Exploring Twin Lakes
Trip Date: June 2018
Leaving Denver, we really felt the effects of the altitude close to Loveland Pass, at almost 12,000 feet, even just sitting in the car. Living at sea level has its drawbacks when we travel to big mountains. We made it to Twin Lakes and set up camp at a free primitive site up a rocky dirt road. The site looked over the lakes and it was a perfect start to the camping portion of this road trip.
Bartlett Gulch Hike
Once we set up camp, we were itching to hit a hiking trail. We opted to start with the Bartlett Gulch Loop Trail as a warm up hike to begin acclimatizing to the elevation. At just over 4 miles with 900 feet of elevation gain, it was perfect just to get our legs moving and our bodies ready for longer hikes to come.
The loop started at South Mount Elbert Trailhead and ascended a 4×4 road through an aspen forest. The area was crisscrossed by a bunch of unmarked ATV trails, and we were passed by a few, but it wasn’t difficult to stay on the main trail. At the end of the rugged road, we found a small pond with a beaver lodge in the middle. There, we turned around and descended along a section of the Colorado Trail, a thru-hiking route from Denver to Durango. Parts of this trail also join sections of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), a much longer thru-hike from Mexico to Canada following the highest trails in the Rockies. It was really cool to hike even this super short section of such an incredible trail. Towards the end of the hike, we saw clouds rolling in and quickly jaunted back to the campsite as the rain started.
After hiking, we backtracked a bit to visit Periodic Brewing in Leadville, CO. Their claim to fame is that they are the highest elevation brewery in North America at 10,156 feet. They have some tasty beers and a nice bar room to hang out in. The science nerd in me also loved their periodic table inspired logo.
The next morning we packed up camp and drove up to Independence Pass on the continental divide. It is actually North America’s highest paved mountain pass. The scenery was stunning with snow lingering in June and mountains as far as the eye can see in every direction.
Midway Pass Hike
We drove just a little beyond Independence Pass to reach our hiking trailhead for the day just across the road from Lost Man Campground. There are a few good hikes from this trailhead and we chose to hike to Midway Pass. At about 7 miles with 1,700 feet of elevation gain, this was a great hike to get above treeline in the Rockies. The views went on for days as we traversed fields of wildflowers, passed mirror-still alpine lakes, and crunched over the remaining snowpack of early summer. I loved every minute of it! This hike gave us just a small taste of the Rocky Mountain landscape and now we cannot wait to return for more.
After hiking Midway Pass, we enjoyed lunch at the trailhead and then headed off to the next destination: Great Sand Dunes National Park.
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