Lodge-Based Day Hikes in the Colorado High Country
- Enjoy challenging hikes in Colorado’s beautiful Twin Lakes region
- Relax with fireside chats and stargazing in an outdoor Jacuzzi
- Learn about historic Colorado by visiting Leadville, Aspen, and the ghost resort of Interlaken
- Cozy lodge and large cabin at the base of Mt. Elbert, the highest 14er in Colorado
- Van transportation throughout the trip
- Yummy meals cooked in our lodge kitchen
|Dates||Aug 24–31, 2013|
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Our home for the week is a cozy lodge and large cabin high in the Colorado Rockies at the foot of Mt. Elbert, the second highest peak in the continental United States. Mt. Elbert Lodge is set among majestic mountains, alpine flowers, hummingbirds, and a rushing mountain stream. It’s a perfect place to launch a week of day hikes in the San Isabel National Forest. Each hike is punctuated with views of spectacular mountains, sparkling with distant snowfields. After our hikes, we may visit the old mining town of Leadville, the ski resort town of Aspen, or visit Colorado historical sites. In the evenings we can play games, chat or read by the lodge fireplace, and enjoy hot tubbing under the stars. There are plenty of options for our free day: kayak at Twin Lakes, horseback ride, take the Leadville historical train, whitewater the Arkansas River, or just relax.
On the trail or in our cozy, comfortable lodge, the scenery is breathtaking. This may be your opportunity to enjoy a week of wonderful day hikes and the best Colorado has to offer.
Day 1: Our group will gather for orientation at 5 p.m., Saturday, August 24th, at the La Quinta Inn near Denver International Airport. We’ll get to know everyone, review the week’s itinerary, and complete a few other tasks before walking next door for a group dinner. (Hotel and group meal are not included in trip price.)
Day 2: Following breakfast at La Quinta, the leaders will drive the group on the three-hour trip to Twin Lakes and the Mt. Elbert Lodge. After a relaxing lunch on the lodge porch, we will adjust to 9,200 feet of elevation with an easy hike to the ghost resort of Interlaken, which was built in 1870s. The hike has only a 120-foot elevation gain, and the views of Twin Lakes and some of Colorado’s highest peaks are beautiful.
Day 3: We will drive north of Leadville to Tennessee Pass to enjoy the Mitchell Creek Loop. The top of this pass is an unexpected treasure of great hiking trails, including a portion of the Colorado Trail with views of the Holy Cross Wilderness and Homestake Peak. The hike features mostly gentle terrain through lodgepole pines with an elevation gain of 860 feet to reach the 10,600-foot summit. After the hike, we may visit Camp Hale, a U.S. Army training facility constructed in 1942 for what became the 10th Mountain Division. As many as 15,000 soldiers were trained in mountain climbing, Alpine and Nordic skiing, and cold-weather survival.
Day 4: We will hike to Willis Lake. We will start at 9,340 feet and ascend to 11,810 feet. Willis Lake is set in a cirque against rocky 13,933-foot Mount Hope in a valley bounded by almost a dozen 13,000-foot summits. We will hike through tall conifers, pass by a beautiful cascading creek, and pass meadows covered by wildflowers. We will pass by ruins of a couple old cabins and see ruins of several mine buildings on the hillside above us. Willis Lake will be our destination point.
Day 5: On this free day, people may want to go hiking on several nearby trails, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, mountain biking or fishing. We also can take the historical train ride from Leadville or just stay at our lodge and relax.
Day 6: Despite its close proximity to the resort town of Aspen, the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness is often overlooked as a prime hiking area. The high glacial river valleys on the western slopes of the Continental Divide are the special attraction, which is where we’ll find today’s hike on the Lost Man Trail Loop. Roaring Fork River, Fryingpan River, and Hunter Creek all originate within the boundaries of Hunter-Fryingpan, and the high open valleys at their headwaters are exceedingly scenic. If there is time after our hike, we may drive over Independence Pass to Aspen.
Day 7: After several days of hiking, we should be ready for a nine-mile hike to Hope Pass, which tops out at 12,526 feet. This challenging hike is highlighted by some of the most majestic views in Colorado, including the upper Arkansas River Drainage and, to the south, the prettiest cluster of 14ers. The Native Lake or Timberline trails are options. This evening we will have our farewell dinner at restaurant in Twin Lakes or Leadville.
Day 8: After breakfast we will return to Denver International Airport. Return flights should be scheduled after 3 p.m.
The trip begins at 5 p.m. on Saturday, August 24 at the La Quinta Inn near the Denver Airport. If you’re flying into Denver, the trip leaders recommend arriving on Friday, a day early, to avoid complications due to late flights and lost luggage. The leaders will stay at La Quinta Inn, but there are dozens of nearby places to spend the night. On Sunday, August 25, the leaders will drive the group by van to the lodge, approximately three hours away. You can also drive yourself to Mt. Elbert Lodge, where parking is available.
Accommodations and Food
We will stay at Mt. Elbert Lodge, Twin Lakes, Colorado, in what was originally an old roadhouse. Depending on the size of the group, we probably will have exclusive use of the lodge and make use of the Barn, a large, quaint four-bedroom cabin. All rooms have double or queen beds, and can accommodate a single person or a couple. Some bathroom facilities will be shared. The lodge is very clean with a cozy, comfortable living room with fireplace and game table. There is a reading library and an outdoor hot tub where we can soak our muscles after hiking or watch the moon set behind the south ridge. We will eat in the dining room or our outdoor porch as the sun washes the mountain peaks pink. We have exclusive access to the lodge’s kitchen where we will take turns preparing scrumptious meals. All meals are included beginning with lunch on day two to breakfast on day eight.
Participants need to be in good physical condition. This trip is designed for people who enjoy hiking and want a challenge. Mt. Elbert Lodge is at 9,200 feet. Most hikes ascend to at least 10,000 feet, but one hike climbs to 12,526 feet. Our beginning hike is classified as easy; days three, four, and six are moderate; and day seven is strenuous.
Equipment and Clothing
An equipment list will be provided to registered participants.
- Martin, Betty Woo and Don W. Martin, The Best of Denver and the Rockies.
- Dawson, Louis W. II, Dawson's Guide to Colorado's Fourteeners, Vol. 1: The Northern Peaks.
- Jenkins, Mckay, The Last Ridge: The Epic Story of America's First Mountain Soldiers and the Assault on Hitler's Europe.
We will discuss the environmental challenges in this part of the country, including:
- Grassroots recycling issues.
- Rapid growth and development in high mountain towns.
- Old mining sites leaching toxic metals into the water.
- Diversion of the water supply. The high mountains receive more precipitation than anywhere else in Colorado, but most of this water is used by Front Range cities and eastern Colorado agriculture.
- Mountain Pine Beetle invasion.
Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under permits from San Isabel National Forest and White River National Forest.