Archive for August, 2010

  • Points Earned:  0 (non-wilderness hike)
  • Trailhead:  Guanella Pass
  • Location:  Colorado Front Range
  • Total Miles:  4.6
  • Elevation Gain:  750 feet
  • Hike Destination:  Upper Squaretop Lake
  • Wildlife Spotted:  Several marmots, couple pikas, snowshoe hare, cutthroat trout

Dozer looking down on a glassy Lower Squaretop Lake from the upper lake

My friend Nick invited me to hike to one of his favorite day-hike destinations, the two Squaretop Lakes near the summit of Guanella Pass.  It is a relatively easy 2.3 mile hike from the Guanella Pass summit to the upper lake.

Given the fact that we were in the middle of a monsoon weather pattern and this hike is entirely above timberline, we left Denver at an early 6:45 so that we could hit the trail by 9:30 and, hopefully, get back down before the storms moved in.

As we hit the trail, the sky was overcast and the wind was unusually calm for the area making for quite a pleasant hike.  I quickly noticed that this hike is a little different than most high alpine lake and summit hikes in that, while it is generally uphill (about 750 feet in elevation gain), the trail is a series of ups and downs rather than just a steep uphill slog.  This adds variety to the hike and to the scenery along the way.

The two lakes are well-concealed within their basins on the slopes of Squaretop Mountain (which doesn’t look very square from this angle).  In no time we reached the upper lake which is the larger and prettier of the two:

The wildflowers were impressive on the slopes above the upper lake:

Indian Paintbrush cloaks the alpine slope of Squaretop Mountain near the Upper Squaretop Lake

With an almost calm wind and an overcast sky, the water in the lake was clear enough to spot the occasional cutthroat trout swimming peacefully by:

The thin yellowish “rock” in the middle of this picture is actually a swimming 14-inch cutthroat trout. We could spot several of them in the lake.

After about 45 minutes at the upper lake, the clouds began to build in thicker and we decided to head down:

Ominous clouds looming behind Squaretop Mountain on the return hike

Perhaps my least favorite experience when hiking in the backcountry is getting caught above timberline in a thunderstorm, and that is exactly what happened.  Although it wasn’t a particularly violent storm, it did bring a good soaking rain, some small hail, and, yes, a bit lf close-proximity lightning just as we had to climb up and over the final ridge to get back to the trailhead.  But, we made it back safely, and it was a nice little hike to a couple of very pretty alpine lakes just outside the boundary of the Mount Evans Wilderness Area:

The storm builds and moves in front of Bierstadt (right), Sawtooth Ridge (center) and Mt. Spalding (left) with still almost a mile of trail above timberline. The rain and hail intensified and the lighting started in shortly after this picture was taken.


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  • Points Earned:  0 (Non-wilderness hike)
  • Area:  Boulder County Open Space
  • Trailhead:  Centennial
  • Total Miles:  4.2
  • Elevation Gain:  500 feet
  • Destination:  Anemone Summit and Red Rocks

Shortly after my return from the Never Summer Wilderness the “monsoon” season really kicked in.  Abundant moisture from the Gulf of California gets churned up into the Southern Rockies creating a daily bout of afternoon rain and thunderstorms that are more widespread than is typical earlier in the Summer or Spring.  This makes afternoon hikes in the mountains difficult and ended my pace of two day-hikes per week.

On Friday July 30th I checked the weather radar and noticed a significant gap in the rain activity over the  northern Front Range.  I quickly took advantage of this and hopped in the Jeep.

The Centennial Trailhead is right off of Mapleton Drive right on the edge of Boulder where the foothills start.  I hiked into an area called the Red Rocks–not the famous Red Rocks farther south, but a smaller outcropping of similar red sandstone overlooking Boulder just to the north of the Flatirons:

The Red Rocks of Boulder

I decided to take the Anemone spur trail which leads a fairly steep .4 miles to the “summit” of Anemone which is really nothing more than a small lump with a classic ponderosa pine forest:

Dozer at the “summit” of Anemone

After reaching the top of Anemone I returned to the main Red Rocks Trail and made a right turn.  This trail crossed an irrigation channel and then dropped down to Canyon Blvd and the trailhead at Settler’s Park.  Boulder Creek flowed just on the other side of Canyon Blvd.

I then re-traced my steps back up to near the Anemone spur trail, but then made a turn towards the east, where those red rock formations where.  Dozer and I climbed around on the rocks for a bit and enjoyed the views over Boulder before returning to the Jeep:

The city of Boulder over the Red Rocks

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