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672 Deer, Lookout, & Horsetooth 2012-07-05

Mark on the summit of the Horsetooth Mountain Ridge

Thursday, we finished some last minute shopping in Boulder and headed to the mountains. We had a site reserved in Olive Ridge Campground, just south of Rocky Mountain National Park in Roosevelt National Forest. In Rocky Mountain National Park you are only allowed to camp for one week during the summer season. If you plan on being in the area for longer than a week, you have to find other camping options. Olive Ridge was one of our alternative campgrounds.

The next day we hiked Deer Mountain in the Park. It was an easy access and a good climb. We needed a good workout. After climbing through the many switchbacks we arrived on the summit plateau. Leaving the trail and we headed north to an isolated area above and behind the Deer Mountain cliffs. For almost two hours we played on the boulders and fins, finding fun scrambles. The rock was good and we had a good afternoon.

Our friend Mark visited us that evening and on Saturday did a sporty hike with us. I had noticed a couple of small mountains (Lookout and Horsetooth Mountains) mentioned in a guidebook, that were near where we were camping. We had never been there and did not even know where the trailhead was. Driving slowly through the small town of Meeker Park, we easily saw the street name and were on our way.

The trailhead was at the end of the road. Soon, we were hiking the steep trail. The unimproved path was very steep in sections. We huffed and puffed as Mark walked effortlessly at our slow pace. At a saddle, the trail ended. From there, we followed a cairn (stacks of rocks) marked route to the top of Lookout Mountain. A short (but exposed) scramble led to the top of the outcropping.

After a short stay on the windy summit we descended from Lookout Mountain and started down the ridge to Horsetooth Mountain. The rib of rock extended to a high point marked by a summit cairn. Mark scrambled nimbly across the peak of the rib to the summit, whereas we stayed below on the left side of the rib covering safer ground. The summit of Horsetooth was not as windy as Lookout, so we stayed a bit longer and enjoy the view.

While resting on Horsetooth, Mark noticed smoke coming from near Estes Park. We knew that the High Park wildfire was still burning uncontrolled, but did not know of any fires near Estes. What we were seeing was the smoke from the (just started) Woodland Heights fire, in the Beaver Meadows part of town. The fire fighters acted quickly on the fire, but the area is still so dry, it burned several more houses.

Lookout and Horsetooth mountains made for a good day for us - with our friend Mark. On these apparent (as in they are plainly visible from Highway 7) but obscure (they are no signs marking the directions to the trailhead and the peaks themselves are trail-less) peaks are many uncrowded adventures, ideal for those looking for something just a bit off the beaten path.

Happy obscure trails.


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