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Baby Lakes Trail, WY on August 19, 2005

January 1, 2007

Posted January 1, 2007

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I wanted to check out an interesting small wilderness area on the border of Wyoming and Colorado. The Huston Park Wilderness. Specifically, the Baby Lakes Trail. Based on reviewing the area on maps, it looked as if it would have one or more really nice day hikes. In addition, the area was home to a slightly different type of ecosystem than the normal Rocky Mountains I was used to.

Before I go any further in the trip’s description, here is my standard comment. Please check my photo galleries here for all the larger and higher quality photos for this trip. In addition, you can view a topo map here and a Google Earth map here (you may need to adjust the scale bar on the left side of the Google map). All links open a new browser window.

I knew I had a long day ahead of me just to get to the trailhead because I planned on taking the “long” way. I wanted to see some areas of Colorado and Wyoming I had never been through before. Ended up being a 7 hour drive to get to the trailhead, but I stopped a lot and took pictures. I consider the time well spent.

What I did was head west from Fort Collins (Hwy 14) to Gould, CO, then instead of continuing to Walden, I cut across straight west using some county roads (all gravel) until I hit Hwy 14 again right before it intersects with Hwy 40. This took some additional time, but the scenary of the lush meadows and mountains along the way was worth the trouble.

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When I hit Hwy 40, I took it over Rabbit Ears Pass to Steamboat Springs. Of course, I just had to stop on top of the pass and take more pictures : )

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From Steamboat Springs I headed west on Hwy 40 to Craig (interesting little town). I’ve been through Craig before and always enjoy contrasting it against Steamboat. From what I can see, the economy of Craig (along with Hayden) is very dependent on the nearby coal mining and the Hayden Power station. The Hayden coal fired power plant has caused controversy in the past. It’s definitely a benefit to the surrounding area’s economy (jobs, etc.), but it also adds some pollution to the area. Based on what I’ve read though, it is much “cleaner” now than in the past. I think that as long as coal fired plants are responsibly run, they provide us with both jobs and the needed electricity that everyone likes to use.

From Craig I drove north on Hwy 13 into the great unknown (or, unknown to me). I have to say that I’ve been through more remote and less traveled areas, but the stretch of road between Craig and the Colorado border is not far behind : ) It’s not like this is a main thoroughfare for large numbers of people. Anyway, mostly rolling sage brush covered emptiness (which, to me is much more perferable than driving I-25 to Denver).

Just after crossing the Colorado border you arrive at Baggs, WY. And, after the dry brush covered environment, Baggs looked very nice. It’s located in the Little Snake River valley and was very green. At Baggs, Wy, I turned east and headed up Hwy 70 to try and locate the trailhead for Baby Lakes. I have to say that stretch of the trip was extremely pretty. You first go up the Little Snake River valley (green with lots of big cottonwoods) and then start climbing up into the mountains. I believe this part of the highway is called “Aspen Alley” and with good reason. Must be georgeous in the Fall colors. You also get to see some great views.

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As you come up to the Lost Creek Campground (on the north side of Hwy 70), you will see another sign on the south side of the Hwy that points to the Baby Lake TH. I just drove up to the beginning of the trailhead and pulled off the side of the dirt road for the night. Had it all to myself. I walked down to Lost Creek campground prior to dark just to check it out for future use. Very nice set of campgrounds. Little stream running close by. And, I did not believe my eyes, but firewood stacked by each campsite. Roughly 10 campsites nicely set apart from each other. Only one of which was occupied.

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Right before dark I saw one person walk out of the trail, and that’s all I saw of anyone the entire time I was there. He said hello and then made what I thought at the time a strange comment. “…Good luck following the trail..”

So, as you will see from my further comments in the following paragraphs, this is not a well traveled area. What does that mean? Well, it means that you may well get a nice remote experience if you go hiking on the trails. But it also means that you need to be cautious. If you twist your ankle (or, worse yet, break a bone), it might be a while before someone happens along on the trail that can help you out. This is not like hiking in such places as the Lawn Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. Make sure you let someone know where you will be hiking and when you should be back. Hiking with a friend might be a good idea, also.

So the next morning I started on down the trail. The beginning was well marked (signs, etc.) and the trail very easy to follow. I first made a descent (rapidly) down into the Battle Creek drainage. There I found a bridge and a sign welcoming me to the Huston Park Wilderness. After that the trail slowly climbed up a while and then dropped down into the Baby Lake Creek drainage. The trail follows that drainage all the way up to the Continental Divide where it intersects the CDT (Continental Divide Trail).

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Soon after reaching the Baby Lake Creek and heading up towards the CDT, I realized just how little hiking was done in the Huston Park area. The ecosystem here is made up of a forested area interspersed with rich meadows. This follows all the way up the the Continental Divide which does not look like what you would normally think of the backbone of the west looking like. It also means that if you don’t have much experience in following little used trails you might get a little “confused”. Why, because when the trail enters the meadows it pretty much just disappears into the grass.

