Best autumn day hikes near Winter Park, CO

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of September 14-21, 1995

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Best autumn day hikes near Winter Park, CO
Q: We will be spending some time in Winter Park, Colorado, in early October. Could you recommend some good day hikes in the area for a group of 6-8 people?
John Vahle
Ames, IA
[email protected]

A: We recommend heading up to Devil's Thumb Pass, a challenging eight-mile there-and-back trek in the Vasquez Creek Wilderness that skirts the Continental Divide and offers spectacular views of Winter Park and the Frazer Valley. To get to the trailhead, take Route 40 north out of Winter Park, past Frazer to a right turn on County Road 8. Follow this until you get to Forest Road 128, make a left, and you'll find the trailhead about three miles north of this turn-off. Once you're there, it's a four-mile hike through alpine meadows and stands of golden aspens to the top of 11,747-foot Devil's Thumb Pass. Starting at a base elevation of 9,600-feet, you'll be in for a strenuous 2,000-foot altitude gain, so be sure to allow yourself a few days to adjust to the high country's thin air. Because the last mile or so is above timberline, you'll need to bring plenty of warm weather and waterproof gear; winter storms start blowing in over the mountains after Labor Day, and, by October, they can be a real threat to ill-equipped hikers. To take your mind off the strenuous climb, keep your eyes open along the way for elk, deer, moose, pine martens; if you're lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a bighorn sheep. At the summit, you'll be rewarded for your efforts by a mind-boggling panaroma of the Indian Peaks Wilderness and Jasper Lake. For more detailed trail information, contact the Winter Park-area ranger station at 303-887-3331.

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