Friday, August 14, 2015

Upper Straight Creek

Distance: 6 miles round trip
Elevation: 11,158 ft - 12, 713 ft (highest point to the north on the ridge)
Elevation Gain: 1, 555 ft
Date Hiked: 25 July 2015
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Tags: #coloradooutdoors #hiking #nature #tundra #summitcounty

The view looking west from the Continental Divide on the Upper Straight Creek Trail
Upper Straight Creek is a high altitude frolic, starting from one Colorado's most counter intuitive places...I-70's Eisenhower Tunnel. Most people who barrel through the tunnel on the way to Silverthorne never realize that there is a parking area and trailhead just to the right as you exit westbound. There is a green sign that says "Truck Break Check", that marks the turnoff.  East bound travelers can circle up and behind the tunnel entrance on a small service road, which dumps you right at the parking area. 

Parking at the Trailhead
Heading up the service road
Red Indian Paintbrush dominated the lower section of the trail.
After 0.5 miles on a paved and then gravel road,  the trail travels northward from the tunnel into a deep alpine drainage and then switchbacks up an old wagon road until it reaches the Continental Divide at 2.5 miles.  Note at 1.2 miles is the first switchback marked by a large cairn. At this location, there is also a social trail that continues into the back bowl.

Starting out on the single track
Looking at the back bowl
On the switchback heading south
From the Continental Divide (12,535 ft) one can admire the upper bowls of the Loveland Ski area, hike north to Hagar Mountain or south along the ridge line. On this trip we headed south for eye popping views of the Gore Range, Ten Mile Range, Holy Cross Wilderness, Grays and Torreys, and Mt. Sniktau.

Frosty Ball Thistle and Purple Fringe in a wildflower tableau
In summer, Indian Paintbrush, Purple Fringe, and the freaky Frosty Ball Thistle cover the landscape. Because the route follows an old wagon road, the grade is fairly easy. A social trail heads off to the back bowl for those who want a longer hike, or who don't want to climb to the ridge.

Approaching the ridge
Alpine Sunflower
Sitting on the ridge looking at Grays and Torreys, two popular 14ers
This area is entirely above treeline and notorious for thunderstorms, so check the forecast carefully before choosing this spot. Parking is limited in the area as well.

On the ridge heading towards our high point
On the ridge, looking west
On the ridge looking south

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