Trekking around Colorado is one of the many blisses that the summertime has to offer. There is nothing like getting out of the city and into the expanses of the Rocky Mountain wilderness. Recently we took a trip up to Routt National Forest near Steamboat Springs, Colorado which is about three hours from Denver, Colorado. This particular area of the Rockies is called the Flat Top Mountains-yes, they are flat across the top. They look as if somebody came by and sliced the top part of the mountains off leaving large, flat plains on top of 11,000-foot mountains.
Our getaway was a three day, two night backpacking adventure through the series of the Lost Lakes, summiting the Chinese Wall and crossing the terrifying Devil's Causeway--sounds scary does it? Actually it was a little scary at the Causeway where you cross on a 3-foot wide path that is a 1500-foot drop on either side. It definitely shook my nerves but it's a mind over matter thing, keep your eyes on the path not the plummeting cliff steps away.
Wild mountain flowers sprinkled the hillside as we worked our way back into the valley where the pocket lakes dotted the landscape. The lakes provided a beautiful backdrop for camping and fishing but I had never seen so many mosquito's in Colorado. My suggestion is bug spray and lots of it.
The final leg of our three day journey was a summit of the Chinese Wall and follow the ridge that would complete the loop and take us back to the trail head at Stillwater Reservoir. The Chinese Wall Trail is above timberline so it is completely exposed to the elements. We decided to beat the sun, wind and afternoon showers by starting before the sun rose. We packed up camp and were off hiking by 4 am. Climbing the vertical part by headlamp we were able to watch the sun wake from the top of the Chinese Wall. It's those events that are a gentle reminder that moments like those are what we live for and to make those moments as frequent as possible. The sun bathed us in light as we summitted the ridge and quickly warmed up the open meadow. We hiked all morning and arrived back at the car by mid-morning before the sun roasted us through.
The trip was just another example of the lifestyle that our everyday Colorado has to offer. These adventures are in Denver's backyard and are minutes away from the concrete jungle of downtown.
This particular loop was 22 miles which we did at a leisurely pace. The loop ranges from 10,200 feet to almost 12,000 feet in elevation and is rarely more than a moderate hike. The trail is clearly defined the entire way due to the horse excursions that share the path on occasion. There is no road access to the Lost Lakes so there aren't many people in the area--We saw a few fishermen and one backpacker the entire three days.
To get to Stillwater Reservoir take County Road 7 west for 17 miles for Yampa all the way to it's end. The trail head is clearly marked, very easy to find. This trail is hikable July to September and can be windy so bring the correct gear. Water is everywhere except the Chinese Wall so prepare accordingly. The Devil's Causeway is undoubtedly a thrill but it is not impossible to cross nor as scary as many say it is. You will be able to cross it, after all crossing it shaves six miles off your trek that should be motivation enough. Please enjoy this trek as much as we did.