Colorado Road Trip – 14’ers and Ghost Towns

Of all the years I’ve been visiting Colorado, I keep finding new areas to explore!  On the way to Utah for a whitewater trip on the Green River, I decided to spend a week in Colorado and finally visit Rocky Mountain National Park. I pre-reserved two nights at Moraine Campground inside the park.

Rocky Mountain National Park

In addition to meeting up with some Colorado friends for a nice dayhike to Ouzel Falls, I also spent a lot of time just driving through the park.  In Estes Park, I saw my first ever Colorado bear!  Again, many many many trips to Colorado and I’d never seen a bear in that state!  Check!

The park is gorgeous, and Trail Ridge Road highlights the best of it!  I just love Colorado, especially in September!  You get the most beautiful weather and everything starts turning gold.

After a few days in RMNP, I headed down towards Georgetown, where I got a cheap room for 1 night prior to my first ever 14’er attempt, on Mt Bierstadt.  After scoping out the following day’s hike, I met up with my cousin for dinner and got ready for an early wakeup call the following morning.  I started out just after sunrise, at 36 degrees, and quickly had a moose sighting at Bierstadt Lake.  The entire hike is above treeline, affording gorgeous views and to my relief, you could see the parking lot from the entire route, which was a small comfort since this was a solo hike.

After a ridiculous amount of time to hike 3 miles, I reached the summit!  What a great feeling that was!  Bierstadt is an “easy” 14’er and a short hike, fairly crowded with people, but it still felt like a big accomplishment to me.  I’m not in the best of shape, so I was happy to not die!

Grays and Torreys peaks on the left

Once back to my car, I was ready for some luxury!  I had two nights at the Marriott Mountain Valley Lodge in Breckenridge.  This place was gorgeous and the perfect place to recoup from my strenuous 14’er hike!  I was pretty lazy around here, and just did some shopping and eating in my favorite little ski village.

After two nights in Breckenridge, I cruised through Leadville and Twin Lakes, then over Independence Pass to Glenwood Springs, where I met up with my aunt for a backcountry adventure.  Seeing as I had a whole lot of camping in my future, I decided to get a room at the Holiday Inn Express in Glenwood Springs, which gave me the chance to organize my gear for two nights in the “backcountry” with my aunt.

Growing up, Marble, Colorado was our summer vacation spot – we came out in a caravan almost every year, and each trip usually involved a side trip to the ghost town of Crystal, home of the famous mill, either by foot, Jeep or horseback.  Crystal was a mining town in the late 1800’s and had 400+ residents at its peak.  Today, there are perhaps a dozen cabins remaining and used in the summer months by a few lucky families.  I had the contact info for one of the families and was able to rent one for two nights.  I was so stoked!  The town can be reached by 4WD, but we chose to hike the Jeep road.

The first residence past the mill is that of the local author, Roger Neal, who can sometimes be found with books to sign and sell.

The "town" of Crystal

Our cabin was a bit further down the lane.  It had running water, in the sense of a hose running from the creek out back.  That’s an outhouse back there, too!  And a wood burning stove, which we didn’t use.  So, it’s not truly backpacking, but pretty primitive.  No electricity, of course!  These were real cabins from Crystal’s heydey in the 1860’s or so.

The Sperry cabin, which we rented for two nights.  (Outhouse included)

We had some great dayhikes from Crystal, which is situated at the back of the Maroon Bells, so we had great views of Snowmass Mountain, as well as the alleged Coors Waterfall.

Crystal is truly a magical little spot, and I hope I’m lucky enough to come back here and stay again!  I’m envious of the lucky few who own these cabins and return summer after summer.  What a life!

After a hike out and lunch at the BBQ spot in Marble, it was time for me to continue West to catch a raft!

To continue following this trip, click here to read out the next week spent rafting the Green River.

For more pictures, click here!


Colorado Road Trip

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