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Life in Colorado

Fishing and Hiking at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Jessica, Scooter and I spent the day at Golden Gate Canyon State Park in early June for some fishing, birding and hiking. The park is about 15 miles west of Golden and about 45 minutes from our house.

As a State Park, you need to pay a fee to enter, so we stopped at the Visitor’s Center, paid our fee and got some tips on where to hike and fish. There are two main ponds, Slough Pond and Kriley Pond, not far past the park entrance that see heavy fishing pressure. We skipped Slough Pond as there were no parking spaces and lots of people already fishing the small pond. A bit past that is Kriley Pond, which is also fairly small and was pretty crowded on the Sunday we visited.

Dudes Hole, Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Dudes Hole, Golden Gate Canyon State Park

We found a parking space up the hill from the pond though, and Jessica took off on a birding hike up Blue Grouse trail, while I walked down to Kriley Pond to fish a little. As mentioned, there were a lot of people already there, about half of them sitting in lawn chairs fishing with Power Bait, and the other half in waders trying a little fly fishing. The power baiters on the East end of the lake weren’t having any luck, while the fly fishers on the West end of the lake were reeling them almost every cast. I stuck with my tried and true Kastmaster Spoon, walking around the entire pond, with zero luck. You could see dozens of little trout near the shore all around the lake, but they were having none of it. I guess the East end is where Ralston Creek flows into the pond, and the catchable fish were hanging out there.

Jessica said Blue Grouse trail was pretty uncrowded, had more bikers than hikers, slightly uphill, and not anything remarkable.

You can drive around the perimeter of the park, which on a map looks like a long way, but is only 20 or 30 minutes. So we drove over to Aspen Meadows Campground, with a short stop at Panaroma Point, with a goal of hiking down to Dude’s Hole and beyond.

Dude’s Hole is small, picturesque pond a short hike down the trail from campground, so while I stopped and fished, Jessica and Scooter hiked further down the trail while I fished Dude’s Hole. Again using my trusty Kastmaster Spoon, I caught two little Brown Trout on the first two casts, and caught three or four more in about 30 minutes. The family down the bank, fishing with worms, were counting out their fish as they hauled them in … nineteen, twenty, plus. All the fish were tiny, but it’s better than being skunked and I’d call it a successful day.

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Family Life in Colorado

New Year’s Day Hike at Flatirons Vista Trail in Boulder

This past New Year’s Day we succeeded in finding, and hiking, a great, “new-to-us” trail called Flatirons Vista. After three years living in Boulder, it’s difficult to find new trails to hike that offer something different for everyone, but Flatiron Vista delivered a nice change, and we even managed to get the boys to come along which made for a memorable family outing under blazing blue sky.

Familyvance at Flatirons Vista Trail in Boulder
Familyvance at Flatirons Vista Trail in Boulder

The Flatirons Vista Trailhead is located off Highway 93 a couple miles South of Boulder, across from the NREL campus. It’s probably due the distance from our house (25 minutes or so) that we had never hiked this trail before. It’s a popular trail judging by the nearly full parking lot, and allows for hikers, bikers and horses.

We chose to hike the main loop that encompasses the Flatirons Vista North and South trails. There was ice and snow on the ground, but the trail conditions were good. The beginning of the hike is slightly uphill through open prairie, with cows meandering across the trail. Scooter’s a good dog though, and even off-leash he knew not to mess with the bovine.

The boys and Scooter at Flatirons Trail in Boulder
The boys and Scooter at Flatirons Trail in Boulder

After cresting the small hill, the trail moves through some pine trees, and then approaches a fork that connects with the Dowdy Draw trail. Keeping on the Flatirons Vista trail took us into a denser pine forrest with more snow, birds, and deer bones laid bare. Turning East, the trail goes along a barbed wire fence, comes out of the pine trees, then heads back downhill through a cow pasture and around a stock tank (frozen at this time of year).

True to it’s name, Flatirons Vista trail offers excellent views of the Flatirons, and even a little window of the snow-covered Indian Peaks mountains through the foothills. Total distance is a little over three miles, and the trail gives everyone a little different feature: open pasture, expansive views, alpine forrest, single track trail, and more. Everyone agreed Flatirons Vista is an excellent trail, and if you visit, it’ll be on your destination list.

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Life in Colorado

Fall Colors in Brainard Lake Recreation Area

Juiskie and I went to Brainard Lake Recreation Area recently to drink in the fall colors of the Rocky Mountains. Brainard Lake is about a 45 minute drive from Boulder, set in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and at about 10,000 feet of elevation. We last visited in March for some awesome snowshoeing.

