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Round Mtn. Lake, Zirkel Wilderness, CO August 19, 2007

March 2, 2008

Posted March 2, 2008

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Shortly after my son Conor went back to, ummmm, whatever that state is that’s next to China, I put my camper on the truck and headed up to a part of the Zirkel Wilderness (along the western edge of North Park, CO) I had not yet visited. This is very close to the southern end of the wilderness area (I spend most of my time in the northern section because the southern section is closer to Denver…….just kidding………mostly : )
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 Round Mountain trailhead.
All links open a new browser window.

I took off after work, which meant I got up to where I wanted to camp right before dark. Which meant, unfortunately, that I did not get any photos of the country I passed through to get there. A very scenic ranch filled section of North Park (although, quite a bit more built up than the northern section I’m used to). Anyway, found myself a flat place for the night and went to sleep listening to some cows and coyotes : )
Got up the next day to a little rainbow.

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I did see a few other people around, but not many and none at all in “my” campground. Looks to be pretty popular at times. Most likely during cattle round up time and the hunting season.

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That’s ok. I see plenty of people in town.

Took off down the trail and right off I could see it was going to be a mite different than my normal trails. That is, flat (at least for a few miles). But, very pretty.

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The sun was just starting to poke it’s way through the last of the storm clouds that were quickly clearing to the east. This next series of photos show the sun getting stronger as I zoom in a little in each shot.

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Of course, it looked nicer than this. Hard to capture the rising ground fog in the distance.

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Now the sun is hitting full strength. Everything was still pretty wet from the rain.

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Now, when I turned around and started up the trail headed west, it was all full daylight. And that’s looking, off in the distance, pretty close to where I’m headed. Round Mountain is just to the right of those distant hills (hidden behind those beetle killed trees just up the trail from where I stopped to take this photo).

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Here is a bit of a zoom later on up the trail a short ways. So, I’m pretty sure that’s Round Mountain : ) Round Mountain Lake is just to the right of the mountain itself.

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Now, a word about these first few miles. There are a lot of aspens groves you hike through. Such as these.

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And there are a lot of really pretty meadows you hike through/by such as these.

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And the other thing you are going to see a LOT of is this……….. Hmmm. Left or right. Note the rocks in the trail to the left (and note the lack of sign(s))? Surely that means head to the right. Well, no. The actual trail was the one to the left. You will run into this quite a bit.

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So, the problem in the first few miles is not a lack of trails to follow. You will be traveling for 2-3 miles through Newcomb Park. But the trail does not really follow Newcomb Creek. So, the problem is attempting to figure out which trail to follow. Because there are no signs in this section. But, there are a lot of cow trails going everywhere. So, just a friendly word of warning. Keep looking at where you are going. If you don’t eventually see some slash marks on the trees, or the trail dug into the side of a hill really deep (like it’s been used for 50-100 years), then it could be you are not on the trail you want to be on. That said, the trail does follow Newcomb Park itself. So if you just keep heading up the park (or the creek), you will see where the trail crosses Newcomb Creek and begins to gain altitude.

As an example. Another meadow to cross and one trail goes left and another goes sorta straight. Hmmmmm. The one that heads left is hard to see since it’s in the shade, but it is the deeper of the two. However, I think the one that heads to the right (and up into the aspens) is the “correct” trail. But, as I alluded to earlier, I think they both (or, all : ) come together up where the aspens meet those beetle killed pines (cows have a tendency to make a lot of trails). All the aspens in this park must look pretty nice come fall.

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One reason I like to stay on the “higher” trails (besides the better view they give me) is that the “lower” trails have a tendency to meander through some pretty wet, marshy areas. Which the cows (and moose) don’t mind, but I do : )

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I eventually got to the head of Newcomb Park after 2-3 miles of very pleasant hiking through meadows and the groves of aspens. I could now begin to see where I would start to gain altitude. That’s Round Mountain in the distance right over the top of the aspens on the right. I found the meadow to be very “wet” in spots here, so staying to the right is a good idea unless you really want to get your feet/legs wet : )

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Here I’ve gotten a little further up towards the end of the park. The trail heads right into those trees straight ahead and climbs the hills in the background heading to the right of Round Mountain. The meadow has dried out at the very upper end of the park. I did note where a very well defined (cow?) trail headed off uphill to the right in the aspens. Not sure where it went, but the “real” trail continues straight into the trees ahead of me at the end of the meadow. The trail crosses Newcomb Creek shortly after entering the trees.

