Road trip hike to Willow Lake; free days in State Parks; and damage in Cheyenne Cañon Park 

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
Starting at the eclectic tiny town of Crestone, on the west side of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, Willow Lake is not only a strenuous hike but also serves as the launch point for people wishing to bag Challenger and Kit Carson peaks, two 14ers. Many peak baggers climb to the lake late in the day, camp overnight and then go after one or both peaks the next day.

If you decide to camp overnight at the lake, the forest service has posted warnings about an aggressive and apparently hungry bear that's been raiding campsites for food. Campers I spoke with say the bear that frequents the area has been going after unsecured or insufficiently protected food. They also say he's easily scared off and hasn't hurt anyone. There have not been any reports of the bear bothering hikers.

To get there: From US Hwy 285 and US 50, just west of Salida, go south on US 285 about 30 miles to Colorado Highway 17. Go south on Hwy 17, and then east on Saguache County Road "T" to Crestone. Once in Crestone, watch for signs pointing to the Willow Lake trailhead. The trailhead is at the end of a bumpy, but passable with passenger car, dirt road.

Free state park entry

To celebrate the anniversary of Colorado's statehood, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will be offering some free entrance days to state parks. On August 6th, entry fees to state parks will be waived for everyone (camping and other fees will still apply). And, for the entire month of August, entry fees will be waived for active duty, retired and military veterans. Military members and veterans will need to get a special pass to get free entry, and the pass does not apply to camping fees or hunting and fishing licenses.

Trail damage in NCCP

Meanwhile, the recent return of our annual monsoon weather has resulted in damage to some trails, most notably in North Cheyenne Cañon Park.

In an email, TOSC noted that "Mid Columbine has a warning sign about standing water, debris, and ice. A boulder did come down in front of a hiker. Cutler has no sign but has scree run-off, ruts, etc." The Friends of the Peak report that North Cheyenne Creek under the first bridge became backed up with sediment that washed down the creek and the creek has now re-routed itself around the bridge. They report that the trail is still passable, but as an alternative route, hikers can turn up the Buckhorn trail where it meets Gold Camp Road before the 7 Bridges Trail and by-pass the first bridge entirely.

click to enlarge To bypass the first bridge on the 7 Bridges Trail, turn up the Buckhorn Trail - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • To bypass the first bridge on the 7 Bridges Trail, turn up the Buckhorn Trail

Be careful and Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for more than 26 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.


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