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Comanche Peak Wilderness, CO July 2, 2006

March 25, 2007

Posted March 25, 2007


Took a hike into the Comanche Peak Wilderness last summer. Pretty nice place. Well, ok, REALLY nice place. And, only took me one and a half hours to get there. Basically, go up the Poudre Canyon (Colorado Hwy 14) to the Pingree Park turnoff (about halfway to Cameron Pass). Then go 8 miles up the Pingree Park gravel road to the turn off for the Crown Point forest service road. The Crown Point road leads to the Crown Point (and Browns Lake) trail head. It takes about 10 miles (or so) of driving till you arrive at the parking for the trail that goes over (or, close to) Crown Point and down into Browns Lake.

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 of the Crown Point TH here and a topo map of Browns Lake itself here. A Google Earth map can be found here (you may need to adjust the scale bar on the left side of the Google map). All links open a new browser window.


You’ll see the “available light” changes in the photos. When I started hiking on the trail it was sunny with a very few scattered clouds. The clouds kept increasing so that 2 hours later (on the trail), it was mostly cloudy and there were scattered thunderstorms. By the time I got back to my truck it was raining (and I was in rain all the way back down Poudre Canyon). That said, the mixture of clouds and sunshine made for some very interesting and beautiful high mountain scenary. So, I took lots of photos : )

Let’s have a quick lesson in photography gear before I start talking about the actual hike. On the way up the forest service road I had the fortunate “opportunity” to take some pictures of wild turkeys. Two turkey hens and a dozen poults (or, for normal people, baby turkeys : ) crossed the road in front of me. I grabbed my trusty camera and attempted to catch up to the turkeys as they walked (rather quickly) up the mountainside. I soon discovered that they could walk up the mountain faster than I could and so I made the photo shoot as best as I could. Long story short, my camera is NOT made for focusing accurately through trees and brush. Here is the best I could do.


O well, just an excuse to get a “better” camera some day : ) For some interesting reading on wild turkeys, see Wikipedia’s entry here. Such as, there is some evidence that our current domestic turkey may have originally been domesticated by the Mayans.

Anyway, parked my truck at the trailhead for Crown Point/Browns Lake and took off hiking. The first mile or two was a gradual to moderate uphill trek through some very open forest areas and a lot of meadows. At this time of the year this meant there were quite a few wild flowers around. Eventually you get high enough to start getting a view of the surrounding mountains. I believe this view is looking SW towards RMNP (Rocky Mountain National Park) (note to self, bring compass and map on trips : ).


As can be seen, the sky is partly clear and there were lots of times when the sun was shining on me. This would change.

One thing I found out during this hike is that there is a LOT of great hiking in this area that I really never considered before. So, as an example, a person could hike from here all the way to Trailridge Road (that’s Colorado Hwy 34) in RMNP without crossing (or even coming close to) any type of road. Yah, good stuff.


So, just as I was getting just a little tired of going uphill, I saw that the uphill section was coming to a close. At the same time, I noticed that the amount of blue sky seemed to be diminishing. Oooops.


As the sign states, here was the official boundary for the Comanche Peak Wilderness Area. Behind the sign two things stand out. One, the trail can be seen continuing over a distant ridge. And, two, the clouds that were rolling in from that direction were looking distinctly “heavy”.


Let’s talk about that for a bit. So, clouds are ok. Rain from the clouds are ok (helps to have a parka or poncho, of course). You can expect some wind also. But, the other thing you can also expect is lightening. As in “bolts of fire from the sky” type of lightening. It’s a fact of life in the Rocky Mountains, particularly in the summertime. Generally, people die every summer in Colorado from being struck by lightening. It’s not a fun subject, but being aware of this issue can (truly) be a life saver. Make an attempt to NOT be on high exposed ridges in the mountains during stormy type weather. Even prior to the rainy part of the storm getting to you. “……Colorado is 24th in lightning flash density, but is ranked 10th for lightning casualty rates, said Hodanish. The reason for the discrepancy is that a lot of Coloradoans participate in outdoor activities like hiking and camping in the exposed, lightning-prone high country……..”(National Geographic news article).

