Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Tale of Two Mountain Ranges

Buena Vista, CO is bordered on the East and West by the San Isabel National Forest, but the two mountain ranges look very different. We've hiked both sides during our stay; here's a close up of the differences.

To the West is the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness which contain four 14,000 ft peaks named Princeton, Yale, Columbia and Harvard. The landscape is similar to that which we have hiked as we have traveled across Colorado: conifer covered mountains rising steeply to massive, often pointy, heights.

The Eastern boundary of Buena Vista has peaks that rise to just over 13,000 ft but the terrain consists of rolling foothills studded with giant, rounded granite outcroppings and meadows surrounded by conifer forests that rise more gently to their great height.

First we hiked to Hartenstein Lake, an alpine lake in the Collegiate Wilderness. This six mile RT hike started out steeply from the trail head, but the incline became more gentle over time. There were a couple of easy stream crossings and views into the Collegiate Peaks were wonderful. At this time of year wear mosquito spray!

View South to Mt Princeton on the right.

Hartenstein Lake sits at about 11,500 ft.

Next we headed East, intrigued by the giant boulders and hoping for a respite from the steep climbs that threaten to take our breath away with each ascent into alpine terrain.

The Davis Meadow trail was spectacular in so many ways...We loved the variety of scenery and terrain: damp forest and dry, aspen and conifers, flowers, boulders and historic ruins. AND the incline was gentle! Easy, scenic dirt road access to this 6 mile RT hike. At this time of year mosquito repellent is a good idea.

The trail alternated between lush, damp forest...

And dry, boulder strewn forest.
Giant, pancake layered boulders were nestled among the aspen throughout the trail.

A mix of aspen and conifers along with a green carpet invited us into another portion of the trail.

Head-sized fungus!
Swedish loggers camp from late 1800's.
We had a nice view of the Collegiate Peaks to the West
at our turn around point on the trail.

With such a variety of terrain accessible to us in Buena Vista, we are really enjoying our stay here. We've had rain late every afternoon which helps with the fire danger in the area. Stay tuned for more adventures!


  1. We did that hike to Hartenstein Lake. It was a tough climb! Looks much prettier in your pictures. The sky was gray and looked like rain by the time we got to the lake.

  2. Love the mountain lake and wildflowers. Wouldn't expect mosquitoes in such a dry climate. The rain is certainly a blessing during this intense start to the summer fire season.

  3. How nice to have a choice of terrain depending how you feel that day. Beautiful lake and wildflowers. Guess the afternoon rains are helping the mosquito population, too! Love those mountains!!

  4. It is really beautiful out there in the west. Those hikes will be on our list. Thanks for the spectacular images.

  5. What a beautiful area. Sorry about the mosquitoes. They're nasty little buggers.