Friday, March 12, 2010

Meadow Mountain (near Minturn) Snowshoe

Distance: 7.3 miles roundtrip (9 miles roundtrip to the Line Shack)
Elevation: 7,799 ft - 9,191 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,500 ft
Dogs: Off leash (run baby run)

Old cabin on the Meadow Mountain Trail

A meadow mountain snowshoe is not a wilderness experience but it sure is fun. Meadow Mountain is a old road that switchbacks through ranching country. It's wide open spaces make for expanse views of the adjoining hills and the occasional ruins of 19th Century cabins adds an historic appeal.

Starting up the road. Note that it is well tracked by snowmobiles

A typical open expanse

A small cloud wave

If you don't want to travel up the road, there are plenty of hillsides covered in waist-deep snow to frolic in. Zigzagging up and down one of these hills would be fun if you like breaking trail, falling down, and burning serious calories. On a sunny day with no wind, you might just be doing it in shorts. This trail is like an overheated frying pan. Toss in some wind though and it might just freeze the eyeballs out of your head. There is very little cover. The road itself was well churned by snowmobiles. We worn YakTraks instead of snowshoes. That did make the going a little harder, however.

Another switchback with Aspens in the distance. The small dot in the middle of the picture is Ginger, who is running 100 mph up and down the slopes!

The switchbacks seemed never ending but they were hard to cross cut from below, you just couldn't quite tell where the road was.

The route begins at the far end of a small and very active tubing resort a mere 0.4 miles south highway Hwy 24 from I-70 (Dowds Junction Exit). The parking lot for this facility was packed, so we parked in the lot of the adjoining Holy Cross Forest Service Station. To start up the road, look for a small trailhead sign next to the white house adjacent to the tube pull. Snowmobilers use the road, but during the 4 hours we were out, we only saw one set and they were going very slow. Despite the hordes of cars in the parking lot, we saw only other snowshoer on the trail.


A view looking southeast

Old fences, corrals, and cabins dot the area.

Be aware that several guidebooks indicate that the Line Shack (which is shown on the National Geographic Topo of the area) is 3.5 miles up the road. After traveling 3.6 miles we had not found it and started hunting through the woods before giving up. While eating lunch, the aforementioned group of snowmobilers passed us coming back down the trail. I asked the guide and he said the cabin was another mile further up the road. Sure enough, the Forest Service description of the route (which I looked up later) indicates the cabin is 4.5 miles up the road, so ignore the guide books.

I liked the shadows the Aspens made in the snow

A view looking northeast

While much of this route is across open hillsides, towards the end there is a very large Aspen grove. In fact Aspens can be seen far across the valley on other hillsides. This makes me think this trail would be a great fall color hike. I plan to return to find out.

Looking east into the town of Minturn

An example of the road near where we turned around. Because the road is so wide we did not feel hemmed in from the trees.

Coming back down the road is not as much fun as going up it. You can minimize the drudgery by cutting across the switchbacks or sliding on your tail wherever possible. This cut at least a half mile off the return, which when you are cold and hungry is a blessing.


ruma said...

Thank you for showing wonderful scenery.

Happy weekend.

From the Far East.
Best regards.

Anonymous said...

Nice pics Syl.To cold for us old folk!!Popper Bear

Nina said...

Love the shot of the old cabin.