pawnee Buttes 33

    2 Soapstone Prairie's Towhee Loop 36

    3 Coyote Ridge 38

    4 Horsetooth Rock 42

    5 Arthur's Rock & Westridge 45

    6 Greyrock Mountain 48

    7 Mount Margaret 51

    8 Emmaline Lake 54

    9 Big South 57

    10 Trap Park 60

    11 Twin Crater Lakes 63

    12 Blue Lake of Poudre Valley 66

    13 Diamond Peaks 69

    14 American Lakes 72

    Loveland & Longmont 75

    15 Bitterbrush & Nighthawk 79

    16 Crosier Mountain 82

    17 Signal Mountain 85

    18 Gem Lake 88

    19 Ypsilon Lake 91

    20 Ute Trail 94

    21 Black Lake 97

    22 Flattop Mountain 100

    23 Lily Mountain 103

    24 Estes Cone 106

    25 Chasm Lake 109

    26 Wild Basin 112

    27 Finch Lake 115

    28 Meadow Mountain 118

    Boulder 121

    29 Walden Ponds 125

    30 Eagle Trail to Mesa Reservoir 128

    31 Mount Sanitas 131

    32 The Flatirons 134

    33 Canyon Loop 137

    34 South Boulder Peak 140

    35 Meyers Homestead 143

    36 Rattlesnake Gulch 146

    37 Wapiti Trail & Ponderosa Loop 149

    38 Ceran St. Vrain & Miller Rock 152

    39 Blue Lake of Indian Peaks 155

    40 Pawnee Pass 158

    41 Rainbow Lakes 161

    42 Red Dot/Yellow Dot 164

    43 South Arapaho Peak 167

    44 Rogers Pass 170

    Denver 173

    45 Barr Lake 177

    46 Lone Tree Bluffs 180

    47 Black Bear Trail & Frazer Meadow 183

    48 Mount Galbraith 186

    49 Beaver Brook 189

    50 Green Mountain 192

    51 Morrison Slide 195

    52 Mount Falcon 198

    53 Plymouth Mountain 201

    54 Carpenter Peak 204

    55 Evergreen Mountain & Three Sisters 207

    56 Maxwell Falls 210

    57 Chief Mountain 213

    Idaho Springs & Georgetown 217

    58 Chicago Lakes 221

    59 James Peak from Saint Mary's 224

    60 Berthoud Pass West 227

    61 High Lonesome 230

    62 Mount Bierstadt 233

    63 Square Top Lakes 236

    64 Grays Peak 239

    65 Woods Mountain 242

    66 Herman Lake 245

    67 Mount Sniktau 248

    Summit County 251

    68 Upper Cataract Lake 255

    69 Ute Peak 258

    70 Willow Lakes 261

    71 Buffalo Mountain 264

    72 Wheeler & Lost Lakes 267

    73 Mount Victoria 270

    74 McCullough Gulch 273

    75 Quandary Peak 277

    76 Argentine Pass 280

    Conifer & Bailey 283

    77 Eagle's View Loop 287

    78 Colorado Trail from South Platte 290

    79 Little Scraggy 293

    80 Pine Valley & Strawberry Jack 296

    81 Staunton's Elk Falls 299

    82 Pegmatite Points 302

    83 Abyss 305

    84 Gibson Lake 308

    85 West Jefferson 311

    86 French Pass 314

    87 Bison Pass 317

    South of Denver 321

    88 Castlewood Canyon 325

    89 Devil's Head Lookout 328

    90 Spruce Mountain 331

    91 Mount Herman 334

    92 Red Rock Canyon 337

    93 Barr Trail 340

    94 Stanley Rim 343

    95 Mount Rosa 346

    96 Gray Back Peak 349

    97 The Crags 352

    98 Mueller's Rock Pond 355

    99 Dome Rock 358

    100 Pancake Rocks 361

    101 Oil Creek Tunnel 364

    Acknowledgements 369

    Choose Your Perfect Hike 371

    Index 375

    What People are Saying About This

    Pete Kj

    "Base Camp Denver is a priceless resource for anyone looking to hit Colorado’s trails."—Mitch Kline

    "Pete is an excellent, easy to read writer – he takes you right into his love of hiking and treats the reader to wonderful antidotes, historical tidbits, and explanations of each hike. The section introductions could form a nice Sunday afternoon read all by themselves and save the hiking for another day. The pictures alone are worth spending some time “armchair” hiking. There are stunning photographs of each hike, shot with suburb quality. Pete always seemed to encourage the reader to try something new and made even the more difficult hikes seems accessible."—Carol White,

    "Each hike description includes a number of inspirational good quality photos. There is just enough colorful detail or historical background to add an extra dimension to each hike. There is also a handy directory at the end of the book that will point the reader to different categories of hikes, (kid-friendly, rigorous, and so on), to help in selecting hikes. An excellent guide for a newbie and a valuable reference for a local looking for something new and perhaps a bit out of the way."—Joel Smith,

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