Thursday, June 23, 2016

Colorado Trail (Segment 3) Wellington Lake to Buffalo Creek

Distance: 8 miles round trip
Elevation:8,262 ft - 8,390 ft
Elevation Gain: 935 ft (cumulative)
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Dogs: Off leash
Tags: #ColoradoTrail, #coloradooutdoors, #hiking
Other hikes in area: Gashouse Gulch, Pine Valley Loop

This short stint on segment 3 of the Colorado Trail is cushy on the paws and mellow romp through the trees.
The Colorado Trail stretches almost 500 miles across the state from Denver to Durago. Divided into 28 segments, it can be hiked in 4-6 weeks straight through, in segments, or just in bits and pieces because it is so dang beautiful.

On this trip I was looking for a trail I had not done that would allow an off leash dog. Looking on the topo map I decided to head down towards the Wellington Lake Trailhead and hike eastward (away from the wilderness area) toward the Buffalo Creek Trailhead.

This segment is mostly in the trees
This bit of the Colorado Trail was a delight. The ground was a magic carpet of pine needles...soft and nearly rock free. While in the trees most of the time, the forest was open and airy and I was able to keep and eye on the dog as she bolted hither and yon. It was so smooth and level that I found myself walking along at over 3 mph.

Rock piles occasionally appear
The only downside was the lack of water and the sparse views. There was one meadow with a view of the Castle, an eroded rock pinnacle to the west of Wellington Lake, but that was about it. There is a rifle range 3 miles in, which was very active. Handgun fire to small nuclear explosions could be heard a long way off.

Most of the trees are Ponderosa, but this stint contains mostly Lodgepole
You get to the trailhead from Denver by heading up highway 285 to Bailey and then south on Forest Service Road 560 towards Wellington Lake. 560 is paved for only a short distance but then becomes hard packed dirt. Two other FSRs branch off from 560. If you stay to the right you'll find the trailhead, which is located on the right hand side of the road and very obvious.

View of the Castle
My turn around point just past 4 miles one way 
This backcountry campsite made a great lunch spot

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