Walking Mountains Hike of the Week: What to expect on Notch Mountain Trail
Walking Mountains Hike of the Week
Hike with Walking Mountains
Walking Mountains Science Center leads guided hikes year-round for people of all ages and abilities. To see a schedule, visit www.walkingmountains.org or stop by one of Walking Mountains’ locations in Eagle County:
• In Avon at the Buck Creek Campus behind the hospital
• On Vail Mountain at the Nature Discovery Center
• At the Vail Nature Center near the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
• In Vail Village at the Vail Nature Concierge
Editor’s note: Peter Suneson manages the backcountry hiking and snowshoeing programs at Walking Mountains Science Center. A native of Oklahoma, Suneson enjoys exploring the local trails and will write a weekly column during the summer. For more information, visit http://www.walkingmountains.org.
Trail Name: Notch Mountain.
Mileage: 10 miles round trip (out and back).
Subjective rating: Moderate to difficult. Roughly 3,000 feet of elevation gain over 5 miles of trail.
What to expect:
Notch Mountain Trail begins on the Fall Creek Pass Trail out of Half-Moon campground at the very end of Tigwon Road (Tigwon means friend in Ute) in between Minturn and Red Cliff.
The first 2.5 miles climb slowly through a mixed spruce and fir forest and traverses a few large landslides. Make sure you stop at these slides and check out Fall Creek below and the Ten Mile Range in the distance.
At the 2.5 mile marker, bear right toward the summit of Notch (continuing straight will take you to Lake Constantine, Tuhare Lakes and Fall Creek Pass). This section of the trail is classic CCC switchbacks.
Built during the economic downturn in the early 20th century, the trail and stone cabin atop the trail were designed to accommodate the pilgrims who made it to view Mount of the Holy Cross.
The second half of the trail is almost completely above treeline, making the seven principles of Leave No Trace even more important.
Please stay on the trail and don’t cut switchbacks. Although it may be tiresome to see the trail above you, remember you’re walking in the footsteps of travelers over the course of nearly 100 years.
The alpine environment is also a very special niche habitat. Keep your eyes peeled for ptarmigan nestled in the rocks and listen for the chirp of pika, as they alarm their families to your presence.