Colorado: Streaming With Beauty - Part 2
4. Sky Pond - Just keep going up; you'll know when you're there. The trail to Sky Pond is an adventurous yet well-traveled path leading to a postcard-perfect setting in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Trail Length: 9 miles round-trip
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park
Elevation: 9,000 to 10,800 feet
Sky Pond is a sparkling mountain lake cradled in a lofty cirque surrounded by the craggy spires of the Cathedral Wall and Shark's Tooth Peak (10,800 feet). This moderate hike gains 1,800 feet in elevation and is nine miles round-trip from the Glacier Gorge parking area. The trail leads you past the 25-foot cascade of Alberta Falls, through meadows of wildflowers in the Loch Vale Valley, past the Lake of Glass, and then up a rocky hillside beside Timberline Falls to Sky Pond. An excellent spot for a picnic, the lake is frequented by a friendly whistle pig (yellow-bellied marmot) looking for handouts. Please don't feed the wildlife. Dogs are not allowed.
5. Rabbit Ears Peak - Get a little geology between the ears.
Trail length: 5 miles round-trip
Location: Rabbit Ears Pass, Routt National Forest
Elevation: 9,500 to 10,000 feet
If you ever wondered what those famous ears look like up close, your curiosity can be satisfied with an easy two-hour hike. The five-mile round-trip begins at a parking area located one-quarter of a mile north of the historical marker at the top of the pass. The trail follows a four-wheel-drive road through a broad meadow studded with columbine (mid-July peak bloom), and then enters a forest of pine, spruce and aspen. The road ends at a narrow goat path that climbs a rocky slope up to the twin 100-foot pinnacles that form the "Rabbit Ears." The pinnacles are remnants of ancient volcanoes that spewed fire and ash across northern Colorado 23 million years ago. They are much bigger than they look from the highway.
6. Hell's Hole - Heavenly hiking close to Denver.
Trail length: 7 miles round-trip
Location: Mount Evans Wilderness Area
Elevation: 9,600 to 11,200 feet
This moderate to strenuous hike covers seven miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 1,600 feet. The trail begins at 9,600 feet and climbs steadily for the first two miles through cool groves of aspens and fragrant pines. Along the way you will traverse several small creeks and conquer several hills before cresting a ridge at 11,200 feet and getting your first glimpse of Hell's Hole Basin. Hell's Hole is grand scenery central, surrounded by sweeping panoramas accented by Gray Wolf Mountain and Sugar Loaf Peak. Loosen your hiking boots, lean back on the twisted trunk of an ancient bristlecone pine, and languish in the solitude.
7. No Thoroughfare Canyon - Watch out for those blooming cacti.
Trail length: 5 miles round-trip
Location: Colorado National Monument
Elevation: 5,000 to 5,100 feet
Experience the marvels of sandstone formations and rimrock canyons on an easy hike within the Colorado National Monument. From Grand Junction, take Monument Road to the east entrance and the well-marked trailhead. The best month is June to view prickly pear cacti sporting crowns of bright magenta, apricot and silky yellow colored flowers. Look close and you also might see an endangered showy claret cup cactus with scarlet flowers shaped like goblets. The trail winds next to a dry creek bed for two miles to a seasonal waterfall and pool. The lizards in this desert climate can survive for days without water, but you can't. Carry at least two litres per person for this 5-mile round-trip excursion.
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