Total Length: 784.4 miles
The Fifty Trail follows the Continental Divide Trail across about three-quarters of the state of Colorado, departing from it in the southwestern part of Rocky Mountain National Park. From there the trail follows various Rocky Mountain National Park trails northward and out of the park via a remote route over Hagues Peak then between Comanche Peak and Mirror Lake. (see photos above)
From there the trail follows the ridge line north toward Crown Point and curves east following The Flowers Trail as it drops below tree line. Flowers Trail becomes Old Flowers Road, a remote route between the Cache La Poudre River and Pingree Park. Descending further, the trail follows roads east through Stove Prairie and down Rist Canyon, emerging onto the High Plains just north of Fort Collins, Colorado. Through Fort Collins the riverside paved bike path called the Poudre Trail is the route. Then a road walk to and through Pawnee National Grasslands leads to the Great Plains Trail at Pawnee Buttes.
|Pawnee Buttes’ East Butte, a sunset view from 1971. The prominent ‘Chimney’ at the top fell over some time in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. See next photo for details.|
|Photographic documentation of East Pawnee Butte’s “Chimney”. In the oldest photo, from 1900, it appears much more substantial. The buttes are made of very soft material—more clay than rock. The 1925 photo also shows the more substantial west butte.|
From Pawnee Buttes the Fifty Trail follows the northbound route of the Great Plains Trail, one of a collection of perhaps a half dozen documented north-south hiking routes from Canada to Mexico. It passes into Nebraska right near the corner of Wyoming.
MAPS and TRAIL GUIDES:
Great Plains Trail home page: http://www.greatplainstrail.org/
Continental Divide Trail: http://continentaldividetrail.org/
Free Continental Divide Trail map set (but you have to email him for it): http://www.phlumf.com/travels/cdt/cdtmaps.shtml
Pay for PDF map books for the CDT: http://www.bearcreeksurvey.com/pdf_maps.htm
Print maps and guides for the CDT: http://www.yogisbooks.com/continental-divide-trail/
Summit post report about Hague’s Peak. Main photo on this page is the view of the walk—the easy ascent route as seen from The Saddle: https://www.summitpost.org/hagues-peak/153107
HEART OF THE TRAIL:
The best ‘High Country’ experience on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail in Colorado – Segments 29,30, and 31 – with magnificent tundra walking and expansive summit vistas, including Gray’s Peak, which, at 14,278 feet, is the highest point on the Fifty Trail, highest point on the Continental Divide Trail, and the highest point anywhere on the Continental Divide between the Arctic Ocean and South America.
The ‘Heart Of’ section begins 0.4 miles ENE of Georgia Pass (where there is parking – access from US 285 at Jefferson via CR 35 then Michigan Creek Road/FR 54) at the point where the CDT and Colorado Trail split (with Colorado Trail starting east toward Denver). Here the Colorado Trail-CDT come in from the north and the Colorado Trail crosses FR 258 (which is the jeep road that comes up from Georgia Pass and soon ends at a barrier fence meant to protect the tundra) and continues south-southeast. The Continental Divide Trail makes the sharp left onto FR 258 to turn northward, crosses through the barrier fence, and continues along the high ridges of the divide, dropping down below treeline only briefly to pass under Interstate 70 at Herman Gulch trailhead, and then climbing again to the tundra and mostly following the ridge to the end of the ‘Heart Of’ section at the major trailhead on US 40 at Berthoud Pass. (54.9 miles)
Here’s the data book information for this section: https://www.postholer.com/databook/Continental-Divide-Trail/2/1256.60
8002.2 – (add 0) Colorado-New Mexico border, Continental Divide Trail mile 817.3. Start of Colorado Segment. Continue north on Continental Divide Trail.
8600.3 – (add 598.1) Between Flattop Mountain and Ptarmigan Pass. Continental Divide Trail mile 1415.4. Leave Continental Divide Trail, turning right onto Flattop Mountain Trail then staying left where side trail to Hallett Peak exits right. Descend toward Bear Lake.
8604.0 – (add 3.7) Junction with Fern Lake Trail where terrain levels out. Turn right toward Bear Lake
8604.5 – (add 0.5) Bear Lake Trail comes merges in from right. Continue straight ahead on Flat Top Mountain Trail.
