Hike of the Week: Iron Mountain offers an overlook view of Red Cliff | VailDaily.com

Hike of the Week: Iron Mountain offers an overlook view of Red Cliff

Walking Mountains Science Center
Hike of the Week
Snowshoers can see the Red Cliff bridge from the final overlook on the trail.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

After three days of snow, the sun is shining and the powder is light: time to grab snowshoes. Walking Mountains kicked off the winter snowshoeing season, which runs all winter, last Tuesday with a beautiful hike along the East Lake Creek Trail. One of our classic snowshoe hikes is Iron Mountain. Located near Red Cliff, this easy snowshoe hike features beautiful scenery, views of the iconic Red Cliff Bridge and an overlook of the quaint town.

What to Expect

The trail starts just south of the bottom entrance to Red Cliff on U.S. Highway 24. Park at the turnout by the bus stop and look across Highway 24 for the old road (often with snowmobile tracks). The trail gently climbs through an aspen stand that is littered with glacial erratics, or giant boulders displaced and dropped here long ago during the last glacial maximum. Look for the white chalk hand holds on the dark gneiss boulders—a popular destination for climbers.

After the aspen stand, the trail cuts through a small lodgepole pine stand that has been actively managed to get power lines through the area. Check out all the new growth as a positive reminder that not all was lost during the mountain pine beetle epidemic. After a short drop into a spruce and fir forest, the trail climbs to the top of the hill overlooking Red Cliff and the impressive Highway 24 bridge. At this point the trail can either be followed in a loop around the cemetery or back the way you came. Once the snowpack deepens, you can also follow one of the likely snowmobile tracks south, making sure you know your return directions.

The Red Cliff Cemetery is still in use to this day and is a very special place to many locals who have called this valley home for generations. Please respect the site and imagine the lives lived here over the past century, working the mines and surviving the Colorado winters.

Length: Less than 2 miles (round trip to the cemetery)

Difficulty: Easy. There is a moderate ascent on the return.

Walking Mountains is guiding a snowshoe hike to Iron Mountain on Thursday. Sign up for a guided snowshoe tour of this beautiful trail, interpretation of the winter landscape and a stop for hot chocolate overlooking the town of Red Cliff.

We will continue offering backcountry snowshoe programs twice a week through March. Visit walkingmountains.org/things-to-do/backcountry-snowshoe-hikes for more information on our backcountry programs, and to register.

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