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