It was a real butt burner last weekend. I hiked Herman Gulch trail in Dillon and part of Castle trail at Mount Falcon. Herman Gulch trail does not joke around. The trail head starts off at around 10,400 ft and finishes around 12,000 ft. It’s a super steep hike with a 1,600 ft elevation gain.
It follows a path into deep forests that make you feel like you’re in the Hunger Games. Be careful if you go in the morning and after a rain storm. It was quite muddy and slippery when I went.
Gradually, the trail traverses through beautiful meadows filled with Colorado Columbines and Indian Paintbrushes. The views are absolutely breathtaking with wildflower fields and views of the Continental Divide between Pettingell Peak and Hagar Mountain.
The climb to Herman Lake hikes back into the forest for a super steep climb passing treeline. Towards the top is an open tundra landscape that leads you to the lake. I didn’t explore Pettingell Peak or the Divide I’ll save that for the next time I am there.
I would advise to go early for this hike. I got there around 8 am and the parking lot was pretty full even though it was only me and a couple on the trail. Coming down from the trail there were loads of people hiking.
Sunday I was thinking of an easy hike because my muscles were pretty sore and I was still exhausted. I headed up to Mount Falcon and took Castle trail which I forgot is actually pretty long. Since I got a late start I turned around about halfway because it was super hot and the switchbacks going down were not going to be easy going up.
If you hang out with me on weekends you probably won’t sleep or sleep in at least. Saturday I got up at 3 am to head out to Rocky Mountain National Park for a sunrise hike up to Sky Pond. This was the first long hike I have done by myself. Of course I hike alone a lot but I had never hiked 10 miles let alone in high elevation. But I did it and despite all my sweary Snapchats it was worth it. I forgot about how much RMNP has to offer. Sometimes it’s a little off-putting during tourist season but that’s why hiking at the wee hours of the morning makes it better.
If you are thinking about hiking: I would suggest going early to hike Sky Pond. Because of Colorado’s infamous afternoon thunderstorms it’s best to be at the top by the latest 10 am. I got up there within 2 1/2 hours and stayed up there for an hour and the clouds were already starting roll in by 9 am. I hiked with a few groups that were older but they let me pass them. “Oh this girl is pushing. She’s going for it” they would say as I passed them. They didn’t continue onto Sky Pond. It was just me. There are several spots to stop at before arriving at Sky Pond. The first one being Alberta Falls which is a short hike from the parking lot. Follow signs point towards The Loch, Black Lake and Mills Lake. This is where the trail begins to climb in elevation. The trail is pretty clear so you won’t get lost but know that switchbacks lay ahead. Take it slow and drink water. After a steep climb you’ll reach The Loch lake which was BEAUTIFUL!. The water was so still and it was all so serene. I was an idiot though and did not bring bug spray so my legs are paying for that mistake.
Continuing on the trail an elk joined me and two other girls. I forgot how big they are. He was massive and I couldn’t stop laughing because the elk was ahead of us and all I saw were legs and its butt and the girls were taking photos. Eventually the elk decided to veer off and take a bath in the lake. I knew Sky Pond wasn’t far from The Loch lake so I was getting pretty pumped. I remember the directions saying that there would be a sign point to Andrews Glacier and not to go right but stay to the left. Now this was not very clear while on the trail. Basically the sign points to the right and you’ll see a trail but just go straight. There is no left except for trees.
From here the trail starts to be very rocky and you’ll feel the change in elevation. But luckily, once hiking through a forest and rocks there will be an opening where you will see Timberline Falls. This is the part where you climb next to a waterfall. It’s not as difficult as other reviews said it was. It’s a class 2 climb and I basically scaled the rocks to prevent my shoes and myself from getting soaked. It’s only a little dangerous because there aren’t definite hand or foot holds. On the way down it was much more difficult. Partly because there were groups of people watching me slide down. SO MUCH PRESSURE. The rocks were definitely a lot more wet than when I initially went up so I thought ‘screw it’ and sat my butt down and carefully shimmied my way down. I figured my butt would be dry by the time I finished the hike. Now, once you reach the top of Timberline Falls you’ll be at Glass Lake. Take a look behind you and you’ll see stunning views of The Loch.
This part of the trail can be confusing AF because you’re in a gorge, surrounded by mountains. This is one of those instances where everything looks like a trail. I was alone so I couldn’t ask anyone. I basically looked at the moraine and headed in that direction. Soon you’ll reach Sky Pond! The views are breathtaking. I mean you’re sitting roughly at 11,000 ft in the sky. The lake is surrounded by three sided cliff walls and to the right you’ll see granite spires of The Sharkstooth. The mountain directly across the lake is Taylor Peak, and towards the south is Powell Peak.
When I arrived there were people climbing on Sharkstooth. It’s quite windy up there so bring clothing for all types of weather: wind, rain, sun. I stayed up top by an hour partly because I couldn’t remember how to get down. Every time I tried there was a waterfall or snow. I was getting worried because the clouds were rolling in and lately there have been many news stories of people getting struck by lightening. Luckily, there were a few couples that were heading up to Sky Pond so I ran over to where they were climbing and finally made it down. It took me an hour to get to the trail head. I ran most of the it but I got held up by all the people just starting to hike the trails.
On Sunday I headed up to Breck to visit Smooth Riders aka my sister. It was freezing up there and was going to storm. It wasn’t the best day but it was still fun. I brought my older sister’s dog, Koa with. She got so much love while up in Breck. She’s a good mountain dog.