Hike of the Week: Discover Martin Creek, a hidden gem of a trail in Minturn | VailDaily.com
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Hike of the Week: Discover Martin Creek, a hidden gem of a trail in Minturn

By Nathan Boyer-Rechlin
Special to the Daily
The trailhead is on a forest road near the Battle Mountain Trading Post in Minturn.
Randy Wyrick | randy@vaildaily.com |

Martin Creek in Minturn is a great low elevation trail that promises at least a few miles of snow-free hiking. This trail is one of my personal ‘hidden favorites’ in the spring or the fall. It’s a great spring hike to test your legs on while the higher alpine trails are still melting out. The seemingly endless aspen groves make this hike pop with vivid greens. If you haven’t explored this lesser-known trail, this is a great time to check it out.

Getting there

The trailhead for Martin Creek is west of Highway 24 on the southern end of Minturn. Look for an inconspicuous sign pointing to Forest Service access and the Martin Creek trailhead—you will drive between a couple of houses to a dirt parking area. The turn into this parking area is just past the Battle Mountain Trading Post and Kevin Banker’s Revival Photographic tintype studio, heading south on Highway 24. From the parking area the trail traverses left (another trail heads straight into private property). Please respect the landowners and remain on the trail.

What to expect

The trail starts climbing shortly after leaving the parking lot, and maintains a steady grade for its entirety up to the Grouse Mountain Connector Trail—7-8 miles, and more than 2,500 ft from the trailhead. You can connect the Martin Creek trail with Cross Creek or West Grouse Creek Trails to make multi-day worthy (or a long day) trips. However, you can also hike this 3-4 miles up and enjoy a moderate day on the trail.

The first few miles are through a continuous old aspen stand, making for a magical experience during peak color. As you climb higher, and into the Holy Cross Wilderness, you will start to see an even stand of young fir populating the understory, growing amongst the older aspens. This is one of the finest examples of an aspen forest being succeeded by spruce and fir, and demonstrates Colorado’s dynamic and ever-changing forests. While sitting in this beautiful setting, it’s easy to imagine this being a young grove completely dominated by Aspen only a few hundred years prior. Additionally, if we were to transport a few hundred years in the future, chances are we would find this trail covered by a mature spruce and fir forest, with few remaining signs of the old-growth aspen currently reigning over the Martin Creek drainage. 

Wildlife

On top of beautiful fall colors, and an inside look into Colorado’s forest ecology, Martin Creek is home to many iconic species of Colorado Wildlife. Moose are commonly seen here, so be sure to be on the look out and keep your distance if you come across one or two. 

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Nathan Boyer-Rechlin is the community outreach coordinator, hiking guide, and trails guru at Walking Mountains Science Center. You can reach him at (970) 827-9725 ext. 144, or nathanbr@walkingmountains.org.


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