My first trip was a few days after Thanksgiving. I had some errands to run in Salida with a gap of time to get in a hike between errands. I originally planned on going into the higher mountains just west of Salida for a snowshoe outing. Clouds obscured most of the higher mountains, with heavy snow falling and high winds making them less desirable. I decided on checking out Longfellow Gulch.
Longfellow Gulch is an obscure destination. Access to the area is just on the edge of Salida, but I think even most of the locals don't know about it. I first heard about it from a coworker, Russell Morgan. He was told of an old mining settlement located in the gulch with several old buildings in good shape. I tried to research the area but found very little. There was a brief snippet of an article in a local magazine over ten years ago and one website with a few pictures but little details. Russell tried to visit the area but wound up in the wrong gulch.
I had little information to go on. I had Russell's directions to the start of the hike and my memory from several months prior when I glanced at a map of the area.
My hike started at the edge of Salida along the Arkansas River just off of County Road 102. A dirt road ends along the river and becomes a trail that follows it downstream along the railroad tracks. I followed this trail until it ended at turnaround after 15 minutes of walking. While walking along this stretch I saw three separate herds of bighorn sheep, 14 sheep total. This is the start of Bighorn Sheep Canyon, so this seemed appropriate to see the sheep there.
|The main herd of sheep
|Sheep determining if I'm a threat
|A good look at his horns
|Traveling up Longfellow Gulch
|Further up the gulch
After the initial debris, I soon reached the first old cabin immediately along the trail. While time has definitely taken its toll on the structure, it was in better shape than a lot of the similar structures I have stumbled upon. Often these old structures are just a few old logs and maybe a wall but this still had remnants of the roof. Based on the small amount of information I could find on this area, I think this may have been an old school building for the settlement.
|The old school building
|The second cabin
|The gated mine entrance
|The view inside the mine
|Clouds over the Sangres from the ridge
|An open mine pit
|Some sort of observation deck on a nearby ridge
|Descending the gulch
A few weeks back, Puma and I traveled County Road 1A to Hillside, Colorado, just south of the tiny town of Cotopaxi. This is a road I have driven many times. Along the east side of the road is a small but rugged, rocky mountain with numerous cliffs. Although I've passed this area numerous times, I didn't know much about it and decided to check it out on a map. I found out that the 7873' mountain was informally called Cotopaxi Peak (Not too be confused with the 19,000' volcano in Ecuador). It rises more than 1500' above the town of Cotopaxi, and more than 1000' above 1A at its closest point. Naturally I wanted to hike the peak. Since Puma was working, I had the day after Christmas to myself and this was a good time to check out the mountain.
Given its lowly elevation by Colorado standards, this peak is pretty obscure and there isn't much information about it. Although it is direct, there is no access off of 1A due to private property. Most of the mountain however is on BLM land and there is access on the east side via County Road 37. CR 37 appeared to be driveable by most vehicles, however, it was extremely icy and somewhat steep. I parked along the road after 3/4 of a mile or so.
|The view toward the summit from the start of my hike
|Dense vegetation including yucca and cholla
|Looking at my second jumble of rock I had to traverse
|An uneven rocky section to navigate
|Another look toward the summit
|A closeup of the summit
|One of many interesting rock formations
|Traversing a mix of rock, snow, and scrub oak
|More scrub oak to pick my way through
|Nearing the summit block
|Looking back at my route
|A look back as I near the summit
|Looking toward the true summit
|Eagle Peak and Wulsten Baldy
|Looking down the Sangres
Although these summits are small at only 7873', the climb is well worth it. Since the summits are open, the views are phenomenal. The Sangre de Cristos are quite close and the peaks offer grandstand views. The mountains in the southern Sawatch are in clear view as well. Pikes Peak stands out to the northeast. The numerous surrounding small peaks of the Wet Mountain Valley and Arkansas Hills are quite interesting as well with their interesting rock features.
|The Sangres north of Hayden Pass
|The Sangres including Bushnell Peak and the Twin Sisters
|Looking back at the first summit
|Looking north from the summit
|A view at the many lower mountains in the vicinity
|Looking down the Wet Mountain Valley toward Westcliffe
|Looking across the cliffs below the true summit
|Looking north into McCoy Gulch
|A view north from the trail into a sea of jumbled rocks
|Another look at the endless rocky terrain
|The Sangres from Eagle Peak to Horn Peak
|An old windmill along CR 37
|The main group of turkeys
|Another neat rock outcropping
|Large rocks piled up with the Sangres in the background
|Eagle Peak and Wulsten Baldy
|Another look down the Sangres
|Another shot of the Sangres north of Hayden Pass
taken near the end of the hike
|The long ridge on the right is 13,012' Twin Sisters North.
I live a few miles just below this ridge.
Lookout Mountain is another obscure peak located between the settlements of Texas Creek and Hillside. The area is considered Cotopaxi, but isn't really that close to Cotopaxi. I lived in this area for a couple months when I first moved to Colorado and Lookout Mountain is a prominent landmark in the area. The area has numerous small mountains but Lookout Mountain stands out with its rocky summit block. Although the entire route can be hiked on BLM land, I never really knew how to access the mountain. After I moved from the immediate area, I forgot about Lookout Mountain.
Even though it slipped to the back the mind, I occasionally thought about climbing Lookout Mountain. After hiking Cotopaxi Peak the day prior, I could see Lookout Mountain and thought about climbing it again. Since I had a few hours the next day to kill while Puma was working, I thought I'd give it a shot.
Not unlike Cotopaxi Peak, there isn't a whole lot of information on Lookout Mountain either. I did find a brief trip report however on the mountain and found out where to access the BLM land in the area. I passed the access point, BLM Road 6162, many times when I lived in the area, but never noticed it.
BLM 6162 was snow covered from the start, so I started my hike at the end of the road around 7400' in elevation. Even in better conditions, I don't think I would have driven my Subaru up the road, which was a fairly narrow jeep road. Generally the snow was only a couple inches at most on the lower part of the road with several bare spots where the sun hit it.
|BLM Road 6162
|The first good look at Lookout Mountain
from the road
|Lookout Mountain on the left and a rocky ridge to the right
|Cliffs along a ridge
|A close up of the main cliff on the ridge
|Entering the scrub oak
|Making my way up the gulch
|Fairly easy travel in the gulch
|A jagged ridge above
|Making my way along the rock and scrub
|A good look at the subpeak in front of the main summit
|Looking across a spire
|Pikes Peak from the ridge
|Looking down the jagged ridge
|Approaching the summit block
|A scrambly part of the summit, it's hard to gauge
height and steepness in the photo but
it is steeper and higher than it looks
|Looking down the jagged ridge
|Looking toward the highest point of Lookout Mountain
|Beginning the downclimb into the notch
|The view from the notch
|Again it's hard to judge by the picture but this is
downclimb into the notch and is a consistent
Class 4 with Class 5 difficulty near the bottom
|Looking across the lower summit from the peak
|The Crestone Group
|With the sun angle late in the day, the Sangres
didn't photograph as good as usual
|Looking across the face of the lower summit
|The summit block of the higher summit from just below
|The higher point is actually on the left peak. The photo doesn't
show scale well but the far right is at least 100' or more drop.
|The long ridge in late day light
|A closeup of the ridge
|Descending toward the gulch
|A high cliff along the ridge
|One last look back toward the summit in fading daylight
|A view of the Crestones on the descent.
While these hikes aren't as grandiose as some better known destinations, they still make for worthwhile trips. After all, most time spent in the outdoors is worthwhile and it's always fun to explore new areas. More than likely, you will get to enjoy these obscure places to yourself unlike more popular destinations.
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