Sunday, October 23, 2016

Loveland Pass West

Distance: 3 miles round trip
Elevation: 11,990 ft - 12,457 ft
Elevation Gain: 467 ft (net) 1062 ft (cum)
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Dogs: Off leash
Tags: #coloradooutdoors, #hiking, #tundra
Nearby hikes: Upper Straight Creek, Mt. Sniktau, Herman Lake

The high tundra world along Loveland Pass West
Loveland Pass West is breathtaking high tundra hike that almost anyone with a moderate level of fitness can do since it starts way above tree line on Loveland Pass itself.

Looking across the road to the trailhead. Trail goes around to the right of the hill. 
Going around the initial knoll. Trail goes sharply up the hill in the distance. 
While short, this trail is not flat! The first 0.7 miles are the hardest, gaining 414 ft in a heart pounding climb to a small hill. You will immediately loose this well earned gain by dropping down the other side only to climb again to the broad U-shaped ridge that will form the rest of the hike.

Heading up the initial steep pitch
On the ridge looking that the route
You won't be alone on the first 0.7 miles of the journey. Instead you will be surrounded by hordes of tourists in flip flops, walking their small dogs up for a glimpse of the high country. Few make it past the first ascent, however and those that do are serious hikers.

Further along
Heading up a "false summit"
Once on the ridge, the trail weaves up and down several small hills until it dead ends at a small rock shelter on an unnamed 12K ft peak. On the one way trip you will gain 824 ft but will have climbed a total of 1,062 ft by the time you return.

At the final destination. Rock shelter in sight. 
All along the journey, views abound. There is nothing like a summer time jaunt along the Continental Divide. Tundra flowers bloom in rainbow colors and fluffy white clouds dot the horizon. Keep and eye out for more ominous grey clouds, however,  since there is no place to hide on this trail.

View to the west from the destination. 
To get to the trailhead, take the Loveland Pass road out of Keystone CO or off of I-70 just before the Eisenhower Tunnel. Parking is very limited at the pass so arrive early or in the late afternoon for a better chance of parking. The trail starts next to the Loveland Pass sign and initially wanders around the small knoll next to it. Across the road is the trailhead for Mt. Sniktau, a much harder climb. Still you will see the tourists struggling up the initial 1000 ft climb that is not for the feint of lung.


Dorian said...

Thanks for this trip report Sylvia. I hiked this trail 8/15/17 and it was surprisingly quiet. The trailhead was packed, but I only saw a couple of people completing the hike and I mostly had the trail to myself. The road noise from the semis on Loveland Pass I could do without, but when that abated there was a lovely "alpine silence" to enjoy. The wind patterns this day were unpredictable (at times still and at times forceful), but the rock shelter at the "summit" was a helpful abatement. All together, a really nice short excursion!

sylvia murphy said...

Hi Dorian,

Thanks for the report. Any day above treeline is a blessing.