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Beaver Creek Trail, Zirkel Wilderness, CO July 14, 2007

February 3, 2008

Posted February 2, 2007


Been a bit busy (and got sick) over the Christmas holidays, so I did not get much done on my photos or web sites. But, spring time is getting closer, which means I can start hiking again, which means I need to get my backlog of prior hikes documented. So, time to get cracking : )

Prior to Conor getting to Colorado this past summer, I did get to do some hiking on my own. One weekend I got a late start, and just wanted to go check out some place I had not been before, but would not be a really long hike. This ended up being an 8 mile or so hike. So, just enough to see some good country (and want to come back to see more of it).

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. The photos in the gallery are a quantum leap in size and quality compared to the little teaser photos I put in this site’s trip narrative.
I have two other links that will help locate the area if you are interested in making the hike yourself. A Google Earth map can be found here. Use the scale bar on the left side of the Google map to help zoom in or out to help locate the area based on where you live. (Look on the right side of this web site for a link to a Google map that shows ALL my trips.)
In order to help you with the actual trail itself, you can use this link to view a topo map of the Beaver Creek trailhead.
All links open a new browser window.


The Beaver Creek trail is a very under utilized path that isn’t too far from Big Creek Lakes. Takes around 20 minutes or so to get to it from Big Creek Lake road. But, since there is no big lake, and the trail does not really head back into the high country (until you go a long ways), it’s not as popular as other trails. But, as can be seen above and in the following photos, it’s really really nice when you get up on top. And, yes, those meadows are in the wilderness. So, no jeeps : )

The trail head is close to some camp grounds, not extremely developed, so you could camp and just walk to the trailhead. The trailhead was not, ummm, very crowded.


The trail starts off very quiet and peaceful like.


And stays that way for at least a couple of miles. In fact, I never really hit any “steep” sections (much less any switchbacks) compared to most of the trails I walk on.

Even though it was the middle of July, there were still some trees down over the trail.


But, mostly it was clear sailing (so to speak).


Although it’s difficult to say, since the trail kept some distance from Beaver Creek itself, I think there is quite an extensive set of meadows that follow the stream up river. You occasionally could catch a glimpse of the meadows through the trees .


You enter the official Wilderness (Zirkel) area a ways up the trail.


At this time of the year, there were quite a few wild flowers around.


Making sure nothing is down there ready to jump out at me. Quite the set of tonsils : )


The peaceful trail………..


From the view of a fox……….


Slightly different view. I can’t decide which one I like best : )


The further up the trail I went, the more open it became. I’m not sure if the trail angles away from Beaver Creek, but the meadow doesn’t appear to have much of a creek in it.


Uh oh. Red flower (also known as a Native American Paint Brush) ahead. Series of photos from far away to macro.




Super macro


Found a Beaver Creek purple flower.


Approaching the “pass”. Not like normal passes. Also, this is where I made a “mistake” in my hike. I was looking for a trail that cut off towards Davis Peak and which then continues on to intersect with the 7 Lakes Trail that Conor and I took (see ).


However, as I approached the top I met a group of people……..


A lady had spent the night up on the trail because her riding animals had walked away from her. Her family then had come up today looking for her. She is the one riding in front of the group of horsepeople and one person is walking (he let the lady borrow the horse for the ride back to camp). Anyway, she was no worse for having spent the night out by herself (about my mom’s age). The asked me to keep a lookout for the missing stock, but I never did see any.


Anyway, they are headed back down the trail that I had just come up. That’s the only people I saw on the trail (which is more than I normally see on my hikes).


So, I continued on my way (but, like I said, in all the excitement I made a mistake). I saw a big opening off through the trees and headed over to take a look. I believe it is what is called Stump Park on the maps. Pretty big meadow.


The open meadows gave me a view of the country that was to the west of me. That may, or may not, be Dome Peak in the background (I really need to start carrying a compass with me : )


The trail cuts back into the forest at the end of the meadow. Stays level for quite a ways and then starts going down into the Encampment River drainage after 1/2 a mile or so.