So, after a quick calculation of risk, reward, life, death, etc., I decided to continue onward. Because, well, I mean, I could see the trail going over the ridge and, gee, I wonder what’s on the other side of the ridge? The eternal draw. Of course, on the way to the distant ridge, I did have to stop and admire some flowers. Such as this nice purple Colorado mountain flower (a new species : )


And this Columbine.


The views of other distant mountains were also enjoyable.


But, in time, I did make it to the top of the other ridge. And the view was worth it. But, it did allow for me to see the upcoming storm. Oh well, looked like I had an hour or two before it really hit.


The ridge did allow for a looksee at Browns Lake. It can be seen right below me (by the way, this photo (and all the others) is a lot better when viewed at my gallery).


Hmmmm. Decisions, decisions. I could either spend a couple of hours hiking down to the lake and quickly exiting the area. Or, I could meander around on the ridges above it, enjoy the view, take pictures, eat lunch, ………. OK. Easy decision : ) I decided to hike along the ridge just to the right (west-ish) of the lake.


This afforded me some views of areas that I would like to visit on my next hike to this region.


And, gave me some time to just sit and relax.


But, eventually, little drops of liquid stuff began to pitter patter around me, thunder could be heard in the (not very) distance, and it was time to either find cover or head back to the truck. I decided on the truck.

On the way back, I did pass by a group who appeard to be on their way to Browns Lake. Here they are working up the final ridge (where I had lunch).


Maybe I should zoom in a little. There, much better.


The light and clouds kept changing, which meant the whole scenary of meadows, mountains, and sky kept changing. Which meant I could take lots of pictures of the same thing and they all looked different. Fun.


On the way back down I also took a picture of an area that I would (eventually) be spending a lot of time exploring. The Rawahs. I’ve already posted once about that area and will be posting many more to come. Neat place.


So, got back to the truck just as the rain hit. The storm lasted all the way back to Fort Collins. Overall a lovely day hike to a very beautiful area that is very accessible. Yet, at the same time, Comanche Peak Wilderness is not well known and used as much as some other places in northern Colorado (such as RMNP, the Pourdre Canyon, etc.). I’ll be back.

– Geoff Weatherford

5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 17, 2007 2:38 pm

    Interesting shots. Thanx for sharing. Richard

  2. May 22, 2007 2:32 am


    Thanks for viewing. The photos don’t really capture the feeling of being there; or, how much of a neat jewel it is. But, best I could do at the time : )
    Definitely a recommended place. I will most likely do a overnight backpack trip there this summer.

    – Geoff Weatherford

  3. May 22, 2010 12:22 am


    Would you mind if we use this “reply” section to point out our new Comanche Peak Wilderness Area: Hiking & Snowshoeing Guide book. It was just published last week, and it covers all 19 officially maintained trails of the Wilderness, as well as off trail routes to the 7 named peaks. In addition, we have sections on Leave No Trace and the Wilderness rules and regulations.

    Thank you!

    Joe and Frédérique Grim

  4. May 24, 2010 1:14 am

    Joe and Frederique Grim,

    I don’t really have a policy for this. So, as long as it doesn’t bother anyone, it’s ok with me.

    Besides, I took a look at the book on Amazon and see that it is one of the CMC (Colorado Mountain Club) pack guide books. So, since I started my career as a hiker with the CMC club (many decades ago : ), that’s extra good news to me. I’ve got great memories of the CMC activities back those many years. I’m glad that they are still active.

    Good luck with the book.


    Geoff Weatherford

  5. May 25, 2010 5:36 pm

    Thank you, Geoff. Our book’s website is It is available at local northern Colorado outdoor stores and bookstores, on and of course, at the CMC website:

    Thanks again.

    Joe and Frédérique Grim

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