Hike of the Week: Squaw Creek offers a welcome chance to cool off from the summer heat
Hike of the Week
Quick Facts (Round Trip to Elk Park)
Distance: 6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,600 ft (to Elk Park)
Summer is in full swing here in the Eagle River Valley, and there’s no better way to escape the heat than to head to the mountains. The Squaw Creek trail near Edwards offers a beautiful shaded hike along a mountain stream, with plenty of opportunities — some mandatory — to cool off and get a little wet.
The Squaw Creek trailhead is a 30- to 40-minute drive from Vail Village, and is a great option for avoiding the crowds on the popular East Vail trails. Exit I-70 at exit 163 in Edwards and cross the river to Highway 6. Take Highway 6 west for 2.5 miles to Squaw Creek Road. Turn left, and follow it roughly 5 miles to the trailhead. Be sure to continue straight on the dirt road when a paved road veers right up to Cordillera.
What to Expect
A hike along Squaw Creek can be as long or short as fits your day. The full trail takes you 4.5 miles back towards the Holy Cross Wilderness and links to old service roads leading to Big Park and Bellyache Mountain. Hiking 3 miles down the trail will take you to Elk Park, a beautiful wildflower meadow and excellent destination for a moderate day hike.
The first mile of the hike switchbacks on a dry hillside with scrub oak, juniper and pine before dropping to the creek and the first water crossing. The rest of the hike follows the creek through spruce and fir forests, with intermittent meadows featuring tall grasses and vibrant wildflowers. When you reach a long and wide meadow you have made it to Elk Park. Another water-crossing waits for you right after the park and can be a nice place for lunch.
A Note on Conditions
Our snowpack has melted fast in the past few weeks, and peak runoff has come and gone. However, water levels are still higher than usual for this time of year. The Squaw Creek trail does have a number of water crossings. All crossings are straightforward and safe, but be prepared to get a little wet.
Water: The LifeBlood of the West
Join a Walking Mountains naturalist guide on a hike up Squaw Creek on July 23. This hike is the second in our monthly featured-hikes series, which exposes hikers to local trails, history and ecology. Join Walking Mountains for a day experiencing the beauty of Colorado’s streams, and learn about the wildlife that calls the water home, and the role of streams in the health of the West for a guided hike down Squaw Creek. This hike will give you the chance to enjoy a day on the trail, as well as get up close and personal with the creek and take part in some fun, hands-on stream science. For more information and registration, visit http://www.walkingmountains.org/hikes or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nathan Boyer-Rechlin is the community outreach coordinator at Walking Mountains Science Center. Contact him at email@example.com.
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