Anyway, I continued on down the trail for another 1/2 to 1 mile. Looking for my turnoff to hike up Davis Peak. Finally went far enough that I knew I had missed it. So, before I got too far down into the next valley, I headed back. On the way back took a photo of what I am pretty sure is Davis Peak.


Zoom in a little on that….


O well, maybe some other time. As I crossed part of that big meadow (one end of Stump Park), I got another view of Davis Peak (or, I assume it’s Davis Peak) and decided that the turnoff must be back close to where I saw the people on horses. It would not make sense to loose altitude (and travel farther away from it as I am here) and then head back towards the mountain. Also, another reason I eventually decided not to head for Davis Peak (if I found the turnoff) is due to those dark clouds you can see on the right side of the photo below.


So, I got all the way back to where I had met the horse people and found out that in all the excitement I had missed seeing this……


Yes. The sign post was long since fallen, and while this is a place where 4 trails diverge, it’s pretty easy to miss. And miss it I did. The photo above is looking back down the trail.
This photo is looking “up” the Davis Peak trail. But, I was so busy checking out the on coming horses that I totally missed it (and the fallen sign post). Good lesson to learn.


Just to let you know, here is the other “trail” that heads off to Buffalo Ridge to a trailhead that looks to be pretty unused and next to a rather large park. Might have to go check it out sometime.


Anyway, lesson learned (got to keep your eyes peeled at all times; even when (especially when) you get distracted).

I headed on back down the trail towards the truck and Fort Collins. I did spot an interesting couple of birds. I’m not really a “bird person”, but these were pretty colorful. So, I took some photos.


This “couple” were not that far off, but they were sorta small (and the light had sorta gone) so it max’d the capability of my camera. But better than nothing.


Just to let you know, there were some nice streams that I crossed. I was getting tired (with most of the trail still remaining to get down), so I did not do the little creeks the full justice they deserve.


Once back to the truck, I headed down the road. But, even after getting in the truck I had to stop a few times to capture just a few more photos (lucky no one was with me : ) This deer did not trust me even though I never got out of the truck. I took the photo through the passenger side window.


Luke Creek valley and the rainstorm that I missed up in the mountains. The bottom land is all private ranch land. Big mountains in the background are in the Zirkels. This is looking south.


Anyway, neat hike. Extremely mellow trail that ends up after 2 or 3 miles of very gradual climbing in some beautiful upper meadows. Another great little Colorado gem.

– Geoff Weatherford

2 Comments leave one →
  1. matt permalink
    May 24, 2010 4:51 pm

    would recommend this trail for access to davis peak? or would buffalo ridge trail be better?

    my pops and i are going to be doing some backpacking in the zirkels and are looking for little human contact without having to go 5 or more miles in. we thought the views from davis peak would be a good goal?

    is there much wildlife in the area? when does the snow leave?

    thanks for the blog and photos, by the way. i stumbled upon your site randomly and have really enjoyed it!


    • May 29, 2010 3:52 pm

      Well, I have not hiked the Buffalo Ridge trail yet, but just looking at it (I really must do it this summer : ) on the map the Buffalo Ridge trail looks about a mile longer, but more “interesting” than the Beaver Creek trail. So, you get to travel along some open ridges which would generate some great views. So, nothing wrong with the Beaver Creek trail, just a slightly different experience. Note that if you are planning to do the hike in one day, that “one mile” difference ends up being two miles in total : )
      There is a lot of wildlife in the area. Deer, moose, elk, small game, etc. However, it is not “park” wildlife. So, the game is pretty watchful of humans and will run/hide (generally) if given the opportunity. Thus, you have to maintain silence on the trail (to a larger degree than in a well traveled national park where the wildlife is used to seeing more humans and they are not hunted by humans). Also, time of day plays a big factor. Much more wildlife out and moving around at dawn and dusk (which is NOT when most people do their hiking : )
      I wouldn’t attempt hiking in the high country of that area prior to the first week in July. Even then you will most likely encounter patches of snow in the high country (timberline and higher north facing protected slopes. Depends on how much snow they got each year and how warm the spring/early summer has been. The local forest service can always offer advice on current conditions (they generally have a phone number).

      Geoff Weatherford

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