Mt Flora

Location: Arapaho National Forest, near Berthoud Pass, Colorado
Access: From Interstate 70 west of Idaho Springs, take Exit 308 and head west on Hwy 40 for 15 miles and park at the parking area at Berthoud Pass.
Trailhead: The TH is at the north end of the large parking area. UTM NAD83 433568e 4405662n 11,324
Trail: 3.3 miles to Mt Flora summit (13,132 feet). The class II route follows the dirt access road for about ¾ mile. Hop on the trail that starts at the 4th switchback and follow this well-defined trail to the summit.
Fees: None
Dogs: Allowed
Weather: National Weather Service forecast; Snow Depth

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July 25, 2015
In the dark, Nolan, Andra and I slip on our boots by the front door of our rented Winter Park condo, and quietly slip out, trying not to wake those in our group who have opted to sit out todays hike to Mt Eva. Even in July, its cold at 11,000 ft in the pre-dawn light at the trailhead on Berthoud Pass. We get our gear together at the car, and begin at 6:30 hiking up the trail, which feeds into an access road for the radio towers situated on top of Colorado Mines Peak. We follow this dirt road for awhile as it traces a path along the Continental Divide. The rising sun lights up the mountains to the south, the snow fields on their flanks gleaming in the red light. We remain in the shadow of Colorado Mines Peak, and so rely on the steady uphill cardio workout to keep us warm in the chilly air. The spruce-lined road has a few switchbacks in store before we break out on to the alpine tundra above treeline and marvel at the extent of the massive Fraser River valley below us, which includes the towns of Winter Park and Fraser. The green swell of Colorado Mines Peak looms to the east, and we soon leave the dirt road and take the signed trail that skirts the summit of Colorado Mines Peak on its way to higher peaks beyond. 

We hike into sunlight and enjoy flower-covered slopes on our way up the hillside. The view is unobstructed to the north along the western flank of the Indian Peaks, and further north into Rocky Mountain National Park. The wind is brisk, and we have our hats and jackets on to ward off the chill, despite the summer sun in our faces. We reach the saddle north of Colorado Mines Peak, and the wind rips up the Blue Creek drainage below with such force I have to remove my hat or lose it. Down below, a lone tent sits quietly in the shade by the unnamed lake at the head of Blue Creek. It looks idyllic. 

We turn north and follow the ridgeline as it grinds out elevation towards a chunky outcropping of rocks. We stop at the outcropping to take photographs, and note the small brightly-colored dots of hikers a mile behind us on the slope, heading our way. We photograph the incomparable scenery, and text the pictures to Mike, Mandy and Stephanie who we imagine are just now rousing out of their cozy warm beds in the town below. The blue sky is unimpeded by clouds, and the draping of snow on the mountains causes the green slopes to pop with uncharacteristic brilliance. 

The trail leads us higher, far above treeline, to the summit of Mt Flora. The summit itself is unassuming, and so gradual we actually hiked right past it and down the east side a hundred meters before realizing wed passed it up. The wind abated in this area, and we sit on the sunny side of Mt Flora, have a snack, and admire the pristine basin below us, containing Ethel, Byron and Bill Moore Lakes. At the 13,132-foot summit, we discuss our hiking options. It is already approaching mid morning, and we had intended to meet the rest of the crew for lunch. On the other hand, Mt Eva, another 13er, sits temptingly just under 2 miles to the north. I want to get there, but after we hike downhill to the north for a quarter mile, it is apparent that there is more elevation loss/gain (700 feet) to get to Mt Eva than we could comfortably do in a short amount of time, so we turn back and follow the trail back towards our beginning. 

The hike down is fairly crowded. Our early start put us first on the mountain, but dozens and dozens of hikers are trailing up the mountain. With good reason: the day remains clear and beautiful. The wind hits us again with blunt force at the saddle above Blue Creek, but once we pass this section, the air is calm again. Lots of dogs on the trail. I laugh when I see two hikers dogs start fighting on the trail. Some dogs take their hiking too seriously. 

We reach the parking lot and it is a party. Motorcycle gangs have their choppers lined up in chrome-spangled rows and a hundred people mill around the info kiosk and restrooms. Its an amazing transformation from the nearly-empty lot from which we started hours ago. We hop in the car and cruise into town to have lunch.  Mt Eva will have to wait for another summer day.
 


Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado 

Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Nolan, happily standing on the summit of Mt Flora

Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Ethel Lake
 
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Andra, Sam and Nolan on the summit. 
Couldn't ask for a better day.
 
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Eva is the tall peak on the left
 
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Relaxing at the summit
 
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado
Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado

Mt Flora, Indian Peaks, Colorado

 


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