Colorado Winter Adventures: James Peak Wilderness

Colorado Winter Adventures: James Peak Wilderness

This week has been very status quo because we’ve been playing the role of adults in charge of a home–taking care of doctor’s and dentist’s appointments (I type as my mouth is numb), car registration/oil change, prepping taxes, freelance writing project deadlines, cat-sitting … This is what I call the opposite of fun and it seems the trend will continue into next week. While I’d much rather be out playing, these adult things have to be done once in awhile.

Last Sunday, though, we escaped for a day in the mountains with our friend Grant. The weather in Denver has been very spring-like, but there’s still snow in them hills!

Crater Lake
Activity: Snowshoeing, Backcountry Skiing, Hiking (trail is still too snowy for that)

Mileage: 5.7 miles (out and back)

Elevation Gain: 1460 feet

The first thing I should say is there are a few Crater Lakes in Colorado, but this particular trek was to the Crater Lakes in the James Peak Wilderness of Roosevelt National Forest. The trailhead starts at Moffatt Tunnel, which is the longest (6.2 miles) railroad tunnel in the United States!

This trailhead is popular because it is the jumping off point for a number of other lakes, peaks and trails. We arrived early Sunday morning, so we beat the crowds a bit. By the time we came out of the woods in the afternoon, the parking lot was almost full.

The first part of the path follows South Boulder Creek in aspen and pine forest cloaked with lichen and mosses, passing old cabins and crossing wooden bridges along the way. It was that snow cone type of surface, icy and crusty. We wore our snowshoes, but with all the traffic beating it down, you can easily get away with no snowshoes.

At the second signed turnoff (about 2 miles in), we made our way up the switchbacks following the blue blazes on the trees. The snow deepened here, but the path was still pretty clear. With new snowfall, I could see how the footprints would disappear and the confusion would begin. Thankfully for us, the snowfall didn’t start until our way down.

J & I stopped for a break at the first Crater Lake. The first lake sits in a rock bowl directly below the Continental Divide. There was zero wind and it was actually a comfortable enough temperature to sit and enjoy the view.

One response to “Colorado Winter Adventures: James Peak Wilderness”

  1. Misti says:

    Very pretty, but BRRR!

    That's a very long tunnel. I would hate to be stuck in it!

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