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Note that you really can’t get lost, per se, because all you really have to do is keep following the creek upstream. But, it can add to the time required to go up the trail. There are certain “signs” that will help in locating the trail. One is that occassionally you will see posts sticking up from the grass. However, most of those have fallen over. The other “sign” that you will see are “blazes” on the trees which will sometimes have a old metal “stock” sign next to the blaze. However, they are somewhat haphazardly placed and new growth is starting to hide a lot of them.

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What is fairly easy to do, if you don’t trust your ability to follow the trail through the meadows, is to hike along the meadow where it meets the forest. Eventually you will see where the trail enters the forest from meadow. You can then follow the trail through the forest until the next meadow and then repeat the process. What you must not allow to happen is on the way back down the trail you do not want to miss where the trail takes off from Baby Lake Creek and heads off over to Battle Creek. If you miss that for some reason (say, you were tired of trying to locate the trail and were just following the creek down stream), you will have a very long hike before hitting another trailhead and will be very far from your vehicle.

Anyway, I eventually topped out into a very nice series of meadows that led me to the intersection with the CTD. The wildflowers were out (along with some cows : ) and I took my lunch break next to a little spring. It’s interesting that you could follow the CTD out to where it crosses Hwy 70 for a one way trip (instead of going back and retracing my path as I did). I think the Hwy is only another 2-4 miles away. I really did not want to start back down since the area was so pretty (no above timberline environment on this section of the continental divide). But, I did head back down eventually. I expected that I would find my way down through the meadows easier this time, but, as always, it all looks different from the other direction.

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All in all, an extremely nice hike through some very lovely country. I did not see any big game, but I did see a lot of both deer and elk sign. During the fall might be a better time to see the elk, but you would also have to be in the woods at the same time as the hunters. So, if you do that be sure and wear some orange colored clothing.

Oh, the Baby Lakes? I did not see any lakes. I’m not positive, but I believe they must either be slightly off the trail or (and this is most likely) they have filled in and are now part of the meadows.

Since it was summer time, and the days were long, I got back to my truck way before dark. I was going back to Fort Collins immediately, but I drove back a slightly more direct route. So, only took me 2-3 hours to drive back.

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Such pretty country. Even the drive back was awesome.

– Geoff Weatherford

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 10, 2007 2:35 am

    This was an interesting writeup on Baby Lakes Trail. I found it particularly interesting as I was actually there on the day before you, 8-18-05. I have a couple photos of the actual Baby Lakes. I grew up near there, and we return every summer to camp and fish near there. That year, we hiked up to the mine above Baby Lakes. You are correct about the lakes. They are not located on the trail itself, and yes, they have now filled in completely with vegetation, so there are no longer any lakes, only meadow.

  2. March 11, 2007 9:30 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Craig.
    I truly enjoyed the hike and the area. Definitely want to check out the whole area some more. Especially during the Fall. Missed the colors this year.

    Thanks again,

    Geoff Weatherford

  3. Mark Zukas permalink
    May 31, 2010 3:53 am

    Thanks for the primer…..helped me decide to go up there next week. Nice explaination about following trails when they cross meadows……good for the rookies. Pretty pictures with good naritives

    • June 3, 2010 2:19 am

      Mark,

      Happy to help : ) Pretty nice set of meadows that lead up to a section of the Continental Divide trail (which looked very nice; I’ll have to hike it sometime).
      Might still be a bit wet. Possibly a few packs of snow in the shade in places. Maybe not. I think most snow will be gone below 9,000 feet in elevation by now.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Geoff Weatherford

  4. Jennifer permalink
    July 20, 2014 8:39 am

    Thank you very much for this description. I was there yesterday (7.19.2014) and had trouble finding the trail again once I left the third meadow and in fact turned around rather than risk getting totally disoriented. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one to have some trouble! Thanks again, it’s great to have websites like yours.

    • July 21, 2014 9:14 pm

      I need to publish some of my other hikes, been busy with lately.

      I’m not surprised at not finding the trail.  Particularly this year when we’ve had lots of moisture.  Makes for lots of tall grass.

      Anyway, it’s always hard to decide when to say “This is far enough.”  But it’s for sure better to do it “too soon” than “too late.”  So, good choice, I say.

      What I do sometimes is go back the following year if a have a hard time finding a trail.  The second time around everything looks a little more familiar.  So, it’s comfortable, and safer, to go further than the year before.

      You can also catch the continental divide trail along that same highway, at the top of the pass, and just hike back south along a pretty well established trail (but still moderately unused compared to other trails like in Rocky Mountain National Park).  

      All that said, I haven’t been back to that particular area, even though I really thought it was a great place.

      Too many trails, too little time : )

      Thanks for the feedback.

      GeoffW

      ________________________________

Trackbacks

  1. Prong Creek Trail, Elkhorn Mts, CO September 1, 2007 « Paths Trails and Beyond

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