As summer marches along and the much anticipated autumn season in the high country of Colorado draws near, I decided to take my 14er preparation to the next step. I’ve been hiking to the summit of Grouse Mountain this summer in my effort to achieve the physical conditioning required to climb a 14,000 plus foot mountain to add to my 14ers.com profile, but unfortunately this little mountain doesn’t come close to the rigors of climbing a 14er!
A few years ago I took the Mount Yale fork from the Denny Creek Trail and checked off another 14er on my quest to complete as many of Colorado’s giant mountains as possible. On that climb I noticed another trail, labeled Brown’s Pass and Hartenstein Lake on the signage. In subsequent research I found a lot of people really enjoyed that hike and raved about the scenery and wildlife that they saw along the trail. Since then I have wanted to return and hike that trail but one thing or another was always in the way and I have never been able to make it back.
Finally yesterday was the day, all the stars aligned and I returned to the trail head with fellow photographer and hiker Kevin. We arrived at the trailhead at sunrise and began the long steep ascent to the first stream crossing. Along the way we took the opportunity to take a couple of breaks to photograph the little waterfalls on Denny Creek along the way.
A couple of miles of rough rocky trail and several stream crossings later we arrived at the fork in the trail where the sign shows the lake and Brown’s Pass to the left. From there the trail steepened and we persevered westward towards the lake. The trail climbed higher and higher as Turner Peak to the right became smaller and smaller. Just when it looked like we were going to be required to climb Turner the trail descended into a much more heavily wooded section and after about a half mile a bit of water came into view. Kevin remarked, “Is that the lake?”. “I hope not!” I replied… We kept going and eventually a more significant body of water came into view.
Indeed we had found the lake, but by this time of year the water was quite low and surrounded by a marshy muddy shoreline. We made a couple of attempts to access water’s edge but it was just too soggy. Finally we decided to stay on the main trail which wound around to the west side of the lake where we were able to get down to the water with mighty Mount Yale in the background.
Although disappointed that there was no wildlife at the lake at this time, we stuck around to take a few pictures, Kevin shot some video footage of me coming up from the lake and we took a break to eat a granola bar and recover from the 1600 foot climb.
I highly recommend the trail for hikers in fairly good physical condition. Plan on three to five hours to complete the trail and bring plenty of liquids and nourishment for that length of time. There is a fairly big parking lot at the trailhead on the north side of the Cottonwood Pass road, you can’t miss it. However on a weekend you might want to arrive plenty early to assure a parking place. Bring rain gear as rainstorms occur on most afternoons in the mountains.
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