The high rock canyon walls and the dense forests of the Cache la Poudre Canyon can throw hikers for a loop if they’re not prepared.
“I was just hiking in my Chacos one day because it was really wet out,” said CSU mechanical engineering alumnus Andrew Green in reference to Blue Lake, a trail about an hour into the Poudre Canyon. “All of a sudden we were ankle deep in snow. My feet were very confused.”
Green, who has been hiking in the Poudre Canyon since he was young, hiked up Blue Lake trail on Thursday while he was in town with several hiking buddies, but the trip ended in disappointment.
“We never actually found the lake,” Green said. “We lost the trail in a few snow drifts and never managed to pick it up again.”
Green’s willowy appearance didn’t suggest the might of a mountain man, but his knowledge and love for the wilderness more than made up for his relatively youthful exterior.
“My favorite thing about hiking is not knowing exactly where you are,” Green said. “I love to be able to wander off the trail a little bit and climb around above timberline; everything seems perfect and untouched up there. So even though we never found the trail we still got to see some spectacular views as well as an awesome waterfall.”
Other students have had distinctly different hiking experiences.
“I once saw a girl doing a fairly tough hike in high heels,” said CSU finance alumnus Andy Selker, who graduated in spring 2009. “I think she made it to the top too.”
Trails are available for hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, horseback riding or even rock climbing as trailhead regulations apply. It is also important to be safe while hiking.
“Remember to bring lots of water,” Selker said. “It’s an easy thing to forget, but it can definitely ruin a hike if you run out.”
Recent rains in the canyon have done little to wash out trails, according to the U.S. Forest Service, although occasional trail blockage has occurred in the form of trees and rocks.
“It’s pretty normal for us to see about an inch of rain every afternoon,” said Craig Stevens, who frequents the canyon for work.
Most trees that fall during the winter and obstruct trails are cleared away at the beginning of the summer although on some less used trails it is not unusual to find a large tree covering the path.
The canyon has been considered a treasure since French trappers who were lost in a storm in the early 19th Century were forced to bury their gun powder near the Cache la Poudre River — French for “hide the powder.”
According to local stories, the trappers also left behind gold and silver.
“I enjoy hiking in the canyon mostly because of the amazing views that are always at the tops of trails,” said local hiker and senior health and exercise major Andy Hraem. “I’m more of a rock climber though so I really like Greyrock trail. It has rock climbing and bouldering available at the top.”
Greyrock is considered a more strenuous trail according to the Canyon Lakes Ranger District but easier trails are readily available too.
“Young Gulch or Hewlett Gulch are very popular for people not in crushingly good hiking shape,” said Mountain Shop employee Cameron Cross.
Greyrock, Young Gulch, and Hewlett Gulch are highly recommended by the USDA Forest Service of Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests.
“I think the Horsetooth falls hike is a pretty good hike for beginners,” Selker said. “There’s not a whole lot of vertical. The falls aren’t enormous but they’re pretty cool.”
No matter what trail or where, people should always be aware of specific trail regulations that can be found on signs at trailheads and help keep people and natural areas safe.
Staff writer Ashley Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.