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Topic: March trails in Colorado< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 23 2013, 10:03 am  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

My friends and I are going to Colorado mid-March for spring break for 1 week. We would like to know of some places to go for longer hikes, backpacking, or a hikable mountain. Right now we have hiking the Garden of the Gods and backpacking in the Great Dunes. Any other great spots in March?
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 23 2013, 12:30 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Don't expect much hiking in the Garden. Cheyenne Canyon however has great trails; St. Mary's Falls, 7 Bridges, Jones Park, etc. Just 20 minutes north of the Springs is Monument, and barring serious snow you will be able to drive to Mt. Herman trailhead. Mt. Herman is a great hike, be prepared for a little snow and slick conditions. On top the view of Pikes Peak, the Divide, and all the way up to Longs Peak will blow you away. An hour southwest of Colorado Springs is Beaver Creek State Wildlife area. Spring is awesome there and it is like SE Utah. BRING YOUR TEVAS or other water shoes.

The Dunes can be miserable in March, but also glorious. Be prepared for REALLY cold nights at the Dunes and anywhere in the San Luis Valley.

In the Dunes area if the drought continues Check out Zapata falls and hike the trail towards South Zapata Lake as far as you can. BRING GAITERS, maybe Yaktrax, etc. Also if they haven't closed down the river approaches at Alamosa NWR it will generally have AWESOME bird life. I don't know if they've survived but there were several porupines in the cottonwoods there, and I've seen black bear there right around that time. Mid March is usually the time of the Crane Festival at Monte Vista NWR. Not conducive for hiking but seeing 20 -40,000 Cranes at once in such a concentrated area is amazing. Incredible time to see Northern Harriers too.

Since you will be in the Springs if not much snow the Tarryal are wonderful and have less snow and melt out sooner than later. Ute Creek Trail is awesome, bison Peak could be doable, you never know. Twin Eagles Trailhead gets you into some spectacular settings very quickly. Also Pancake Rocks may be good and that trail gets packed nicely. The view of the Sangres and the Continetal divide there is really special. The trails of Green Mountain Falls are really nice.

From the Dunes think about dipping into New Mexico. Wild Rivers is just over an hour from there and the hike in the Gorge [Rio Grande] near Questa is one of my favorites. There could be some ice and snow on the descent ascent. If that's the case go down to Big Arsenic and up from La Junta Point. This is an awesome overnight. All you need is a tarp for the 3 sided shelters.

If New Mexico intrigues you Bandelier NM is less than an hour south of Taos and has some great earlier season trails.


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 23 2013, 12:51 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

DC, we've been getting snow lately.

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 23 2013, 1:59 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yeah, I just checked on snotel and was a bit surprised, but all of my recommendations are good for off/early season. Pancacke Rocks and Bison might be out of reach if it continues, but buddy of mine in Green Mountain Falls has said mid elevations have really been hurting.

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 23 2013, 8:14 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

5-9" coming to Boulder tonight. Could be a good summer yet.

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 23 2013, 11:06 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Sounds like you are well prepared for March hiking in Colorado, but remember that we get most of our snow in the mountains in March and April. It often comes in huge, not-always-predictable, dumps measured in feet... even into late May.

That could leave you extremely vulnerable if it happens while you are out on the trail.

No problem. JUST BRING SNOWSHOES. They are the SnoCat of human-powered transportation...you can safely backpack anywhere in Colorado, you can even climb 14er's, any month of the year, (I have.)
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 24 2013, 11:35 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

So we have decided on doing just the Great Dunes. There's plenty of trails to hike there, there's a mountain to climb if we're feeling adventurous, and sand frisbee sounds like a blast. So now the question is... what do we need to do to prepare?

Would we need to get snowshoes? Is a tent footprint necessary? Any problems using a water filter (gravity works) in a sandy area? Best place to pitch the tent? Any animals to watch out for?
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 25 2013, 6:50 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

siggy2xc,

I highly recommend you give this thread a good read.  Mid-March is mid-winter, and although a lot of the suggestions above are entirely doable and glorious that time of year if you're prepared, you should know that you're likely to be camping in snow and below-freezing temps.  It didn't sound like you're quite aware of that.  The mountains around there are climbable in winter if you know what you're doing, but it helps to be aware of avalanche risks and how to ride out winter squalls if they come upon you in the mountains.

Anyhoo, I don't wanna tell you not to go, just be prepared. It's mid-winter (it's the state's busiest skiing month for a reason, usually the snowiest month of the year, including at the dunes), not mid-Spring yet.


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trail? I don't need no stinkin trail!
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 25 2013, 10:57 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(siggy2xc @ Feb. 24 2013, 9:35 pm)
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So we have decided on doing just the Great Dunes. There's plenty of trails to hike there, there's a mountain to climb if we're feeling adventurous, and sand frisbee sounds like a blast. So now the question is... what do we need to do to prepare?

