Heidi Wirtz : Hiking the Fourth of July Trail

Elephant meadow***
I have to admit that ever since my addiction to rock climbing began, my “purely” hiking trips began to dwindle. Not that I don’t hike, but typically I have either a heavy crag pack, a monstrous backpacking pack or a crash pad on my back. However, despite my climbing bug, I still can’t miss the amazing wild flower season in Colorado…blankets of every color in the rainbow, high mountain meadows, snowy peaks and deep blue skies…yep, can’t be missed!

Some of the most spectacular wildflower hikes that I have ever been on are actually located very near my current hometown of Boulder, CO. One such hike named “The Fourth of July Trail”, located in the Indian Peaks, is perhaps my favorite on the Front Range and one that I frequent on rest days during the summer. Yesterday was one of those days….

Once again I got to bring out one of my favorite The North Face packs for a quick day hike. I find the Verto pack, which is a small lightweight summit pack, to be perfect for the quick outing. It actually holds quite a bit and I can fit my raincoat, fleece, hat, camera, water and snacks easily into this pack, typically with room to spare. The Verto doesn’t have any unneeded bells and whistles, making it so light that it barely adds any extra weight to your outing, which I really like. The top lid is also perfect size for my bee sting kit (yep unfortunately I have an allergy to the very bug that keeps the flowers blooming), sunscreen and quick snacks.

Patrick hiking**

Driving up to the trailhead from Boulder we could see the clouds already building, thunderheads beginning to make their way upward into what looked like giant bulbous mushrooms. By the time we turned up the final dirt road, large drops of water began splatting on the windshield and soon turned into a full on deluge with thunder cracking in the distance. Committed, Patrick, my boyfriend rallied up the winding, bumpy, potholed road to the trailhead.  Finding plenty of parking spaces at the trailhead, which is actually unusual, we pulled in front row. Maybe the rain was turning people away, or the fact that we were not getting an alpine start, but rather, what I call a crack of noon start. Either way, it was looking like we would have the trail pretty much all to ourselves, which is always a bonus in my book.

Since I have lived in Colorado for over twenty years, I feel pretty comfortable with the often times schizophrenic weather in the summer. One minute it can be raining buckets with terrifying ear cracking thunder and lightning and the next blue bird and hot. So, by the time we parked the car the birds were singing and sun peaking out. We jumped out of the car, grabbed our packs and headed up the trail. I love this trail for several reasons, not just for the awesome flowers, but also for the streams, waterfalls, hanging meadows and amazing views of the continental divide. Typically I hike up to Caribou pass, but yesterday since the lightning seemed to be hitting the pass, we opted to head to diamond lake, which keeps you just below tree line. I had never gone this way, but to my delight the lake was just as awesome as the pass. Towering peaks all around, alpine lake, flower filled meadows…who could complain? Apparently there is amazing fishing and quite a number of great looking campsites up there too.

So, if you are looking for something to do on the front range this summer, I would suggest grabbing your pack and heading up for a beautiful day hike into the Indian peaks. Since we won’t be getting our usual 4th of July fireworks this year, go out and experience Mother Nature’s version of exploding colors!

Collage flower hike

Published on July 26, 2012

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