Saturday, October 24, 2009

Scenic Fall Hikes

Snow is coming, so if you're not spending your Saturday mulching and trimming, take a leisurely tour through the last colors of the changing season. Below are four short hikes to consider.

Fall’s reds and golds take over the scenery in Gregory Canyon from mid-September through October. Starting just west of Chautauqua where Baseline meets Flagstaff, the trail up Gregory Canyon climbs west for a mile to Realization Point. The trail crosses Saddle Rock, which takes you another 1.3 steep miles up to a spectacular overlook. Everywhere you look, the understory vibrates with yellows, golds and reds. Look for plump, ripe chokecherries and currants, both much loved by the birds and bears.

Located off Flagstaff Road about 7.5 miles from Boulder, historic Walker Ranch has multi-use trails, a group shelter, fishing, and programs that celebrate the ranch’s history. Trails meander through a rich mosaic of pines and fir trees, open meadows and aspen groves. Many mountain bikers use the Walker Ranch Loop trail on weekends.

For full fall-color immersion, go to Caribou Ranch, just northwest of Nederland. The area, at an elevation of more than 8,000 feet, is surrounded by mountainsides lit gold by aspen groves. Caribou Ranch has 4.5 miles of easy trails that wind along the Historic Switzerland Trail to the DeLonde Homestead and Blue Bird mining camp. The hike teems with wetlands, meadows, streams and forests with towering aspen trees. Horses are allowed on trails, but mountain bikes are forbidden. From Nederland take the Peak to Peak Highway north for 2 miles; turn left on County Road 126 and continue on the dirt road to trailhead.

Mitchell Lake and Blue Lake are small lakes that epitomize high-Rockies scenery. The trail winds through evergreen forest, reaching Mitchell Lake in about a mile, and then climbs through more open terrain for another mile and a half. Watch for squirrels and chipmunks hoarding food for winter. To reach the Mitchell Lake/Long Lake trailhead, take Brainard Lake Drive (just north of Ward) off Colorado Route 72, the Peak-to-Peak Highway.

For more hiking trail recommendations, locations of trailheads and a "Circling the City" 8-part hiking tour AROUND Boulder, visit's Hiking Guide.

Photo: Fall’s display doesn’t get much better than at Caribou Ranch near Nederland. Hikers there enjoy more than 4 miles of easy trails lined with aspen trees that turn wonderfully golden in fall. Photo by Kay Turnbaugh

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