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Walking among Wildflowers – Stag Gulch Hike

June 27, 2013

I took the prettiest – and most pleasantly surprising – hike I’ve ever taken in Edwards this weekend.  I hiked up the Stag Gulch trail in Cordillera with a friend expecting nice views and a good workout from a trail that I’ve traversed a couple of times previously, but with no idea of just how gorgeous it would be.

Stag Gulch Trail

We set off around 1:30 p.m., so it was hot and sunny and we were anxious to get beneath the shade of the aspens.  Even so, the bottom part of the trail was pretty with small wildflowers blooming along the sides.

Stag Gulch Wildflowers

We found some sweet relief in the shade, and then hung a right at the T onto the Stag Gulch Trail. (or the nameless, hacked-off trail)

Stag Gulch Sign

Stag Gulch is a lot more scenic than the portion of Squaw Creek that I’ve hiked, so definitely bear right at this junction.  A little farther along the trail, we emerged into a clearing to the most glorious surprise – a meadow full of wildflowers!

Stag Gulch Wildflower Meadow

I’d hiked this trail a couple of times before, but those times must have been later in the summer after the flowers were all gone.  I literally squealed with surprise and delight.

Stag Gulch Wildflower Meadow

They looked like daisies with the leaves of lilies or irises and were up to our knees.

Stag Gulch Wildflower Meadow

In some places, they were interspersed with little purple flowers.

Stag Gulch Wildflower Meadow

After frolicking in the flowers for a while, we hiked on back into the woods.

Stag Gulch Hike

The trail switchbacks through stands of aspen for a few miles, climbing steadily upward but never excessively steep.

Stag Gulch Hike

At one point, we came out of the woods to the edge of the ridge, taking in amazing views across to the New York Mountains as well as back over Cordillera and Edwards.

You can see New York Mountain in the distance, still snowcapped in mid-June.

You can see New York Mountain in the distance, still snow-capped in mid-June.

Sweeping views over Cordillera and Edwards from the Stag Gulch trail.

Sweeping views over Cordillera, Edwards and out to the Gore Range from the Stag Gulch trail.

After heading back into the woods for about 15 minutes, we emerged into the beginnings of a grassy meadow.

We spotted beautiful wild Columbine, Colorado's state flower, alongside the trail.

We spotted beautiful wild Columbine, Colorado’s state flower, alongside the trail.

Stag Gulch Trail

From there, the trail climbed gradually to the summit in this grassy meadow with knock-out views of the surrounding mountain ranges.

Stag Gulch Summit Meadow

Stag Gulch Summit

After being spoiled by our gorgeous flower meadow earlier on, I’d hoped to encounter wildflowers up at the top as well.  Aside from a bunch of tiny white flowers the meadow was mostly grassy but still gorgeous enough to inspire a little revelling.  I don’t quite remember, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t posing here.

Stag Gulch Meadow

Yay

Views on the way down changed a little as clouds rolled in, foreshadowing a much-needed late afternoon thunderstorm.

Stag Gulch View

IMG_0851

We only saw two other people on the trail the whole time.  This trail’s low use is one of its nicest features, so don’t tell too many of your friends, please.  It’s worth noting, however, that horseback riders use it fairly often and therefore you have to watch your step.

Our wildflower meadow looked just as beautiful on the way down.

Our wildflower meadow looked just as beautiful on the way down.

We made it down long before the rain started falling and cracked open a couple of cold beers at the trailhead, toasting the end of a fabulous hike.  Trailhead tailgating – I’m pretty sure it’s going to catch on.

Trailhead Tailgating

If you go…

Directions to the Trailhead:  From I-70, take exit 163 for Edwards, head south through the roundabouts and make a right to head west on Highway 6.  In about 2.5 miles, turn left on Squaw Creek Road and enter Cordillera.  Take Squaw Creek Road 3.3 Miles until it makes a sharp turn to the right.  At that point, veer left onto the dirt road and follow that road until you see a parking lot on the right (less than a mile I think).  Pull in and park for the trailhead. Follow the signs for Squaw Creek and Stag Gulch trails, and when the trail comes to a T, go right.

Level of Difficulty: Moderate

Hiking Time: Approximately 2-2:30 round-trip

Distance and Vertical Feet: I didn’t track it and information on this trail is almost impossible to find, but this account puts it at approximately 5 miles round-trip and over 9,300 ft. at the summit (which would amount to a gain of about 1,000 ft).  I’ll buy both of those figures.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. laura graham - eaten the moon permalink
    June 27, 2013 10:12 am

    What an amazing surprise those wildflowers must have been! I am adding this to the list stat. Thanks for sharing!

  2. June 28, 2013 10:50 am

    It looks beautiful! Great pictures!

  3. June 29, 2013 11:38 pm

    The wildflowers are beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wendy permalink
    September 25, 2015 7:35 am

    Thanks for your post. It provided the information needed for the hike since there was otherwise very little available. We hiked this trail on Sept 24, 2015. We chose it because the Walking Mountains Science Center website said that if you were going to do one hike for fall colors this was it. They were right. Spectacular hike. Amazing views. Beautiful colors. My fit bit tracked it at a little under 3 miles each way. It took us about an hour and 45 minutes to get up and an hour and 15 to get down walking at a moderate pace and making a lot of stops for pictures.

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