Trip Number: 12242A
Staff: Paul Rynders
- Enjoy day hikes in the dramatic northern Rockies
- Explore breathtaking scenery above tree line
- Settle into a warm bed each evening and wake to a hot shower each morning
- Transportation to and from the Denver airport or train station
- Lodging each night in a mountain inn
- All meals except one dinner
Early fall is a wonderful time to experience the Rocky Mountains of Northern
Colorado. Shimmering golden skirts of aspen reach up mountain peaks framed in
brilliant blue. The air is fresh and light. In the morning we see our breath
in the crisp air as we begin our hike, but soon, warmed from brilliant morning
sun and our exertions on the trail, we shed our jackets. The brilliant flowers
of spring are replaced by asters -- some are small and white with golden centers,
and others are larger, violet, and fringed.
Photo: Paul Rynders
Each day we hike a different trail, chosen for variety and charm. Some days,
we find ourselves following a mountain stream, torrents of the spring replaced
by gentler cascades. The light has changed from the summer's harsh glare and
is paler, more subtle, evoking a nostalgic feeling. On other days, our trails
lead us through mixed stands of golden aspen and pine to wind-sculpted trees
of ancient spruce-fir forests. Beyond the tree line, our path enters the austere
beauty of alpine tundra and provides dramatic views of snow-dusted peaks. Each
day, we watch and experience the mountains in transition as summer departs and
winter shows hints of moving in. A magical season.
When we are ready to turn in each night, we'll return to a charming mountain
inn. Inside, well fed and warmed by down blankets, we'll reflect on our day's
journey and dream of tomorrow's adventure. John Muir once wrote, "The mountains
are calling and I must go." Hike with us and share the allure that drew
Muir into the wilderness.
Note: Our hiking route may be modified, pending final approval
by the Forest Service and weather conditions.
Day 1: For those flying or taking the train into Denver the
leaders will offer rides to the inn in Fraser. We'll pick you up no later than
noon and drive northwest to Colorado's 9,000-foot Fraser Valley. On our way,
the Rockies will envelop us as we drive toward our destination. Once at our
destination, we'll check into our lodge, get to know one another, and enjoy
a hearty group dinner.
Day 2: Our first hike will be the perimeter of Monarch Lake.
Monarch is a gorgeous impoundment created to gather and float logs to market.
Along the far shore we will encounter the remains of a Donkey engine, abandoned
after the lumbering was completed. If we stay alert, we may sight moose; they
frequent the area and often pose for dramatic photographs.
Day 3: Legend has it that back in time, after the warring
Ute and Arapahoe tribes settled their differences, they buried the Devil, but
left his thumb exposed to signify that good conquers evil. This day's hike takes
us through a montane forest to tree line where we zig-zag through gorse in an
alpine meadow to reach Devil's Thumb. The views from here are amazing and a
short walk along the ridge provides a panorama of Winter Park and Vasquez Mountain.
Photo: Paul Rynders
Day 4: Returning to Monarch Lake trailhead, we will follow
Cascade Creek toward Mirror Lake. In the spring, this creek truly cascades,
but now it is much gentler. There are three waterfalls along this route and
each is dramatically different from the first.
Day 5: This hike will provide fantastic views of the Indian
Peaks Range and the Front Range Mountains. Like Devil's Thumb, this hike gets
us above the trees and into the sky. If time and energy permit, we will continue
on to Dorothy Lake, named for the daughter of a rancher who used this route
to reach Denver.
Day 6: We enter Rocky Mountain National Park for this hike.
We are likely to encounter elk herds descended from higher altitudes for the
winter and we will surely hear them as they will be in full rut. This hike is
a personal favorite of the leader, and Timber Lake is located in a beautiful
and dramatic cirque. In the past, we have seen eagles frolicking in the thermals
above the cliffs. This walk is a wonderful exclamation point to our week.
Day 7: We'll spend one last morning together in our inn as
we enjoy a leisurely breakfast and say goodbye to our new friends. We will then
drive to Denver and arrive by early afternoon.
One afternoon and evening will be unscheduled so that you may explore the unique
mountain towns of Winter Park and Fraser. Both of these destinations allow you
to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and to experience the
hospitality of the Colorado people. In order to provide some flexibility in
your plans, dinner this evening is not provided by the Sierra Club.