This visit started out a bit wobbly, as we forgot our Rocky Mountain National Park annual pass which also gets us into Brainard Lake, so we had to park at the outer parking lot and walk the 2.5 miles to the lake. Luckily it’s a pleasant and low-travelled trail, but to shorten the walk we took the road after about 1.5 miles. Hiking the road is no fun, but after 20 minutes we made it to the popular lake.

Brainard Lake Recreation Area Fall Color
Brainard Lake Recreation Area Fall Color in Indian Peaks Wilderness. ©Familyvance

I should add, since this is what we came for, that their was a nice explosion of golden Aspen color on the road in to the Recreation Area.

There are many trails in the Recreation Area, but we had to be back in town for some kid event or another, so we merely walked around the lake, probably about a mile, with Jessica of course looking for birds. Jessica got so excited about some water fowl at one point that she took a hard spill and badly bruised her leg. Insult to injury, the “water fowl” turned out to be a oddly shaped stick in the water.

With Jessica limping, we asked around the parking lot for a ride back to our car, and the first couple we asked looked like they thought we were serial killers. Fortunately, a cute couple from Denver gave us a ride and even offered Jessica use of their first aid kit.

Brainard Lake
Brainard Lake. ©Familyvance

On the drive back we came across some wonderful foliage in a valley of the Indian Peaks. So wonderful, in fact, there were dozens of cars parked on the side of the road taking pictures and enjoying the view.

All-in-all, not the greatest excursion, but any chance to get to the mountains is worth the effort and a bruised leg.

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Family Life in Colorado

Cub Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Another awesome hike, awesome lake, awesome place, awesome thing of some awe.

Cub Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park
Cub Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park

Did we ever mention that we love Rocky Mountain National Park? There’s not a bad hike in the whole park, and just the average view is better than any view you’ll see elsewhere. The $60 annual pass we buy every year is totally worth it.

Jessica and I snowshoed the Cub Lake trail the previous year, but never found the actual lake as we lost the trail somewhere in the beautiful snowdrift trees. Which was fine, because it was still an awesome trek. Anyway, we decided to try Cub Lake again without the snow, and hopefully actually make it to the lake. My sister was along as well.

cub-lake-rocky-mountain-national-park-lela
Cub Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park

The Cub Lake trailhead is in Morraine Park just past the campground. There are a couple small parking areas but they fill up fast. We arrived around 9 a.m. and got one of the last spaces. Later arrivals park on the street.

The first part of the hike is through Morraine Park, with hopefully a sight of some elk grazing in the meadows. After a mile or so the hike climbs a bit through trees. There was an excellent birding spot just in the trees which Jessica could have remained at all day. But we pressed on and not too much further we arrived at the lake.

We enjoyed a snack on a rock. I wet a line looking for some trout but came up empty, then trudged through a bog in further attempt at fish with no luck. The trail and the lake weren’t too crowded with only a few other groups. Total distance is around five miles I guess, and while it’s at elevation, it’s probably one of the easier RMNP lakes to hike. Would definitely recommend.

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Family Life in Colorado

Rainbow Lakes

Rainbow Lakes is a series of lakes in the Indian Peaks Wilderness about 45 minutes from Boulder between Nederland and Ward. The trailhead is five miles up a fairly rough dirt road off Highway 72 and sits at around 10,000 feet elevation. There is a very popular campground, a short two mile trail to the lakes, and a much longer trail to Arapaho Glacier higher in the Indian Peaks mountains.

Rainbow Lake in Indian Peaks Wilderness
Josh at one of the Rainbow Lakes in Indian Peaks Wilderness. If you look closely, you can see David fishing in the background. ©Familyvance

We visited Rainbow Lakes Trail on a recent Sunday morning in early July. Driving up the dirt road we passed at least a dozen groups camping just off the road. Didn’t seem ideal but it was popular. We arrived at the trailhead around 10am and got one of the last parking spots. It was quite windy and a bit chilly (10,000 feet remember?). Dogs are allowed on the trail, so Scooter was very happy to join us. Even though the lot was full, the trail wasn’t very crowded at all when we began. By the end, however, it was quite crowded.

The trail itself is a gradual incline and winds through pretty, but typical, alpine forest. Even though you’re going up, it isn’t that noticeable (may not be true for sea-level folks ;). The lakes are small alpine lakes set in a gorgeous setting just off the trail. I tried my hand fishing with your everyday spoon and rooster tails with no luck. The peaks in the background are worth the blank fishing slate.

Rainbow Lakes in Indian Peaks Wilderness
Familyvance at one of the Rainbow Lakes in Indian Peaks Wilderness. ©Familyvance