Hike of the Week: Hiking the Squaw Creek and Stagg Gulch loop combo has amazing fall color views
As we head into what is likely the peak color of this year’s fall foliage, it’s a great time to revisit some of our favorite trails. Earlier in the year, we highlighted the Stagg Gulch trail near Edwards as an excellent wildflower hike. While the wildflowers have all gone to seed, this trail also features excellent fall color views.
For a different take on this classic trail, link it with the Squaw Creek hike for a quintessential fall color loop. This 10-mile hike gains about 2,000 feet of elevation, making it a difficult loop. Powering through it provides a reward of quiet aspen groves and sweeping mountain vistas.
What to Expect
The Squaw Creek and Stagg Gulch trails share a trailhead at the end of Squaw Creek Road near Cordillera. The trails begin with a short and steep section to quickly get out of the valley. Roughly 1 mile into the trail, it trail splits, with Squaw Creek trail peeling off to the left and the Stagg Gulch trail on the right. If hikers are making a loop out of the two trails, I always recommend following the Squaw Creek trail since it is mellower and follows the meandering Squaw Creek.
After roughly 4 miles, the trail opens up at a hunting camp referred to as Elk Park. Follow the road using a trail map out the back of the campsite to begin the return trek via the Big Park Meadows following Forest Road 421. For the shortest trek to the Big Park meadows, head directly up the Stagg Gulch trail. After a couple steeper inclines, one with a gorgeous view of the Interstate 70 corridor, the trail passes by the old Stagg Spring just before popping out into the meadows.
My favorite trick as you hike out of the woods on the final ascent is to keep your eyes fixed on the horizon and let the mountains seemingly appear out of thin air.
Nathan Boyer-Rechlin is the community outreach coordinator at Walking Mountains Science Center. He manages all things hiking. For questions about fall hiking with Walking Mountains or current trail conditions, you can reach him at 970-817-9725, ext. 144, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.