The official starting and ending point for this trip is the town of Fraser,
Colorado. Denver International Airport is about 95 miles away. The trip leaders
will provide van service between Denver's airport and train station and Fraser.
The service is included in the trip price.
The leader will furnish roster information so participants wishing to travel
by private vehicle may contact each other to arrange carpools. Detailed departure
bulletins, including directions to our inn, will also be sent prior to meeting
in Colorado. Ultimately, it is the sole responsibility of each participant to
arrive at the starting point at the specified time.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Paul Rynders
Our mountain inn provides clean, European-style dormitory rooms. Sheets, towels,
and bedding are provided. Bathrooms with showers are just down the hall. A fully
equipped kitchen will allow us to prepare wonderful meals with fresh ingredients.
Our first meal together will be dinner at the inn on day one. Our last will
be breakfast on the final day. A variety of delicious meals crafted from select
cereals, pasta, meat, fruit, and vegetables will make up the majority of our
diet. In addition to a hearty entrée, most dinners will include savory
soup and dessert. Hot coffee and tea will be served to celebrate mountain mornings.
Our menu can accommodate vegetarians. Everyone will get a chance to help with
kitchen chores and to practice high altitude cooking skills.
This trip is rated 2 (Light/Moderate). Individual hikes will vary from four
to 10 miles in distance, with a total elevation gain on each hike not exceeding
2,000 feet. Some of our hikes will reach above an altitude of 11,000 feet. We
will carry day packs containing rain gear, extra clothing, emergency supplies,
lunch, and water. Time will be reserved for relaxation and discovery.
Hiking is a strenuous activity, but with adequate conditioning it is something
that people can enjoy. To be comfortable in the high altitude and fully participate
in this adventure, you will need to maintain a regular aerobic training program
for several months prior to our trip. The weather in Colorado varies by elevation,
as well as season. We will need to be prepared for sudden changes in temperatures,
cool nights, and snow showers at higher elevations. Though rare at this time
of year, snow storms can occur and we will plan for them.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Paul Rynders
Participants must have a comfortable day pack and the same layered clothing
you would take on a backpacking trip. This includes long underwear, a warm cap,
shorts, long pants (pants with zip-off legs will serve both purposes), a long-sleeved
shirt and a T-shirt, a jacket and a rain suit. The rain suit will also serve
as a windbreaker. Sunscreen and lip balm are essential. All of your clothing
should be synthetic, wool or silk. A backpack, sleeping bag, or tent is not
necessary. Keep your daypack as light as possible. A pair of sturdy, mid-weight,
lug-soled, waterproof boots that provide adequate ankle support are necessary.
The Sierra Club provides food and tablets for water treatment. Our van space
will be limited, so one piece of luggage, please.
Although we'll carry a large first-aid kit, it is for emergencies. You should
bring the materials you routinely need, including bandages, moleskin, pain relievers,
and prescription medications.
"Wilderness... an area where the earth and its community of life are
untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."
-- 1964 Wilderness Act
Portions of this trip are in areas designated as wilderness and are protected
by the Wilderness Act. We will discuss what wilderness protection means. We'll
also discuss the importance of your involvement in the protection of our wild
Colorado's lodge pole pines are under attack by Mountain Pine Beetles. These
beetles have destroyed a large number of the trees in the area where we will
be hiking, so we will see the impact that these insects have on local forests.
We will discuss the history and theory behind the environmental causes of this
infestation and learn what the Forest Service is doing to manage the problem.
Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under permits from Rocky Mountain National Park and the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Paul Rynders is a life-long hiker, paddler of canoes and cross-country skier. Paul discovered the Rockies in the 90s and it has been a passionate relationship. He leads trips for the Sierra Club in Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming. In 2003 and 2004 Paul was an instructor for the Sierra National Outings Training Trip. He is certified as a Wilderness First Responder. Paul lives in Madison, Wisconsin and values diversity in humans and nature.
Laurel Segel has led bicycle tours in places as diverse as Vietnam, Sumatra, and Turkey and her passion for nature fuels her love of hiking, camping, and kayaking. Laurel has led Sierra Club trips in Alaska and Colorado. She resides in San Francisco as an artist, designer, photographer, and supporter of the localvoire movement.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips