Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Rocky Mountain High


Although we’ve had plenty of monsoon rains over the past week, we did manage to get in a high elevation hike near Breckenridge one day. The problem with the mountains in the summer is that you have to get out early to avoid the thunderstorms that form almost every afternoon. Unfortunately early starts don’t seem to happen in our house, so arriving at a trailhead between 10-10:30 is not always quite early enough. 

Because I read that the Blue Lakes trail was only 1.6 miles long, we parked at the lower lake and walked up the gravel road to the dam where the trail begins. Added another mile each way but had fantastic views. Our hike started at 11,400’, and our lungs were very aware of the high elevation.


Impressive beaver dam in the lower lake.


And water flowing everywhere.




This is why we come to Colorado.


Here is the trail description that made it sound easy:

Blue Lakes-Monte Cristo Gulch
A short, relatively easy hike to an historic area full of mine relics and high alpine lakes. The trail is completely above tree line, starting at 11,748 feet elevation.
Distance: 2.5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 752 feet
Directions: From the intersection of Main Street and Ski Hill Road/Lincoln Avenue drive south on Highway 9 approximately 8 miles to Blue Lakes Road (No. 850). Turn right. At the fork, go straight and follow the road 2.2 miles. Park just below the dam. The trailhead is just above the dam at its north end.

Guess it didn’t register that there were 752 feet of climbing over such a short distance. This is Upper Blue Lake from the dam. Worth a drive up if you want to see some beautiful scenery.


Looking down over Lower Blue Lake.


The actual trail, which can get you to Quandary Peak, one of Colorado’s 14ers, is hidden by a concrete barrier at the dam. We found it but it soon began climbing up a rough, rocky trail that was hard to see at times.

Flowers, water, rocks and snow. It doesn’t get much better.


Yes, Jim, I’m afraid this is the trail.


There were only short distances of easy walking.


A happy hiker.



For an idea of what the hike was like, all of the following are photos of the trail. We found it quite challenging, and were surprised at how many families we saw along the way.






Heading back down, you can see that dark clouds were building. This is why we cut the hike short. After our thunderstorm experience in Estes Park, we decided it was wise to turn back before hearing thunder, especially being above tree line. It is amazing how quickly those storms can pop up.


I had read that mountain goats frequent this area, and some hikers on their way back down told us they saw them near the old mining area. Since we turned around about a quarter mile from it, I was disappointed that we wouldn’t get to see them.

So it was a pleasant surprise when we crossed the dam, walked through the upper parking area and saw people looking up at these goats coming down the mountain.


The little guy was crying the whole time as he followed the others but he seemed afraid to follow them all the way down.P1060651

Mom kept nudging him back, and finally he joined another youngster and they both climbed back up where they came from. We could still hear him crying as the two of them headed up.


A fine example of the phrase “wild and wooly”.



They proceeded to eat or lick something off the ground and sniffed around at the cars, not very concerned that at least a dozen people were watching them. It was a great ending to our hike, and it hadn’t started raining yet when we got back to the car.


Since I went a little overboard with photos, I’ll save the rest of our first week at Heaton Bay Campground for another post.


  1. Overboard with the photos? Not hardly. Love it thank you.

  2. Gorgeous photos - love every one! I'm impressed you could tell where the trail was supposed to be. Great pic of mama pushing junior back up the rock. What a treat to have the goats hang out with you for awhile!

  3. Have stayed at Heaton Bay and Peak One many times over the years starting when our kids were little. Don't know if they still allow it but you used to be able to hang your bikes on the front of the Summit buses and take them up to Copper Mountain to ride down the bike trail. Know lots of good jeep trails in the area if you are interested. ;)

    1. Mindy, we have a Subaru and while Mark will drive his pretty much anywhere we are more cautious.


  4. Nice!!!!
    And Mtn. Goats too!!!
    They were probably licking salt off the ground, left over applications from snowplows to help melt snow...

    1. Thanks, Mark. Now we know what the goats were doing in the parking lot.

  5. Gorgeous views!! I can see I need to get myself in shape cause sometimes you gotta climb to get those views!!
    Great photos!!

  6. Love those mountain goats and we've always enjoyed the national forest campgrounds in the Frisco area. Kudos on the hike!

  7. beautiful hike and wild life! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Yes, that was a rough trail. But it was beautiful!! We will get to Colorado again one day!! Love that you saw mountain goats. Aren't they a mess this time of year! They go after any type salt even a real sweaty hiker. There were warning signs around Hurricane Ridge about the mountain goats and human sweat. Glad you had a successful day!

  9. Ah yes, the gorgeous Colorado scenery...but hiking at high altitude. The big trade off for such incredible beauty! I've been huffing and puffing lately hiking at sea level...can't even imagine doing Colorado this summer! ;-)

    Love the mountain goats!

  10. One of our favorite hikes and mountain goats! I am always surprised to see how many children are out on those high mountain hikes too.

  11. Great goat shots, I always see them at a distance with no zoom lens at hand. The mention of the Quandary trail brought back memories when we were staying in Breckenridge with friends and had the good fortune for excellent weather and a summit of a CO fourteener.