8605.2 – (add 0.7) Trail Junction. Right turn leads to Bierstadt Lake. Stay left/straight and continue toward Mill Creek Basin
8605.7 – (add 0.5) Another trail junction where turning right leads to Bierstadt Lake and staying left/straight descends toward Mill Creek Basin. Stay left.
8606.3 – (add 0.6) Mill Creek Camping area at opening in the woods along Mill Creek. Trails may be confusing here. Cross Mill Creek but do not follow it upstream. Reach a large open area and bear northward where Mill Creek turns eastward downstream toward Hollowell Park. Stay left and head toward Cub Lake.
8607.9 – (add 1.6) Trail Junction in a rocky swale above Cub Lake. Turn right, headed toward Cub Lake and Cub Creek camping area and continue winding down generally toward the east.
8610.1 – (add 2.2) Moraine Park—a vast open grassy flat area. Stay left following the edge of Moraine park now northward toward footbridge over Big Thompson River and Cub Lake trailhead.
8610.6 – (add 0.5) Fern Lake Road, Cub Lake Trailhead. Cross the road and continue north, keeping Moraine Park Stables and Campground to your right, staying left at side trails into campground, passing close to a water tank on left and continuing north and then northwest toward Upper Beaver Brook Meadows Trailhead.
8611.9 – (add 1.3) Reaching open area of Beaver Brook Meadows stay right then left at trail junctions continuing to head north beside the upper end of the meadow heading toward the trailhead parking area.
8612.2 – (add 0.3) Beaver Meadows Trailhead at the end of the road. Turn right and follow the road for 0.1 mile then bear left onto a trail heading east-northeast then curving around to head north following a roughly constant elevation through an open area with just a scattering of trees. For resupply in Estes Park, this is the first and perhaps shortest route to town—follow the dirt road out to US 36 and turn right. It is 4.4 miles from the trailhead parking loop to a shopping center with a big grocery store.
8612.7 – (add 0.5) At fork in the trails, take the lesser used trail that continues north (straight) rather than the more used trail that bears left. This trail soon makes a wide swing around a small valley and is soon heading southeastward.
8613.0 – (add 0.3) Trail intersection. Make a sharp left rather than continuing straight to the southeast, and head north toward Deer Mountain/Deer Ridge Trailhead.
8613.6 – (add 0.6) US 36, with busy junction with US 34 just to left and shoulder parking on paved shoulder. Cross the highway to get on North Deer Mountain Trail and stay left at upcoming trail junction with South Deer Mountain Trail. This is perhaps the best place to get a ride into Estes Park for Resupply.
8614.6 – (add 1.0) Trail junction. Turn sharp left, now heading west on Lawn Lake Trail toward Lawn Lake Trailhead. Stay left/straight at another trail junction 0.2 miles ahead and at a fork 0.1 miles beyond that. Heading continues westward.
8615.4 – (add 0.8) Briefly join service road and then leave it as it bears left to US 34. Trail here parallels US 34.
8616.6 – (add 1.2) Fall River crossing. The horse trail fords the river, or you can turn left and cross the river on the US 34 highway bridge. On the other side of the bridge, the purist who wasn’t pure enough to ford the river can follow the trail back down to the ford and turn left to resume the trail which passes through a cul-de-sac of End-o-valley Road and then turns left to cross US 34 to reach Lawn Lake Trailhead all by trail. Or you can just follow US 34 from the bridge over Fall River fifty feet to End-o-Valley Road, turn left on paved End-o-Valley Road and then bear right into paved Lawn Lake Trailhead. This is the last opportunity to head into Estes Park for resupply.
8616.9 – (add 0.3) Lawn Lake Trailhead. Head up Lawn Lake Trail northwestward then climbing via switchbacks.
8618.2 – (add 1.3) Trail Junction. Ypsilon Lake Trail exits left, crossing Roaring River on a footbridge. Continue straight on right bank of the Roaring River, heading northwest then north on Lawn Lake Trail.
8622.3 – (add 4.1) Trail Junction with Black Canyon/Cow Creek Trail. Stay left/straight, continuing on Lawn Lake Trail toward the lake.
8622.9 – (add 0.6) Lawn Lake. On right is a ranger cabin and camping area. Continue NW beside Lawn Lake and beyond, heading toward Crystal Lake and passing above timberline.
8623.9 – (add 1.0) Junction with the trail to The Saddle. At a switchback there are two options. Keep right to head up toward the saddle. The other fork heads to Crystal Lake.
