Monday, July 1, 2019

Colorado Trail - Browns Creek to Chalk Creek

Brown's Creek Trailhead Elevation: 8,914 ft.
High Point: 9,702 ft.
Chalk Creek Trailhead Elevation: 8,390 ft.
Distance: 7.84 mi.
Elevation Gain: 1,241 ft.
Elevation Loss: 1,773 ft.
Start Time: 8:20am
End Time: 12:21pm

Trip Report:
This hike came on day 5 of my all-too-short trip to visit family in Colorado. Up to this point I had logged 47 miles and 17,100 feet of elevation. I was finally hitting that point where my body had had enough and needed some rest. But I also didn't want to waste a good day to get in some miles with the small amount of time I had out west. So my father and I looked for a good hike that would get us trail time, good scenery, but yet not work the legs too hard. We picked out this route on the Colorado trail as the perfect fit. We had already been at Brown's Creek trailhead a few days prior to hike Mt. Antero via Little Brown's Creek and we had loved that first mile and a half on the Brown's Creek Trail. It was also evident that after the initial climb up to the Colorado Trail most of the rest would be downhill.

So we set out from Brown's Creek TH at 8:20am not being in any hurry today. It was yet another beautiful morning in the mountains with blue skies and some sun poking through. We enjoyed the nice hike up the Brown's Creek trail only running into one other hiking party. We took 39 minutes to gain the junction with the Colorado Trail. It was another quick few minutes down the CT to the north when we passed the familiar junction with Little Brown's. After that we finally made it into new trail for the day.

Working our way up the Brown's Creek Trail for the 2nd time in 5 days.
The Colorado Trail immediately begins descending here and does so losing about 600 feet through some switchbacks. We saw cattle fencing in this section nearing the trail and wondered if there was a private ranch off to the north. Finally the trail leveled out and we passed through a gate and began the trek north.

Descending down hill on the Colorado Trail nearing the elevation we started the day at
The upcoming section of trail was gorgeous. Things were mostly flat and we worked through grassy meadows surrounded by beautiful pine trees and views. We were stop and go hiking in here for a bit just wanting to take in every picture we could. Its worth noting I was very glad to have my sun gear with hat, bandanna, and sunglasses and all. My father just had his ballcap and wished he had brought more.

Pano looking north toward Mt. Princeton and the Chalk Cliffs

So much of this section of the Colorado Trail looks just like this
At about 3.8 miles in we came across the Raspberry Gulch road. This is clearly a more popular destination than we had realized. We knew of it, and had even looked at routes from Raspberry Gulch to hike up to the summit of Mt. Antero. But we ran into a couple of dayhikers who had driven up the road to get a few short miles in. We saw a biker coming up the road as well. My father noted this area as perfect to return to in winter for XC skiing and snowshoeing.

Occasional placards on the trees to remind you that you are on the Colorado Trail

Chalk Cliffs
We encountered another forest road towards the northern end of our section. It was gated not far to the west of the junction. It appears this leads up into private property. We would later see two or three structures back in there and were curious just what kind of operation existed back in there.

At the northern end of this section as you draw nearer to the descent to Chalk Creek the trail encounters a ridge. It climbs just over a hundred feet at a low point in the ridge and then continues ascending along the back (north) side of the ridge eventually gaining the crest. Several nice viewpoints in here for the Chalk Cliffs. We topped out at 9300 feet on the ridge after having climbed almost 400 feet back up from our low point.

Aspen grove with foliage on the north side of the ridge before our final descent

Eastern slopes of Mount Antero
From the crest of that small ridge we began descending quickly. This is the part we were glad to have gone from south to north on this section as opposed to the opposite. We bumped into a couple of backpackers from had just climbed up out of Chalk Creek and they seemed exhausted already. The trail gains/loses about 900 feet in a 0.8 mile stretch which is pretty strenuous. We happily headed downhill through the well made switchbacks. The trail passed the junction with the 290 road, jogged a hundred feet or so down the road and then continued onward through another couple small trail junctions with campsites heading away.
Trail sign along a dirt road as we near the Chalk Creek Trailhead

The junctions near Chalk Creek trailhead were all well signed
We finally made it to Chalk Creek which was roaring just like every other creek right now with all the snow melt. Our total mileage for the day put us just under 8 miles which is pretty much right on with what we had looked for. We gained 1200 feet while happily descending almost 1800. A hike like this opened up so much opportunity for months ahead with easy access to many parts of this trail. It was just afternoon when we got picked up and we were ready to go grab a bite to eat!
Chalk Creek roaring right now with all the snowmelt coming down


I have a track and waypoints from the hike all contained in a KML file that you are welcome to download and use (at your own risk).  

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