The great thing about outdoor recreation in Colorado: There's something for everyone. Want to climb a 14er? We've got 58 of 'em. Hikes to high altitude lakes? There are more than you can count. Want to fish, hunt or go birding? Got ya covered. Cycling, horseback riding or motorsports? Yep, have that too. Heck, you can even go waterskiing, snorkeling or scuba-diving, which isn't bad for a landlocked state.
My preferred mode for exploring is on foot, and I like climbing to mountain lakes. There's something about popping over a ledge and finding a deep blue (or turquoise, or emerald...) lake, surrounded by high peaks. It's rarely not breathtaking. Shelf Lake, near Guanella Pass, is the latest in a long series of lake hikes I've done, and it did not disappoint.
Shelf Lake is a mostly moderate hike of about 7.3 miles round trip on Forest Service Trail #634. There are only a couple of sections that could be considered difficult — the half-mile section that starts about a mile from the trailhead, and then the last half-mile up to the lake itself. Both sections are characterized by steep switchbacks and plenty of loose rock, which makes them just as difficult on the return trip. The trail makes several creek crossings, all of them easy to navigate in late summer, although they may be more difficult earlier in the year during winter snow run-off. In late August, there were still plenty of wildflowers and many hikers who were there just a few weeks earlier said that there were many more then. There are many great views along the way to the lake, so make sure you stop and take a look around.
Things you need to know: There is no water available at the trailhead. On my visit, there was a trailer with two porta-potties. Other than a trail intersection just a few hundred feet from the the trailhead/parking lot, there are no other trails that intersect with #634, so navigating this hike is pretty easy. There is 2067 feet of ascent over the 3.65 miles to the lake.
To get there: From Hwy. 285 and County Road 62 (also known as Guanella Pass Road and Geneva Road) in Grant , go 6.8 miles to Forest Service Road 119 and turn left. The trailhead is 3 miles up FSR 119 from CR 62. FSR 119 is rocky and bumpy, so while the going is slow, it is passable when dry with a compact SUV (think Subaru Outback) or better. That said, I did see a Prius but I wouldn't recommend it. Guanella Pass Road closes for the season at the Burning Bear Campground (about 5.3 miles from Hwy. 285) around Thanksgiving and reopens around Memorial Day each year, so plan accordingly.
The Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services (PRCS) Department announced that the "Daniels Pass" area in North Cheyenne Cañon Park will be closed to public access from Tuesday, Sept. 7 to sometime in early November to allow new trails to be built and to also re-route the existing Daniels Pass Trail. According to a statement from the PRCS: "The reopening date is dependent on weather and final completion of new trail projects underway. Mount Muscoco will remain open and accessible via the Mount Cutler and Mount Muscoco trails. Access on Gold Camp Road adjacent to the area will not be affected. The closure allows for construction of the new Daniels Pass and Sweetwater Canyon trails. Work also includes the decommissioning and restoration of the existing and unsustainable Daniels Pass Trail....For the safety of all involved, we thank you for abiding by the closure."
With so many enjoying outdoor recreation, it's almost a sad inevitability that conflicts between users will occur. Sometimes it's caused by a lack of knowledge of proper and accepted trail etiquette, sometimes it's due to a simple misunderstanding, and, well, some users are just jerks (but trust me, they're a tiny minority of trail users). In an effort to keep the peace, an initiative has been launched to remind users that "Trails are Common Ground," no matter who we are, or how we choose to responsibly enjoy outdoor recreation. Started by mountain-biking group International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), and joined by a host of other groups representing hikers, trail runners, equestrians and motorized users, the Trails are Common Ground website explains each users etiquette guidelines and also provides links to organizations that represent each activity.
The closure of a section of the popular Catamount Trail in Green Mountain Falls continues, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. According to Green Mountain Falls Mayor Jane Newberry, the incursion of the trail onto private property was discovered when the a survey was commissioned by the current land owner, who is selling the parcel. A prospective buyer did not want the trail on the property, causing the closure. According to Newberry, the town's trustees decided not to utilize legal methods, such as eminent domain, to keep the trail on the property. According to Newberry, city officials have determined that the trail can easily be rerouted off of the private property and onto town property, making future landowners happy and restoring the trail. However, Newberry said that the reroute probably won't happen until spring of 2022. Hikers wanting to get up to the Garden of Eden, the Flume and the north slope reservoirs can still do so, but the detour will add a few miles to the hike. Find out more here.
Be Good. Do Good Things. Leave No Trace.