8625.0 – (add 1.1) Reach the top of The Saddle and the end of defined trail. Turn right and climb to the summit of Hagues Peak following the ridge but with easier going a distance back from the escarpment.
8625.7 – (add 0.7) Summit of Hagues Peak. (40.484487,-105.646398) Descend, heading NNE to the lake at the base of Rowe Glacier (40.487953, -105.644705) then head north climbing to the ridge line below Rowe Peak. (40.490525, -105.645105)
8626.2 – (add 0.5) Ridge to the east of Rowe Peak. Descend across the rocky tundra, heading NW and following the escarpment that is to your left, reaching Flint Pass then rounding the knob ahead, now heading generally north, to reach the Mummy Pass Trail at Mummy Pass. (40.515398, -105.664804)
8628.5 – (add 2.3) Mummy Pass. Turn left and descend the west side of Mummy Pass on the trail, dropping back below timberline for a chance for protected camping.
8630.7 – (add 2.2) Junction with Mirror Lake Trail. (40.520416, -105.694299) Mummy Pass Trail exits left. Stay straight, now heading NW toward Mirror Lake.
8631.2 – (add 0.5) Leave Mirror Lake Trail and ascend to the ridge to the east, keeping the rocky nose of it to the right and heading toward waypoint (40.529210, -105.693689 ) then continuing northeast soon emerging on the broad open tundra of the ridge and bearing gradually a bit left to pass between two knobs and toward Commanche Peak. Approaching the peak bear left, heading NW now toward the escarpment at the head of the valley above Mirror Lake, keeping roughly a constant elevation and then descending alongside the escarpment, rounding it for the view in the second photo at the top of this segment at roughly (40.553712, -105.697626). From this waypoint head northwest into the trees east of Willow Creek and pick up the trail heading north from the creek around (40.563143, -105.720410)
8635.8 – (add 4.6) At waypoint (40.563143, -105.720410), climbing out of Willow Creek, the trail becomes well-defined for a while. Climb NNE to a saddle between knobs and then round the left knob to begin bearing NW. The trail will divide into two, one of which curves westward following the base of the talus fields and the other desends into upper Beaver Creek valley toward an old ruin of a cabin. Follow that trail by heading toward a cluster of stunted timberline trees at waypoint (40.586465, -105.714109). From there the trail can be followed basically following a small creek and descending to said ruin of an old cabin at waypoint (40.593870, -105.714309). At the cabin there is a ‘T’ junction of trails. Turn left, heading west across the outlet of a spring-fed pond but then leave the obvious westward trail and head north a little ways toward the trees to waypoint (40.595098, -105.715841) where the Flowers Trail should become apparent. The aim then is to follow the Flowers trail, staying on the high ground through a gentle swale and back up out of the trees at waypoint (40.603581, -105.708370). The Flowers Trail then cuts across the tundra heading NE over high ground and descending to the edge of an escarpment at (40.611783, -105.692988). From here the Flowers Trail continues eastward near timberline to a prominent trail junction at (40.613080, -105.681323)
8640.5 – (add 4.7) Junction of Flowers Trail with Browns Trail (40.613080, -105.681323). Continue East on Flowers Trail toward waypoints (40.612112, -105.668883), on to (40.609647, -105.642747) and then to (40.614339, -105.634690), where the trail begins to take on the character of an old road, turns north and descends, picking up a ridge line. The trail turns eastward again at (40.633721, -105.629565) and follows a clear ridge line down to Little Beaver Creek.
8645.8 – (add 5.3) Beaver Park – an open grassy area where there is a triangular trail junction. Bear right to follow Little Beaver Creek Trail ESE staying on the north bank of the creek. Just follow the stream for as long as it continues to bear toward the East and ESE.
8650.0 – (add 4.2) After the trail crosses Little Beaver Creek to its south bank where a prominent tributary joins it from the south, the creek passes between rocky outcrops and turns northeastward. There is a trail junction here (40.616049, -105.544037). Turn right and follow the old road up a wash southwestward and then bending around to southeastward and climbing to a ridge.
8650.5 – (add 0.5) At the ridge the trail comes to a “T” (40.611009, -105.546460). Turn left, heading ENE.
8650.9 – (add 0.4) Pass under a power line. Continue toward the ENE. After a quarter mile the trail makes an abrupt turn toward the south then turns eastward following a spur ridge for another quarter mile before descending steeply to the South Fork of the Cache La Poudre River.