Would we need to get snowshoes? Is a tent footprint necessary? Any problems using a water filter (gravity works) in a sandy area? Best place to pitch the tent? Any animals to watch out for?

If you're planning on climbing, then yes, you may need snowshoes...also crampons and an ice axe (for self-arrest)

water filter...keep it in your sleeping bag at night.  Most filters do not work well when frozen...and it will get cold at night...quite possibly below zero.

Tent footprint is not necessary, but strongly recommended, otherwise, you may find the bottom of your tent frozen to the ground.

You should be prepared for winter conditions, and the chance of significant snowfall.  The good news is that you can always bail and stay at one of the many motels near the park.

Animals,  you probably won't need to worry about bears, but be don't store food in your tent, as chipmunks will chew holes to get at your food.  Ask the rangers where they would recommend pitching your tent.
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 25 2013, 8:03 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(siggy2xc @ Feb. 24 2013, 9:35 pm)
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So we have decided on doing just the Great Dunes. There's plenty of trails to hike there, there's a mountain to climb if we're feeling adventurous, and sand frisbee sounds like a blast. So now the question is... what do we need to do to prepare?

Would we need to get snowshoes? Is a tent footprint necessary? Any problems using a water filter (gravity works) in a sandy area? Best place to pitch the tent? Any animals to watch out for?


I used to have a long standing tradition of spending a 4 day week every Easter at "The Dunes".

Some years, in late April, it was down right hot out on the dunes, other times we were forced to spend the whole time hunkered down in our tents during a March snowstorm.

March might be okay for day hikes or it could look like this.




In any event, just camp at the established park campground. I doubt the water will be on, but check with the Park Service first.  

Deer are the most prevalent pest around the camps.

The San Luis Valley is a notorious "cold valley", and temps could get near/below 0 at night in March. What temp rating bags are you carrying ?


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 26 2013, 2:19 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

We all have 0 degree bags, sounds like we should definitely dress in plenty of layers. You can see a live cam from the visitor center here http://1.usa.gov/WdMJFz

We're planning on renting snow shoes at one of the local stores and climbing Mt. Herard, need to worry about avalanches or anything if we do that?
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 02 2013, 8:03 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Siggy, I started that "Consider Time of Year" thread a few years back.
But, you seem interested in hiking some in Colorado in March.  So, as long as you are not intent on overnight backpacking, I DO have suggestions.

March and April (as well as November) are what I call "off-season" here in Colorado.  It is too snowy to backpack, and a lot of the snow is too soft to make cross-country skiing much fun in many areas.  But, I can always find places to dayhike.  Here are places that I recommend:
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Mueller State Park (near Florissant) will have some hikable areas in March most years.
Garden of the Gods
Roxborough State Park near Denver
Black Canyon National Park may have some rim trails that will hikable.
Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction
Adobe Badlands near Delta, Colorado
Dinosaur National Monument

Also get Mark Pearson's and John Fielder's book on BLM wild areas.  Not sure of current edition or title, but the one I have is called "Colorado's Canyon Country" and is published by Westcliffe Publications.  In it, I have hiked some not doable in March, but these will be good:
Adobe Badlands
Bangs Canyon
Gunnison Gorge (5 hikes) - Don't do this one if there is the least sign of rain or snow.  Roads are nasty with slippery clay!
Hunter Canyon
Roubideau - May be too high for March, but so far this year could be good.
South Shale Ridge
Sewemup Mesa
Rio Grande
San Luis Hills
The last two are between the Sand Dunes and the New Mexican border, and are neat places you may not see others.  I did the Rio Grande area one year in February and found dozens of bald eagles wintering there.

Others in the same book that look interesting for my "off-season" hiking are:
Cross Canyon
Dolores River Canyon
Snaggletooth
Black Ridge Canyons (accessible from Colorado Nat'l Monument) - I've actually done Rattlesnake Canyon back in there.  Need 4WD to do these.
Oil Spring Mountain
Pinon Ridge

If you get out this way, give me a call.  I live in Gunnison, and we could meet for a meal or something.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 04 2013, 9:55 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE


(siggy2xc @ Feb. 26 2013, 12:19 pm)
QUOTE
We all have 0 degree bags, sounds like we should definitely dress in plenty of layers. You can see a live cam from the visitor center here http://1.usa.gov/WdMJFz

I'm not sure how much experience you have camping, so ignore this if you already know it, but make sure you have decent sleeping pads under your 0*F bags.  Sleeping on the bare tent floor, you'll find yourself shivering all night in those bags (any bags, really) with no insulation under you.

Just a heads-up, I wanted to toss that out there.  Have fun!

- Mike


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