Greyrock Mountain Adventure (Post 1 of 2)

I almost forgot to blog about the most adventurous trip of the year (so far). Back on April 3rd, I took a vacation day to do another trip with my visiting friend Bruce. He had skiied 2 days in a row, so we decided to take a hike. I decided on Greyrock- but with a twist. Greyrock mountain is a local’s favorite, with a well-marked trail leaving from a busy trailhead in Poudre Canyon. But like I said- this hike had a twist. Old USGS topo maps show a second trail climbing up Greyrock, starting from what is now Gateway Mountain Park. Recent maps do not show this trail, but I suspected that there might be some traces of it remaining. Bruce is kind of a “off-the-beaten-track” kind of guy to begin with, so it seemed like a great plan.

The first few miles were easy. We started with a short walk down a dirt road which led to Seaman reservoir. We were pleasantly surprised to find a well-defined path around the west side of the reservoir, and even a bridge over the North Fork of the Poudre River. At just about the right place, another well-defined, albeit not officially marked, trail climbed up a ridge in the direction that we wanted to go. At the two mile mark, we arrived at an excellent viewpoint looking down at the North Fork. “This is much easier than I expected”, I announced.

The trail ended 50 feet later.

Open meadows interspersed with gullies and ridges made up the next portion of the walk. There was essentially no trail at this point, and we were navigating off the map and the terrain. At one point we found a sign, and from there started finding promising scraps of a trail. We would follow something that might have been a trail, or might have been a game path, or might have been our imagination, for a few hundred yards. Then it would disappear and we’d simply travel cross-country. Here is a photo of what we came to call a “well-marked” section of trail.

The trail is on the right-hand side of the picture. It’s marked by a cairn, or maybe it’s just two rocks piled on top of one another. We often wondered…

A section of fenceline made one part easy to navigate, and then a steep climb up to a ridge was marked by sporadic, widely-spaced cairns. At the top of the ridge, the terrain changed again. Although the trail still tended to disappear without warning, we were hiking through open forests on a pretty well-defined ridge, so navigation was easier.

In the picture below, we reached the green ridge in the background (not the brown ridge further in the background) at the right-hand knob. We followed the ridge left, then diagonally (left to right) in the foreground:

The final section of ridge was difficult again. The brush got thicker, the ridge became less distinct, and the trail disappeared for longer periods of time. We also hit occasional patches of snow. I intentionally walked through them, leaving tracks to help us navigate on the return trip.

Bruce, a forest biologist by training, pointed out mistletoe growing on trees. I had never seen it before, so I thought it was really cool.

We finally emerged at the regular hiking trail, right at the base of the main peak. We climbed the trail up to the top, to get some great views.


Bruce on the summit


Ladybugs clustered on the summit

The way down was a little easier. We needed a compass to find the correct place to leave our open ridge, and we again lost the trail in the open meadows at the bottom, but by-and-large we knew where we were going.

The hike was almost 13 miles total, but the difficult navigation made it a very rewarding adventure!