Upper Piney Lake

July 21, 2018 · Eagles Nest Wilderness

The hike to Upper Piney Lake is an odd hike. The trailhead is at a remote resort, Piney River Ranch, basically a dude-ranch in the middle of nowhere. I'm sure when the weather is good the views from the lake at the ranch are breathtaking. However, on this hike the valley was filled with wildfire smoke from the nearby Lake Christine Fire. The first three miles of the hike are piece of cake and go very quickly, tough the wildfire smoke slows you down.

I did notice some odd looking animal tracks on the first leg of the trail. They were from padded foot animals and not those of a dog. They were infrequent but frequent enough that told me these are not that of a dog. One set that I saw a few times had claw marks digging into the trail. In order of likely animals those could have come from are Porcupine, Marmot, Badger or Bear. Another set where so clear that it had to be a cat, they could have been from a Bobcat, Lynx or Mountain Lion; they seemed too big to be a Bobcat or Lynx. Didn't see anything that could have made those prints.

Once you get to the bend in the trail that turns right and up into the valley and pushes on to Piney Lake changes this trail from easy to difficult. The first three miles are well maintained and downed trees on the trail have been cut and. However, after the bend, the trail is not maintained at all. There were a few things that made this next leg to be so difficult - though the wildfire smoke cleared for about 2 hours mid-day, the valley quickly filled up with more smoke. Also, since this leg of the trail is not maintained, all downed trees across the trail are not cleared. What makes that more challenging is the official trail is lightly used and there are social trails everywhere, making it difficult to spot and stay on or near the official trail; so there is a lot of stopping examining the GPS and backtracking, then going forward again, on another social trail, stopping and backtracking again.

Ultimately, I did not make it all the way to Upper Piney Lake, there was just too much wildfire smoke and I had gotten to the point of making excuses as to why not to continue, which included: the smoke, I had been bushwhacking for about an hour and there was at least another hour-plus of bushwhacking to get to Upper Piney Lake, it would be dusk by the time I got back to the first part of the trail with the odd animal footprints on the trail and didn't want to meet up with them. I did manage to get in some good pictures along the way. All-in-all this turned out to be 10.5 hours on the trail coming out at 14.4 miles roundtrip.


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AREAS HIKED

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness10
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 Wilderness2
White River National Forest10
Zirkel Wilderness1

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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 ...