Saturday, May 17, 2008

Crosier Mountain Hike

Distance: 7.5 miles round trip
Elevation: 7,044 ft - 9,204 ft
Elevation Gain: 2,280 ft
Date Hiked: 11 May, 2008
Dogs: Off leash (Forest Service)

The view of the Continental Divide from the summit of Crosier Mountain
Crosier Mountain is a lesser-known, lower mountain to the northeast of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park that is perfect for a shoulder season outing. It has significant elevation gain, glorious views of Longs Peak, Mt. Meeker, Estes Park, and the Mummy Range. There are at least three different trails that approach the mountain, each offering different features. I have done two of the three and of those two, I prefer the one that will be described in this post. It just has more expansive views.

The lower part of the trail travels through an open Ponderosa Pine forest
You can get to any of the trailheads via Loveland and Hwy 34 or via Estes Park and Devil’s Gulch Road. Since I had never driven Hwy 34, we decided to take that route. The canyon walls east of Drake are very pretty and worth the drive. From Hwy 34, you can access one of the first trailheads right after turning onto Devil’s Gulch road. A colleague of mine usually takes this route and indicated it is longer, at least 10 miles, and wanders through many open meadows. Around 6 miles from the turn off is another trailhead that is well marked. A large dirt parking lot can hold many cars. There is a trail map and gate to the left of parking lot. The other trailhead is in the town of Glen Haven itself. The trail starts on the left just beyond the stables when heading towards Estes Park. The Glen Haven trail goes through a very large meadow and comes back around the mountain. The other trailhead approaches the mountain from the south and intersects the Glen Haven trail at the 2-mile interval, so the trails only differ for the first half of the route.

(On the left: An example of the rocky trail). The early part of the second trail ascends quickly up a slope with nice views of the rocky cliffs to the north of Hwy 34. After a half mile or so, there is a nice view down the canyon itself and out onto the plains. The trail is covered in loose quartz rock that has eroded out of the hillside. Ankle high boots are advised for anyone with weak ankles.

At 1.8 miles, there is large aspen grove with very large old growth trees. It would be very pretty in the fall. The trail in this area is very sunken and in places the ground was above the level of my knees. This trench was also narrow, which made walking difficult. It is just past this area that the trail intersects with the Glen Haven route. The spot is well marked with a trail sign and a very large log suitable for resting.

(On the right: An example of an open meadow) From this point the trail begins a steady accent through stunted Ponderosa pine. I am a true Coloradoan and I don’t like staying in trees for very long without vistas, so I found an iPod with music to be helpful on this stretch.

The final pitch to the summit is also well marked. It is here that the third trail intersects. Parts of the summit pitch are very steep and the trail is very eroded in places. The trees thin as you ascend though, offering nice views of the foothills to the east. There are also several interesting rock formations. The summit is very broad allowing for significant exploration. There is a nice cut in the rock that allows for direct views of Estes Park without climbing the small rock pile on the right.

Crosier Mountain is not my favorite hike simply because it is a bit too monotonous for me but during the spring it is a nice alternative to the trails around Boulder. We can take the dogs and let them run their paws off. The trail is multi-use and you will occasionally run into horses and mountain bikers but in our half-day outing, we only ran into 3 other groups.

The trail opens up nicely on the summit approach


Robert J Miller said...

Sylvia, I recently discovered your blog while researching Crosier Mountain. Thanks for the great info. I am now publicly following your blog on my blogger profile. We hiked the first 2 miles of Crosier Mountain trail last weekend and had a lot of fun. I run an online store for premium outdoor gear and a similar blog that highlights Colorado trails. Keep up the good work!

sylvia murphy said...

Thanks Robert,

I have added your blog to my list as well. Isn't Colorado grand!

Keep hiking and I look forward to your adventures. We are always looking for new places to go.


Anonymous said...

Seems to me a "true" Coloradan would be listening to Mother Nature in the trees rather than an ipod.

Robert J Miller said...

Seems to me a "true" Coloradan would not post as "Anonymous" ;)

sylvia murphy said...


This tells me you are not familiar with our "ways" here. It is not about nature, far from it. It is about total physical prowess. If you hike a 14er, there will be someone running it in training for the leadville 100. We are out for maximum cardio and quadriceps building.

We are also totally spoiled. I hate traveling in the trees. It is so boring. If there had been any vistas, I may not have resorted to an ipod. Plenty of the runners on the trail still did, however.

Anonymous said...

I think you commentary of Crosier is right on. Before our dog developed cancer she loved to roam this area. I have hiked it several times, the aspen grove in the fall is beautiful. I did lunch one day off on the hill to the right of the grove and the views are beautiful. Also there was an elk kill there, cougar chow. My favorite is getting off trail and exploring a little more in depth.

Nick said...

Sylvia - thanks for the Crosier beta. As for 100-mile training, the "Crosier treble" is a great training run. I typically park up at the Drake TH and summit from there, descending to the middle TH, re-summit, descend to Glen Haven TH, re-summit and then back to Drake TH. It's good for ~25 miles and somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 of vertical.

When you're back down in the Drake area, head further down 34 towards Loveland. There's a pull-off for Round Mountain to the north, just before the Big Thompson narrows. Round is a 3,000 foot, 10-mile out and back with some sweet views of RMNP from the summit. Review here:

As to the anon 'i-pod' comment - to each their own, I guess.