Autumn is coming – Mt. Evans Wilderness

An overnight backpacking trip in the Mount Evans wilderness.

In the mood for an overnighter backpacking trip, but not the crowds and traffic of Summit County or the Indians Peaks Wilderness, I decided to do a quick trip to the Mt. Evans Wilderness.

My original plan was a modification of a trip d-low and I did a few years ago. I’d still be camping near Hell’s Hole, but rather than go straight to Gray Wolf Mountain, I’d hike to the Sawtooth, (tag Mt. Evans if feeling ambitious/crowds don’t deter me)  head over to Spalding, up to Gray Wolf and then down back to my vehicle to make a nice, challenging loop.

Alas, freakishly early t-storms dissuaded me and lent itself to a shorter, but still satisfying loop.

Drove up through Clear Creek Canyon, exited I70 in Idaho Springs and made my way to the trailhead. From the Hells Hole trailhead, I walked along trail by West Chicago Creek.

Within two hours, I was at the cusp of treeline and enjoying the views of the  mountains above and of the gnarled and ancient Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pines  at the end of the trail.

I noticed a storm front moving in, so I quickly took some photos into Hells Hole.

Despite the ominous name, the small tarns and the mountains above made for a peaceful setting.

The peaceful scene would not last, though.

I quickly found a spot nestled in some trees, set up my tarp and settled in for an early evening.

Graupel starting coming down and a chill set in rather quickly.

With a good book, hot tea and a cozy shelter, it was actually rather relaxing.

Before long, nightfall came and so did sleep. The sound of the pelting hail lulled me to sleep.


I woke up at 6 or so in the morning to hear two elks bugling.

Rather early in the season, but the crisp air at this elevation certainly made it feel like autumn.

I worked my way off trail to an unnamed peak below Gray Wolf mountain.

There was a layer of frost on the ridge as well as all the alpine terrain in view.

When I reached the high point, I noticed clouds were starting to gather. It was not even 9 AM.

Sawtooth and the “14er” Bierstadt had some ominous black clouds hanging over them already.

The decision was made to head straight to Greywolf and make my way down to treeline.

As I started heading up to the 13k+ summit, I noticed the remnants of the summer wildflowers poking through the snow that fell the night before.

The summer wildflower season is brilliant but brief.  Fall was well on its way.

From the summit, I made my way down back to my vehicle.

But not before almost stumbling into ptarmigans already wearing their fall plumage.

Just as the storm truly moved in, I reached treeline.

After descending a bit, I ran into an old “ghost trail” that looked to be an old road of sorts and then ‘shwacked a bit and ended up at West Chicago Creek. Crossed the creek and made it back to the trail I came in on.

A quick jaunt was over.

But Fall has apparently begun up high.


Getting There –  This website has directions to get to the TH from the Denver metro area

Permits –  A self-signed permit is required but free

Pooches – Dogs must be leashed in this wilderness area

The RouteYou can look at a rough trace of the route here. AllTrails puts the route at about 11 miles and 4400′ gain. I started later in the afternoon and only hiked into Hells Hole.  Made for a respectable loop for a quick overnighter

Post Trip Nosh – Some good post-trip pub grub and beer can be found at Tommy Knockers in nearby Idaho Springs.When it is in season, their Black Powder Oatmeal Stout is quite tasty.


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