Bag Four Of Colorado’s Lower, and Less-Crowded, Summits.
“The less popular, non-fourteeners offer solitude—in most cases—and showcase viewpoints, geology and wildlife often not seen from high-traffic peaks,” shares James Dziezynski, Elevation Outdoors contributing editor and author of the Best Summit Hikes in Colorado (see page 22). Dziezynski’s latest book covers all the summit hikes along I-70 between Denver and Vail. In the meantime, take a look at four of his favorite non-Fourteener peaks:
Notch Mountain 13,077 Feet
Looking for a jaunt up a peak close to the busy lanes of I-70? Notch is just the ticket.
Hike: The Fall Creek trailhead is south of Minturn and five miles up Tigiwon Road #707. This route up Notch is rated class 2+. It’s 9.5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 3,480 feet. Know your route well, since hikers often get lost in this area.
Before and After: Hikers can stay at The Bunkhouse, the new hostel in Minturn, or camp off of Tigiwon Road. For post-hike beers and barbecue, stop at Kirby Cosmo’s right on Main Street.
Mount Sopris 12,966 Feet
Sporis might not be a Fourteener (or even a Thirteener) but it’s one of the most iconic summits in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Hike: Take the paved Prince Creek Road off of Highway 133 out of Carbondale for about 8 miles to the Thomas Lakes trailhead at Dinkle Lake. The class 1 Thomas Lakes route is 12.6 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 4,600 feet.
Before and After: Carbondale is the closest town, with inns and motels, or you can camp near Thomas Lakes at the foot of the mountain. Grab eats at Town, a local watering hole on Main Street.
Mount Zirkel 12,180 Feet
Zirkel’s low elevation keeps crowds away. That’s a good thing, since it’s one of the best wilderness peak hikes in the state (despite the low profile).
Hike: Start at the Slovania trailhead, northwest of Steamboat Springs. The class 2 Slovenia Basin route is a 17.2 miles round-trip with about 3,800 feet elevation gain. The wildflower-filled hike can also be broken up into an overnight trip.
Before and After: Stay in one of the campgrounds along Seedhouse Road. Apres-hike, drive to Steamboat Springs for food at The Rusted Porch.
California Peak 13,849 Feet
Dziezynski says the long ridges of this summit are perfect for a steady climb, without major exposure.
Hike: This hike in the Sangre de Cristo Range can be accessed from the Lower or Upper Huerfano trailheads. The Lower and Upper Huerfano routes are rated class 2. They are 8.4 miles or 10.6 miles round trip, respectively, with both routes just over 4,000 feet elevation gain.
Before and After: Check out happy hour in Westcliffe from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Wine Mine.