Bowmen Creek

October 20, 2020 · Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

The hike along the Bowmen Creek in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness inside the Gunnison National Forest is described as easy. That is true, for the first 1.3 miles of the trail, after that it is a difficult trail and requires GPS. The trail or what would passes as a trail is very lightly traveled and is an exercise in finding and following game trails until the fade out. After reviewing my step-by-step GPS tracks, there was not much deviation from the documented trail. However, it is not really a trail and requires a lot of bushwhacking through knee-high to well over six feet tall Willow shrubs.

The trailhead for Bowmen Creek is deep inside the Taylor Park Reservoir Recreation Area. It is huge recreation area, and during the Summer it is overrun with quads and is like a go-kart racetrack. However, at this time of year, the campgrounds had closed the week before and this trek was on a weekday. As such, there was nobody in the recreation area. When there is nobody in this area, the recreation area is very pretty; it is a long, wide, and flat valley floor.

It was a crystal-clear day and driving to the trailhead along the dirt road, I glanced down at the outside temperature at about 8am, with the clear blue sky, it was a deceptively cold 12 degrees outside. By the time I got to the trailhead, the temperature had doubled, a real heatwave. I was the only one at the trailhead, and since there was nobody in the recreation area, it was so peaceful at the trailhead, it could have been a great day just to sit in a chair here and soak up the sun.

The elevation gain of the trail is easily absorbed over the distance of the trail and there are very view noticeable elevation gains sections along the trail, or more aptly, along the patchwork of game trails. The trail is muddy, even for late October. However, at this time of the morning much of the mud is frozen, but not solid. Postholing in ankle and knee-deep mud was a common occurrence throughout the trek. I had new Summer boots for this trek, so what better way to break them in.

The sky was clear and only a noticeably light breeze. Up through the first 1.3 miles of the trail, it is open and airy and would be a great Summer short hike. At mile 1.3 the trail enters tall and thick stands of conifers and little sunlight makes its way through the thick canopy and is noticeably colder along this stretch. After exiting the thick conifers, there are patches of snow to remind you that it is late October and Winter is coming.

At this point there is a river crossing and an open view of what the day holds ahead, miles and miles of bushwhacking through winterized Willow shrubs, meaning they have shed their leaves and the branches are hard and sharp. The documented trail suggests staying to the East of the river; however, I did that on the return and that is not correct. There is nothing that resembles a trail on the East side of the River. The West side of the river has more sun, and this is where the task starts of finding and following game trails. Sometimes the game trails are easy to locate and follow. Other times they meander through the Willow shrubs.

It is confusing from here on to the Bowmen Creek Pass, when a game trail fades out, you look over the valley and on the other side of the river is something that looks like the documented trail. Bushwhacking through the shrubs and crossing the river to connect with what looked like the trail on the other side of the river turned out to be another game trail that faded out shortly after picking it up. This happened several times along the creek. As a result, I crossed the river several times and bushwhacked through exceptionally dense shrubs.

The last time I crossed the river back over to the West side, I came upon a small clearing just before a small pitch an noticed bones, they were a femur and a neck bone; based on the size they were probably from an Elk. Before coming to that conclusion, I joked with myself that they were probably from the last hiker that attempted this trek. About 20 minutes later I came across the other part of the animal, a sunbaked jaw bone.

All along this trail, I was grateful for the fantastic weather, a clear blue sky and virtually no wind. The original plan was to trek to Bowmen Creek Pass and skirt along the Northern boundary of Gunnison Forest over to Tellurium Lake or Ptarmigan Lake - depending on which map you look at. However, after reaching the basin just below Bowmen Creek Pass and surveying the area, the only way to the pass was bushwhacking through more shrubs. Having had my fill of bushwhacking and knowing I would have to do it all again on the way out. I opted for lunch just below Bowmen Creek Pass. It was a beautiful day and so peaceful. Oddly, where I chose to have lunch, I noticed several more animal bones. It appears something else thought this was a good place for lunch as well.

The way back out was just as hard and complicated as the way in. However, I did try to pick up the trail on the last river crossing and follow it. That was a mistake, I ended up in an area of the forest that most people never see. The area was full of moss-covered downed trees and moss-covered peat bogs. Based on the animal tracks in the peat, everybody, two-legged and four-legged had a difficult time in this area.

Beyond the first 1.3 miles of the trail, this is an exceptionally difficult trail. I can easily see how someone could get lost and require a Search & Rescue event if they did not have a GPS with them. It's difficult with a GPS. Thankfully, the weather was perfect for this mid-week trek that turned out to be 10.3 miles roundtrip. I'm glad I did as much of this trek as I did, I feel I gained a lot of valuable experience.


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AREAS HIKED

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness9
Eagles Nest Wilderness10
Fossil Ridge Wilderness1
Fraser Experimental Forest1
Gunnison National Forest1
Holy Cross Wilderness12
Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness3
Indian Peaks Wilderness17
James Peak Wilderness1
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness2
Mount Evans Wilderness2
Mount Massive Wilderness2
Pike National Forest1
Raggeds Wilderness1
Rocky Mountain National Park41
San Isabel National Forest6
Sangre de Cristo Wilderness1
White River National Forest10
Zirkel Wilderness1

TRAILS BY MONTH

January3
February2
March2
April3
May5
June16
July26
August26
September27
October5
November4
December3

SEASONS ON THE TRAIL

2021

The 2021 Season has started. Though the pandemic created a challenging 2020 season, I am looking forward to building on the 2020 season to create an incredible 2021 season. The pandemic has taught me a few things about when and where to go hiking. As such planning for the 2021 se...

2020

The 2020 hiking season has been incredible, even in the face of adversity. The pandemic has made for a logistically challenging season. Somehow, I was still able to piece together an incredible 230+ miles on the trail this season and able to see some truly spectacular places. Enj...

2019

The 2019 hiking season was an interesting season, this was the first season that I started and ended the season snowshoeing and a full summer of hiking for a total of just under 225 miles on the trail. What this season has taught me is that it's winter in the mountains for a long...

2018

The 2018 Summer Hiking Season has come to an end. What a season, incredible views and just over 230 miles on the trail. Even with 230 miles, this season seems short to me, perhaps I'll add something to it during the winter season - snowshoeing perhaps. In the meantime, I hope you...

2017

The 2017 hiking season was interesting, I was able to explorer more of Colorado's National Forests and get in some camping, not as much camping as I would have liked, but hopefully next year I'll able to get in more multi-day hikes. This season came in just under 129 miles roundt...

2016

The 2016 hiking season was about spreading out and exploring more of Eagles Nest Wilderness, Indian Peaks Wilderness and touching on White River National Forest - and of course a few trips into Rocky Mountain National Park. These are amazing National treasures. This season came i...

2015

The 2015 hiking season was a big hiking season, I decided to do a fundraiser for The Red Cross (I learned a lot about fundraising - it was very interesting) with my pledge to hike over 200 miles for this season, I came in at 217 miles for the season; what a great time out on the ...

2014

The 2014 hiking season was almost all about exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, it really is a beautiful park. What I learned during the course of this hiking season is, although people may roll their eyes when you say you're going on a hike in RMNP, it really is spectacular ...

2013

2013 is the year this all started. The hike to Pitkin Lake started it all. Although it was a difficult trail, I was hooked immediately. However, I didn't have the right gear and the seasons were changing quickly. So, even though this season only brought two hikes, I new this was ...