Snow is Clear and Hiking Season is On!

On June 6, 2014 by hiker

In spring, there’s always a lot of snow clinging around in the high country around Telluride. But there are plenty of hikes that are already clear, and until the summer crowds and jeep traffic hit, even the most popular trails are still a peaceful escape. Author Susan Kees has been doing some reconnaissance on some of the best early season hikes.

The bridge at the midway point of the Keystone Gorge hike.

Keystone Gorge:

Returning from a winter at sea level is more difficult each year. I’m gasping when I walk from the post office to my house, and doing a hike is even more difficult. Luckily, snow lingers in the high basins, so I can start from town or below. That’s one of the reasons I like to begin my hiking season on Keystone Gorge. The river tumbles below the trail and the cool air is invigorating. The dirt traverse below Highway 145 was slightly sketchy, but will improve as more hikers hit the trail. There was a small patch of ice in the trees, but all in all the trail was a joy.

Jud Wiebe:

People walk the Wiebe all winter long and with its south facing slopes it clears quickly of snow. I hiked from the western trailhead, by Coronet Creek, and found just a few steps in the snow beyond the upper bridge that crosses the creek heading east. Most of the snow had leaves or dirt on it, so the steps weren’t slippery. I love looking at ski tracks on the front of the mountain and peering into Deertail, La Junta, and Lena basins. It looks like the Forest Service has done some clearing, as there are fresh cuts on some aspens and sawdust on the trail.

Owl Gulch:

This trail is getting more use, so it’s easier to find these days. Generally, starting at the eastern side of the Jud Wiebe is easier on my knees. But there is still snow along the lower end of Owl Gulch, which I don’t like navigating, so I recommend starting at the eastern end at the top of the first steep Tomboy Road switchback that goes into the woods. Some people still refer to this as “John’s” trail, some as ”Clay’s Way,” or “Local’s Wiebe,” but to be in line with future potential Forest Service work and mapping, I have kept the name Owl Gulch. Unlike the Weibe, Owl Gulch is little traveled, except for bears and elk, whose markings you’ll see on the aspens.

Royer Gulch: Twin Falls

Gushing falls in Royer Gulch are among my all-time spring favorite sights. Before Imogene Pass is open and four-wheel drivers are speeding, stirring up dirt and dust, the walk to the twin falls is magnificent. Views of Bridal Veil are breathtaking and but for a few bikers and motorcycles, you have the road to yourself. I was stunned to see the tree marking the path to the Sheridan Crosscut chopped down on the flat section after the eastern trailhead to Owl Gulch, before heading left into Royer Gulch. That makes it easier to find the Sheridan Crosscut, which is not yet clear of snow.