Sunday, September 18, 2016

South Saint Vrain

Distance: 6 miles round trip
Elevation: 8,700 ft - 9,692 ft
Elevation Gain: 992 ft
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Dogs: Off leash
Tags: #coloradooutdoors, #hiking, #dogfriendly
Nearby Hikes: Buchannan Pass, Caribou Ranch

The South Saint Vrain Trail is mostly forested but is a great place to let your dog run off leash.
The South Saint Vrain Trail near Ward, CO is a decent place to let your dog roam free. There are no killer views but there is a creek, whose pleasing sounds provide a restful backdrop and water for fido.
This trail is actually quite long, and connects with the Brainard Lake area (12 miles round trip). This post profiles a shorter excursion through the forest starting at the east end near County Road 96.

Trailhead
Blue Columbine dot the forest floor
Starting from the east end, the first mile travels through a lush forest dotted with colorful undergrowth. The South Saint Vrain Creek stays to the left and provides the perfect habitat for local Black Bears (one was reported by another hiker on the trail).

Much of the forest is open and airy
At 2.2 miles, the trail leaves the forest, joining a dirt road that takes tourists to nearby private Stapp Lakes. Just before this property (at 2.7 miles), the trail turns sharply uphill and scrambles through dense Lodgepole Pines. Biting flies seem to inhabit this section as if encouraging unwelcome hikers to quickly bypass the lakes. Long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and bug spray are recommended in summer.

View of the creek
On this trip we turned around deep in the forest at 3 miles. For those who want a longer hike, you can continue all the way to Brainard. Note that at  3.1 miles the trail crosses the Sourdough Trail and then after another mile intersects the Waldrop Trail.

Where the trail becomes a road
Turn off the road and up into the forest to avoid Stapp Lakes
To get to the trailhead drive 13 miles north of Nederland on Colorado Highway (CO) 72 past Ward. Continue north for another 2.5 miles and turn west onto County Road 96 (look for the Boy Scout Camp sign). The trailhead is on the left hand side just across a bridge very close to CO 72. Park on the side of the road. I was quite surprised at how busy this road was so be careful when exiting your vehicle.

Our turn around point. The trail is much rockier on the lake bypass

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