Thursday, July 2, 2009

Acorn Creek

Distance: 2.6 miles one way to the Aspen grove above the "ridge with a view"
Elevation: 8,647 ft - 10,200 ft (by barometric GPS)/10,400 ft (by Summit Hiker)
Elevation Gain: 1,553 ft (by GPS), 1,768 ft (by Summit Hiker)

Our alfresco lunch spot on a high ridge overlooking the Gore Range

A hike up Acorn Creek north of Silverthorne will make you want to quit your job, sell your house, put your mother in a home, and move to Colorado! The views of the Gore Range from this moderate hike are stunning to say the least. Couple that with blankets of early season wildflowers and near solitude, and you have the makings for a life changing event.

The trailhead, looking west

The beginning of the trail starts out in a Sagebrush meadow, which in June is filled with Lupine.

The trailhead is located north on hwy 9 for approximately 10.6 miles. After you cross the Blue River you will immediately turn right onto CR 2400 (Ute Park Rd). At the first junction, continue left following the trailhead sign. Then turn right onto FDR 2402 (Rodeo Dr) and travel approximately 0.6 miles to the trailhead/parking lot in a broad Sagebrush valley filled by mid-June with Lupine, a Sagebrush loving wildflower.

Walking through one of several Aspen Groves

Yet another climatic zone. This time another Sagebrush meadow

True to the guidebooks, the trail passes through several climatic zones that include the aforementioned Sagebrush, a lush riparian stream, Aspen forest, pine forest, and grass covered ridges. The trail climbs relentlessly, so a moderate level of fitness is required to get the best views. Turning around periodically one can see the Gore Range, but the best view by far is at the ridge.

Looking back down the trail at the Gore Range seen through towering Aspens

There is a long segment with logs sunk into the ground every yard or so. This is looking back down the trail in the early part of that segment.

Some of the distance milestones along this trail include a drop down to Acorn Creek within a half mile with a less than sturdy log bridge over the creek; the entrance to the Ptarmigan Wilderness at 1.8 miles (listed as 2.0 miles in the guide book), a wooden trail sign pointing to the right at 2.0 miles, a very short but steep up shortly thereafter, and a dead end into a a gully around (I did not mark it) 2.3 miles.

At the gully, turn left. Ahead is the "ridge with a view". At the top of the ridge is the small aspen grove where we turned around.

The boundary of the wilderness area is up ahead in the trees

Heartleaf Arnica blanketed the forest floor in the pine forests

Directly above the Aspen grove where we turned around is a very obvious avalanche chute coming down from the Lower Ute Peak. We don't own a topographic map of the area and assumed the trail continued up the side of Lower Ute Peak. This is not true. After the Aspen grove, the trail heads south along the ridge and actually ascends to the pass to the right of the peak. Had we known this, we might have continued on. The journey to the pass adds an additional 900 ft of elevation gain in 0.9 miles. From the looks of it, that elevation gain occurs within last 0.5 miles, so it is very steep but not too daunting.

This is a short ridge walk right after the very steep segment. We were thinking this might be the destination but it is another 0.3 miles beyond and up and to the left.

Looking down into the gully. With all the Aspens, this trail will be spectacular in the fall. The final destination of the trail is to the right of the peak in the middle of the picture.

We only saw two other groups on the trail, one of whom ended up sharing our ridge as we ate our peanut butter sandwiches. Had I had a barka lounger, you would have never dragged me off the ridge. As it was, the slightly lumpy, slightly prickly plot of earth I chose for my alfresco dining spot was luring me into complacency despite the building clouds. Just in time, I pulled my body up and headed back down. By the time we reached civilization, the storms had arrived and our plans for an outdoor meal in Silverthorne were squashed in a sea of moody and rumbling clouds.

Elaine is standing a little lower than where we ended up eating. We actually went all the way up the ridge and through the Aspen Grove you see in the distance.

The upper Aspen grove

In an attempt at fair disclosure, be advised that the houses near the Acorn Creek trailhead sell in the millions, so perhaps it is better to bring Mom and her Social Security check along when you drop everything and move here. Either way, Acorn Creek awaits you.


Andrew Lovseth said...

Looks amazing!

Do you know if dogs are allowed?

Thanks for sharing!

sylvia murphy said...

Hi Andrew,

Dogs are allowed on the trail. It does enter a wilderness area. From that point on, dogs are supposed to be on leash.

CollabJan said...

wow - thanks for posting this - I'm heading there tomorrow with hopes for better weather than predicted!

CollabJan said...

I'd love to know how you categorize your blogs so nicely in the right hand pane - are those your keywords tags? How do you group them so succinctly? Feel free to email me at vs. posting this!
Where are you hiking this weekend?

sylvia murphy said...

Hi Jan,

I don't mind answering here so others may benefit. Blooger allows you to add all sorts of "gadgets" to your blog. You do this on the layout tab.

I just added a bunch of link gadgets and made links to my own posts to form a sort of index.

I wish I could put these gadgets on the left of the template as well. My hardest task is coming up with categories that will make sense to people. If you have more specific questions, we can take it offline.

We are trying to figure out where to hike at this moment. As you say, the weather is not going to be the greatest. We are contemplating the BLT trail near Glenisle and Argentine Pass.

Nina said...

Your aspen shots are amazing and all of your pictures have such amazing color. I'm going hiking this weekend on the west side of the state, so hopefully I'll have something good to report.

Andrew Lovseth said...

Hi, where exactly is this trailhead?


sylvia murphy said...

10.7 miles north of Silverthorne on Highway 9.
Turn right on Ute Pass Road
At that point there is a brown side that says Acorn Creek. Follow these signs to the trailhead. It is located amidst some homes.

Linda said...

Forgive my ignorance, but what is the purplish haze among the trees in some of the shots? Is it young birches that aren't in leaf yet?

sylvia murphy said...

Hi Linda,
That is a very good question. The purplish haze is actually huge swaths of dead trees. They are Ponderosa Pines killed off by the pine beetle. I have more information about that on my Gold Hill post.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sylvia - Sorry, but this isn't at UTE PASS ROAD. Here are better directions: Directions: From I-70 take Exit 205 Silverthorne/Dillon, and travel north on HWY 9 for approximately 10.6 miles. After you cross the Blue River you will immediately turn right onto CR 2400 (Ute Park Rd). At the first junction, continue left following the trailhead sign. Then turn right onto FDR 2402 (Rodeo Dr) and travel approximately 0.6 miles to the trailhead/parking lot.

sylvia murphy said...

Thanks anonymous,

I have updated the directions in my description.

heidi valley said...

I was here and the entire area, as far as you could see was covered with blue lupine! It was amazing and my little white west highland terriers and I had the best time ever. It was nothing short of magical! I cannot remember if it was June- but it was early summer! most beautiful place I have ever been that time of year!

North Rock Creek Snowshoe

Distance: 4 miles round trip Elevation: 9,180 ft to 9,780 ft Elevation Gain: 600 ft Dogs: Off leash until the wilderness boundary North...