8651.9 – (add 1.0) Fish Creek Trailhead at a Cattle guard on Pingree Park Road. Turn right and follow the road across the bridge then turn left onto Monument Gulch Road then left again onto Old Flowers Road—a primitive two-track that may be gated.
8652.1 – (add 0.2) Old Flowers Road. Follow the road as it winds generally eastward, emerging into civilization at Sky Corral Lodge and continuing to Stove Prairie.
8664.4 – (add 12.3) Stove Prairie. Junction with Stove Prairie Road and Rist Canyon Road. Cross Stove Prairie Road and continue eastward on paved Rist Canyon Road.
8677.0 – (add 12.6) Poudre Trail bike trail trailhead parking lot just before the bridge over the Poudre River. Leave the road and follow the paved bike path, which follows the Cache La Poudre River trough the eastern side of the city of Fort Collins.
8689.6 – (add 12.6) Poudre Bike Trail underpass of East Prospect Road. Turn left onto spur trail just before the underpass, to come up to the intersection of East Prospect and Sharp Point Drive. Just before the intersection is another unnamed bike path that follows East Prospect Road eastward. Turn left onto this bike path, cross over the Poudre River and continue eastward past several trailhead parking areas for natural areas.
8690.5 – (add 0.9) Bike path ends at intersection of East Prospect Road and South Summit View Drive. Continue east on shoulder of East Prospect Road.
8690.8 – (add 0.3) Entrance to Colorado Welcome Center rest area. Continue east on E. Prospect Road.
8694.3 – (add 3.5) Turn left onto Colorado Blvd/Co. Road 13. Head north.
8699.3 – (add 5.0) Turn Right onto CR 90, head east.
8702.2 – (add 2.9) Turn left and head north on CR 19.
8705.2 – (add 3.0) Turn right and head east on CR 96.
8710.2 – (add 5.0) Turn left and head north on CR 29.
8711.6 – (add 1.4) Turn right on 4th St. and pass through the town of Nunn, right past the post office on left then across US 85.
8712.6 – (add 1.0) Turn left on CR 31 and head north.
8713.1 – (add 0.5) Turn right on County 100, heading east.
8714.1 – (add 1.0) Turn left onto CR 33, heading north.
8715.1 – (add 1.0) Turn right onto CR 102, heading east.
8723.1 – (add 8.0) Turn right, heading south, on CR 49.
8724.1 – (add 1.0) Turn left, heading east, on CR 100.
8728.1 – (add 4.0) Turn left, heading north, on CR 57.
8730.1 – (add 2.0) Turn right onto CR 104 and head east. After one mile, the route of the Great Plains Trail comes in from the right. Fifty Trail and Great Plains Trail coincide through the rest of the Colorado Segment.
8738.0 – (add 7.9) Turn right and head south on CR 73.
8739.1 – (add 1.1) Road turns left, becomes CR 102, heading east.
8740.1 – (add 1.0) Road turns right, becomes CR 75, heading south.
8741.1 – (add 1.0) Road turns left, becoming CR 100, heading east.
8755.1 – (add 14.0) After crossing diagonal road CR 390, road turns left, heading north as CR 103.
8757.1 – (add 2.0) Turn right, heading east on CR 104.
8761.1 – (add 4.0) Turn left, heading north on CR 111.
8764.1 – (add 3.0) Turn right, heading east on CR 110
8765.1 – (add 1.0) Road turns left, becoming CR 113 northbound.
8765.6 – (add 0.5) Where the county road turns right, the access road to Pawnee Buttes Trail exits toward the northwest. Follow that access road.
8766.8 – (add 1.2) Pawnee Buttes Trailhead parking area and picnic area on the right. Recommended side trip on this 2.3 mile grassland trail to see the two buttes. Then continue on the access road, heading generally northwest but curving around toward the southwest.
8768.7 – (add 1.9) At ‘T’ Intersection, turn right onto CR 112, initially heading SW, then due west.
8770.6 – (add 1.9) Road turns right, becomes CR 107 heading north. Stay on 107 as CR 112 exits left a short distance ahead. Reach an area of wind generators and continue north.
8776.6 – (add 6.0) At ‘T’ intersection, turn right onto CR 124 heading east, continuing to pass among wind generators.
8778.6 – (add 2.0) Turn left onto CR 111 heading north.
8786.6 – (add 8.0) Nebraska State Line. End of Colorado Segment. Continue north on county road, now CR 5.
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