When I was younger, I loved to go skiing in the winter. We’d leave our warmer confines in Texas and head to the mountains, making a long (and usually overnight) drive so we could maximize the time spent on the snowy slopes. I even wondered why folks would want to come to Colorado in the summer! Yes, I was young and naive. Now, the times have flipped, and I don’t like being cold!

I love summers in the mountains, and my family makes our home base in Winter Park, Colorado. And while my photography business takes me to different parts of the Rocky Mountain state, the Fraser Valley and Grand County are still the areas I call my home away from home. And Winter Park offers many activities for my family and me, as well as photographic opportunities at sunrise and sunset (and even during the day).

My oldest daughter (8 years old) is learning to fly fish, and starting to enjoy the art of catching a fish on a fly (as opposed to a spin rod that she thinks is “boring.”) Gotta say, that’s my girl! If I’m not fishing with a fly rod, I’d probably just as soon not fish. At the same time, both daughters enjoy strolling down the Fraser River Trail. There are some portions of the river that have nice sand bars with plenty of smooth rocks for skipping. We’ve been entertained for hours with just throwing rocks in the river and building sand castles. It is not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

The Fraser River Trail provides beautiful scenery to ride or walk and enjoy the cool shade along the Fraser River.

Between the Winter Park ski base and Fraser, Colorado, the Fraser River trail offers 6 miles of beautiful scenery to enjoy. Whether biking or walking, this path takes you along the Fraser River, though the town of Winter Park, and onto the less-touristy town of Fraser.

Heading south and uphill from the Winter Park and Mary Jane ski areas, Berthoud Pass offers some nice areas for hiking. Trails that follow First Creek and Second Creek take you uphill towards Vasquez Ridge, and at the top of Berthoud Pass, the remnants and trails of an old ski area let you make the hike up to Colorado Mines Peak, the first of several peaks that stretch along the Continental Divide. If you want to bag a few 13ers, this is a beautiful hike that affords vast views of the surrounding valleys. But we wary – nearly all of the hike to Mount Flora, Mount Eva, and over to James Peak is above tree line. If storms come up, you have very few escape routes. So start early and enjoy the mountains!

Mount Flora awakens beneath a beautiful sunrise. Located near Berthoud Pass just south of Fraser and Winter Park, Colorado, the trail to reach this 13er follows the Continental Divide Trail.

From just beneath the Colorado Mines Peak near Berthoud Pass, this mountain landscape view looks across to Mount Flora (13,146′). The trail follows the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) and takes you well above timberline across several prominent peaks. This hike makes for an easy daytrip from Denver or Winter Park and the Fraser Valley. I arrived early and enjoyed a magnificent sunrise on this July morning.

Heading in the opposite direction from Winter Park, the town of Fraser offers nice areas to bike and hike. And if you want to summit one of the more well known peaks in the Fraser Valley, Byers Peak is waiting. Although it doesn’t reach 13,000 feet (just under), it is still a beautiful hike – and not too difficult. The altitude gain is below 3,000′ and in summer the wildflowers bloom along the trail. And like the hikes from Berthoud Pass, start early and avoid the afternoon thunderstorms.

After all the outdoor activities available, you’ll probably work up an appetite! Our favorite pizza is the less heralded Elevation Pizza. While most folks think Hernandos is the best, over the years we’ve grown to like Elevation a little better. But with all the restaurants to choose from, you’re bound to find something that fits your fancy.

I love our time in Winter Park. It always goes by too fast.

Happy Travels, my friends.

~ Rob

Images from Colorado

Images from Texas

 

 

Advertisements

In the summertime, my home base is Winter Park, Colorado. I’ve been spending summers here for 25 years and I feel I know the trails and hidden gems pretty well. Of course, some of the more well known places are worth a visit, as well. Between the resort town of Winter Park and the top of Berthoud Pass on Highway 40, there are many trail that branch off from the highway that are worth exploring.

Running through Winter Park is the Fraser River Trail. This river was once great for fly fishing as it passed through Winter Park and Fraser, but as the years have passed, the river has seen some changes – mostly from construction and growth, and even over-fishing (and folks not practicing catch-and-release). I can remember fishing this area 20 years ago and pulling in rainbows and browns regularly, but now I’m happy to catch a few decent fish on a morning’s excursion. But the banks along the Fraser River also offer some nice areas for photography, especially the wildflowers. Lupine, paintbrush, and columbine grow along the Fraser River Trail, coloring the landscape with bright blues, purples, pinks, and reds.

Colorado wildflowers line the Fraser River Trail in Winter Park, Colorado, and attract hummingbirds, ladybugs, and other wildlife.

A hummingbird hovers near a Lupine along the Fraser River Trail.

As you work your way south up Highway 40 from Winter Park, up the switchbacks, and onto Berthoud Pass, you’ll pass several small creeks that are mostly fed from spring snow melt. First and Second Creek wind up the mountain towards Vasquez Ridge. Along the wet and often swampy banks of these little creeks grow Colorado wildflowers of all colors and shapes. I like to arrive at first light and work my way up the banks, photographing whatever flowers and scenes I come across. On these slopes, I can find peace and solitude – a nice escape from the stresses of everyday life – and I can lose myself (not to be confused with getting lost!) for a few quiet hours.

At the top of Berthoud Pass, the famous Continental Divide Trail (CDT) crosses the highway. I like hiking west up the well-marked trail, following the 14 switchbacks up and over to Russell Peak (12,391′), especially before sunrise. Rarely do I see folks up here that early, and the experience of watching the sun climb over the distant peaks is stunning. Often, there are small yellow sunflowers (Old Man of the Mountain – not to be confused with me) that line the trail and grassy slopes at this lofty elevation. The views atop the small summit offer expansive views of Vasquez Ridge and the valley below. In the distance, you can even see a curve of Highway 40, giving you some perspective about how high up the climb takes you.

 

The Continental Divide Trail near Winter Park, Colorado, provides amazing views of the surrounding mountains.

On the way up the Continental Divide Trail just off of Highway 40, I paused to look back and saw the crescent moon rising in the east just ahead of sunrise.

As you travel back down Highway 40 towards Empire, there is another stop to make and explore – Butler Gulch. But I’ll save this area for a little later. The wildflowers don’t really show up in that area until at least late July.

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to follow my journeys on my Colorado facebook page.

Happy Travels!

~ Rob

Images from Colorado