Fall Hiking & Camping
– The signs of Summer waning into Fall are showing themselves in the mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs.
Ferns and sarvisberry are turning a deep gold and becoming crisp to the touch. Birds are beginning to flock together anticipating migration. First light arrives later and later causing me to accidentally sleep in longer. Even the light at dusk carries a softness Summer just can’t reproduce. The signs of Fall are here and they will only accentuate themselves as we swiftly move through September and October.
Fall is by far the best time of the year for hiking and camping. Pesky summer bugs have long disappeared. Hot summertime temperatures are just a memory as you put on a light fleece to take the edge off our cool mountain mornings.
Hiking the high country trails in September and October in the Mount Zirkel, Flat Tops and Sarvis Creek Wilderness Areas near Steamboat is a gift we don’t take for granted. The trails take on a lonely feel to them. Mountain breezes bend the brown grasses and the branches of tall pines and sizzle over the crunchy tundra and between boulders with whispers of cold fronts. The sound makes you look over your shoulder to see who is there but it is only the wind, or perhaps, Old Man Winter coming up the trail behind you.
The Mount Zirkel Wilderness has a big mountain feel to it without the daunting elevation gains of other mountains in Colorado. Easy access is from the Slavonia trailhead outside the town of Clark. From Slavonia – Gilpin Lake, Gold Creek Lake, and Three Island Lake are gorgeous destinations. The bushwacking and exploring possibilities in the Zirkel are endless and don’t forget about access from the east side of this wilderness area from North Park.
The Sarvis Creek Wilderness is unique in Colorado in that it is completely below treeline. Once the early snow hits the high country you can still find dry trails here. Sarvis Creek Trail and Silver Creek Trail are the only to trails – the rest is an incredibly diverse habitat filled with all kinds of flora and fauna.
The Flat Tops are aptly named due to their tabletop mountain formations. Easy access into the Flat Tops is from Stillwater Reservoir outside the town of Yampa. Pick your trails and stick to them here. Bushwacking is close to impossible due to a beetle kill epidemic in the 40’s. Downed trees make for a pick-up-stick tapestry but by no means reduces the beauty. Hundreds of creeks and lakes give you plenty of options and once you are on top – the 360 degree views are unparalleled.
Fall is incredibly special. The number of days to get in your last hikes before winter begins in earnest are numbered. The best thing to do is put off the weekend chores, cancel a few week day appointments, and create the time to get out and hike the high country around Steamboat Springs this Fall.