Chasing Color: Fall hikes aplenty |

Chasing Color: Fall hikes aplenty

A person snaps a photo of the More Barn with a golden Mount Werner as a backdrop. The iconic Steamboat barn presents just one of many great photo opportunities in Routt County during autumn.

Diane White-Crane never forgets when the fall colors usually reach their peak here in Colorado.

The avid hiker just has to close her eyes and remember she was married in a golden aspen grove Sept. 25 in the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area.

If that isn't enough of a reminder, her wedding band is engraved with a golden aspen leaf.

Since that wedding day about 40 years ago, White-Crane, 68, and her husband, Don, have taken countless hikes in Northwest Colorado.

They're all detailed in her hyper-popular book "Hiking the Boat II."

Ask White-Crane about her favorite fall hiking destinations, and she quickly rattles off a dozen or so that would please casual hikers and extreme adventurers alike.

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Here are some of her favorites, with directions from her book:

'If only 1'

For those who want to pencil in only one memorable hike this fall season, White-Crane recommends when the colors are good to head up to North Routt County to hike to either Three Island Lake or Gold Creek Lake. Both are accessed off Seedhouse Road just north of Clark.

■ Three Island Lake

White-Crane says the mix of aspens, lodgepole pines and spruce trees on stretches of this hike make it a stunner in the fall. For photographers looking for contrasts, this trek will satisfy.

Hiking time: About 2 hours to get to the lake

Distance: 3.5 miles each way

How to get there: Take Routt County Road 129 north out of Steamboat and turn right on Seedhouse Road, just north of Clark. Drive about 9 miles and turn right onto Forest Service Road 443. Drive 3.2 miles to the second signed trailhead for the lake. The trail starts on the left side of the road. White-Crane says about one-quarter mile into the hike, spur trail-1163.1A merges with the main trail from the left. Stay right at this intersection, heading east.

■ Gold Creek Lake

This isn't a hike to find solitude, White-Crane says. But she calls it one of the prettiest hikes overall.

Hiking time: About 2 hours to get to the lake

Distance: About 3 miles each way

How to get there: Take C.R. 129 to Clark and turn right on Seedhouse Road. Travel for 11.9 miles to Slavonia, and park at the hiking kiosk. After signing the register after the creek crossing early in the trail, head right at the junction of 1150 and 1161. White-Crane advises to be careful crossing Gold Creek and be cautious with children because of steep drop-offs around the trail.

'Take it all in'

There are plenty of shots to be found amid the fall foliage. But get far above the trees to see them on a grander scale.

■ Hahn's Peak

Standing at 10,839 feet, the summit of Hahn's Peak offers a spectacular view of the vast ribbons of gold that run through Northwest Colorado in the fall. You'll also get a great view of Steamboat Lake. It's a tougher hike, but the views at any time of year are worth all the huffing and puffing. If you're still hesitant about making the nontechnical hike to the top, you can turn around well before the end and still get some great shots of fall colors. But also keep in mind children as young as 3 or 4 regularly make it to the top.

Hiking time: About 1.5 hours each way

Distance: 1.7 miles each way

How to get there: Take C.R. 129 north to Columbine. Turn right onto Forest Development Road 490 directly across the street from the Columbine General Store. After driving just less than a mile, keep left on 490 for another one-half mile. Go left onto 418 and drive to a big parking area. The hike starts on a jeep trail that goes uphill. Keep an eye out for a pullout on your left and trail 1158 on your right. Take this trail to the summit. Do not summit if lightning threatens.

■ Uranium Mine

Here's an easier, colorful hike for those who don't want to venture too far from home. The reward at the end is a sweeping view of Fish Creek Falls and surrounding fall foliage.

Hiking time: 45 minutes in, 35 minutes out

Distance: 1.5 miles each way

How to get there: Head east on Third Street from Lincoln Avenue downtown. Hang a right on Fish Creek Falls Road. Drive for about 3 miles, and park in the lower parking lot for Fish Creek Falls. The trail starts near a large rock.

'A true adventure'

■ Heart Lake

The adventure to Heart Lake in South Routt County is a longer one, but it is just as impressive as some of the shorter treks described above, White-Crane says.

In her book, she writes the hike is plentiful in different kinds of vegetation and scenery and also is a good place to watch for birds, elk and deer. The area is popular for hunters in the fall, so be aware and dress accordingly.

Hiking time: About 6 hours round trip

Distance: 13 miles round trip

How to get there: Take Colorado Highway 131 south to Yampa, and turn right on Main Street. Turn right onto Colorado Highway 7 near the Antler's Inn. Drive southwest for 10 miles, and turn right at a sign for Heart Lake.

For more details on these and other fall hikes, pick up a copy of her book at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.

Tracking the change

The U.S. Forest Service offers anyone wondering if the colors have changed a website featuring photo galleries that follow the progression of fall colors in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. The galleries are available at…

Photo contest

There’s a new reason to take your camera with you on your fall adventures.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today is sponsoring a Colors of Fall photo contest, complete with prizes.

Through Oct. 20, submit your best digital fall photos that you take this season at

Here are a few ways to help make your photo stand out:

  1. Add people to your landscape. You often can find horseback riders, bikers and hikers walking through fall foliage. Put them in the scene.
  2. Know when to go. Be out during the first and last hours of daylight if you can to get the best light. Foggy, dynamic weather also adds to the scene.
  3. Do something different. We see tons of photos of colorful aspens. Find a new angle. Lie on your back. Shoot low.
  4. Go explore. Some of the best photos are places far from Steamboat. Go get colorful reflections in a mountain lake in South Routt, or drive to the top of Buffalo Pass.
  5. Don’t manipulate. People like to use auto-contrast features on cameras and smartphones these days. The natural colors of foliage are vibrant enough. The closer it looks to reality, the better.

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