Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hiking in Westcliffe, Gibson Creek Trailhead

Sangre de Cristo range looking south
A couple of years ago my girlfriends and I started an "annual" girls camping trip; the first year all 6 of us went to Twin Lakes to camp, the next year we went to Rainbow Lakes outside of Nederland.  Then the last two summers two of the girls were pregnant and we didn't go camping; but this year the mommies were especially excited for a weekend away.  Due to all of our activities, jobs, weddings, etc, we decided to push our trip to October 10th.   As that date approached, we realized that it would be very cold to camp, and even though I was OK with this, the other girls were not.  It was then decided that we'd go to our friend Anne's parents house in Westcliffe.  We were still able to get into the mountains, but we'd be in beds and not be cold.  It was a very posh girls 'camping' weekend!  Nonetheless, we were still able to get out and hike at the Gibson Creek trailhead, right up against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the fall colors were just past peak and still looking brilliant against the bright blue Colorado sky.

 Getting there:  From the Denver metro area, Westcliffe is approximately 2.5-3 hours away to the southwest.  From the center of Westcliffe, Colorado head south on Colorado Highway 69 for a short distance. Just as you are leaving town take a right turn on the well signed Hermit Road.  Continue west on Hermit Road for almost six miles. About halfway through the six miles the road will come to an intersection where the pavement heading west ends. Continue west (straight) on the now gravel Hermit Road. Spread Eagle Peak is now towering ahead of you. 
At about six miles from Colorado Highway 69 you will come to a fork in the road. The left fork heads up the four wheel drive road to Hermit Lake and ultimately to Hermit Pass. Take the right fork which is the cut-off to C.R. 172 North Taylor Road. Take a left on North Taylor Road towards some private residences. You will soon see a sign for the Gibson Creek Trailhead and pass through the forest service gate.

Westcliffe in the distance on left
Once through the forest service gate you will see parking for horse trailers and group camping. This last 0.2 miles from the gate to the signed trailhead is pretty rough but is passable to most high clearance vehicles. Four wheel drive would most likely be necessary in wet or snow conditions.  Click here for google map.  There are no bathrooms or facilities at the trailhead, just signed trails and signs.  Dogs could be offleash fairly easily during the hike.    

The Hike:  After checking out the little town of Westcliffe, which is suprisingly modern with a great fabric and yarn store, gift shop, 4 restaurants/bars, a natural grocery store, coffee shop and more, we drove to the Gibson Creek trail about 15 minutes away.  After getting lost on the dirt roads with the GPS not really knowing our destination, we finally managed to get to the Gibson Creek trailhead.  The fall color was still brilliant as we got out of the car in the golden sun with the bright yellow, orange and green aspen trees in Rainbow Valley which is aptly named when looking at all the aspens in the fall.  The trail starts from the parking lot through the aspen forest, immediately you are faced with a trail sign and split.  Our hosts in the area told us to take the trail toward the creek for views of Spread Eagle Peak, the aspens, and the river.  We took all the trail signs toward Gibson Creek and after about a half an hour of hiking we could hear the creek below us and hiked down toward the river.  The river was beautiful with old growth aspen trees all around in shades of yellow, orange and peach and we snapped several photos and ate lunch while the dogs played in the creek. 
Spread Eagle Peak
From the creek, the trail continues uphill again and you are greeted with stunning views of Spread Eagle Peak and the aspen trees in the valley to the west, and views of the plain and town of Westcliff to the east.  After snapping a zillion photos each, we continued hiking; the trail continues in the pine forest for quite a while and eventually the trail splits again.  From there we hiked the uphill trail split for another 15 minutes until it started to get late and we were ready to head back.   Continuing up the trail or one of the trails will provide you with views of the Lake of the Clouds lakes which are supposed to be amazingly pretty high in the mountains.  I wish we could have made it to the lakes, but the rest of my party was ready to head back, so thats where we went.  I look forward to getting back to the Sangre's for more hiking; especially to the Lakes of the Clouds. 

If you live in the area, hike in the area, or have any other info on the Gibson Creek trail or others nearby I'd love to hear your comments or questions!
Here is a google map to click and input your personal directions.

View Hiking Trails and Camping in a larger map

Oak and Aspen leaves in the Sangre's; click here for more hiking photos. 

Peachy looking aspen tree

Rose Hips in the fall, beautiful red berries signal that fall is here!  Click here for etsy photo. 

Gibson Creek. 
I love to take photos of hikes that I have been on; photography is one of my passions!  If you'd like to check out more items; maybe buy a photo as a momento of your hike or as a gift to a friends.  Click here to check out my shop or ask about making your personal photo into a wall hanging

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Jennifer! i have been searching for a good hour on how to get to Gibson Creek trailhead... live in Canon City and am taking some friends hiking. I heard this was a good one to go on.