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The only sign post I saw on the trail after beginning the hike was right before the trail entered the trees at the end of Newcomb Park : )

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As I said, you cross Newcomb Creek shortly after entering the trees. I would recommend this as one of two (or so) good places to stop and eat lunch, take a break, etc. (if you have not already done so). Of course, at the speed I travel, I rarely need to take a break : )

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Prior to starting “uphill” you go through a very pleasant section of woods. The slash mark on the tree to the left reinforces the knowledge that you are on the right trial.

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After a 1/2 mile or so going uphill (not very steep, but definitely gaining altitude) I reached a point in the trail that I could look back down on Newcomb Park This would be another good spot for a lunch and/or extended break.

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Zoom in a little on the park down there. Of course, the majority of Newcomb Park cannot be seen from this point as it is curving around (to the left) and is hidden by the trees. This is only the very smallish upper part of the park. It is very much larger than what can be seen from this view.

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Zoom in max. In the background is North Park with the Rawahs lining the sky on the east side of North Park.

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Quite a bit of time is spent hiking through some rolling hills (mostly uphill : ) with open forest.

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If you aren’t paying attention, you may miss the turnoff to Round Mountain Lake. The main trail to the right continues on up to the continental divide where you can hike out to a trailhead at Summit Lake on Buffalo Pass. Hiking in to Round Mountain lake from Buffalo Pass appears to be a popular route for people as it is a shorter route and has less elevation loss/gain than coming up through Newcomb Park. Anyway, there was no sign posted (big surprise) other than the small pile of rocks. Just make sure to veer to the left and you will get to the lake within 1/4 of a mile or so.

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And there it is. Your first view of the lake will be a “peek through the trees” sighting.

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Zoom in a little on that “thru the trees” photo. Looking very nice.

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Finally made it to the edge of the lake. Here is a photo looking across the lake. Lots of good camping areas. There was one pair of people camping who were leaving just as I arrived. So, not a heavily used area even though I think it’s only a 4 mile (or less) hike from Summit Lake at Buffalo Pass.

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I hiked around the lake a bit to get some altitude and a different view.

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Took a photo of some old guy I met (looks familiar, I think I’ve seen him on some other hikes : )

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The clouds were building up for the afternoon thunderstorm. Great natural performance by mother earth; pleasant change in the weather, provides needed moisture, and looks great to boot.

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As I headed back down the trail (in my rain gear : ), I saw quite a few ‘rooms.

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Close up.

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Few more showing the variety and color.

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Zoom
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I kept my eyes open for hobbits collecting the ‘rooms, but they were pretty good at keeping out of my sight.

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Zoom in on a different one.
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The rain stopped leaving a nice cool finish to the hike.

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It was too dark when I started in the morning to take a photo of the sign at the beginning of the trail, so here is what it looked like at the end of the day. If you check out the large version of the photo on my website http://www.geoffw.smugmug.com/gallery/4316228_NTCF2 you can see the mileage of “5” to Round Mtn Lake and “7” to the Continental Divide. I thought about hiking up to the divide after the lake, but did not feel like adding another 4 miles to my hike.

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My truck is waiting for me to head home. And the campground was still empty.

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Great hike. Like I said, the first 3 miles or so are all pretty flat (going along Newcomb Park) with the added benefit of lots of aspen groves (nice in the Fall, but you may want to wear orange : ). The first 3 miles then would provide a great shorter hike and/or a hike more suited to smaller children. Even if you only hike it 2 -3 miles, there are plenty of camping areas (away from the trail). As per normal in a lot of my hikes, I saw no one during the entire hike except at the lake itself.

I definitely want to return to Newcomb Park in the Fall sometime just to see the golden aspens.

– Geoff Weatherford

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