Glistening snow atop the Collegiate Peaks never ceases to inspire me to be outside. Despite chilly temperatures and gusty winds, Sadie and I were itching to head to the mountains after being cramped in the car on Thanksgiving travels. Plus, with inches of snow on the ground, I had an excuse to finally try my feet at snowshoeing.

IMG_6757With the forest just out of reach, we didn’t have to travel far. The Colorado Trail – a 486-mile trail spanning from Denver to Durango – has several access points near Buena Vista. With the shortest drive time, the Chalk Creek Trailhead beat out several other parts of the Colorado Trail I can’t wait to check out.

Located just beyond the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs off of County Road 162 in Chalk Creek Canyon, this part of the CT (Segment 14), features nice views of Mt. Princeton and the Chalk Cliffs before dipping into aspen and pine forests.

Unfamiliar with my bindings, I fumbled to put my snowshoes on as Sadie stood by anxiously awaiting her first steps on the trail. Finally, with my backpack on and poles in hand, I said “OK, let’s go!” and Sadie was off and running. Looking down at the awkward sleds on my feet, I noticed there were no recent tracks on the trail; no one had hiked this stretch for days. A flutter of excitement swept over me and I unskillfully hit the trail, Sadie up ahead dashing and darting through the snow.

With Mt. Princeton as our guard, we were protected by the wind, aside from a slight breeze here and there, which proved to be refreshing on the steep ascent at the start of the trail. After huffing and puffing my way up the winding switchbacks, I topped out on a ridge with views to the west of Chalk Creek Canyon and a prancing yellow lab to greet me.

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As we continued on, the trail leveled off and we were engulfed by the silence of the forest, no sound but the steady crunching of snow under my feet.

After reaching a Forest Road (FS Rd 274), the clouds began to thicken and the breeze became crisp. Not wanting to pause too long, we turned around and began the slog back to the trailhead. Fatigued muscles and sleepy dog eyes meant rewards. Sadie got treats and a dog nap in the car, while mom soaked in the hot springs (selfish? maybe).

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Hard to resist a soak in a riverside hot spring. Plus in the slow months (Nov-Dec), Mt. Princeton Hot Springs offers locals a $5 day pass.

Directions to Chalk Creek Trailhead:

From Buena Vista, travel 7 miles south on Hwy-285 to County Road 162. Turn right onto CR-162 and travel west for an additional 7 miles, passing the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. Turn left onto Forest Road 290 (winter maintenance) and drive to where the Colorado Trail intersects FS Rd 290. The trail is clearly marked on both sides of the road. There is a small pull-out for parking. **Note: For thru-hikers, the main Chalk Creek Trailhead is located 0.4 miles north from the intersection of CT and FS Rd 290 (Segment 14).

 

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