- Hike #3 of 2019
- Date: 1/19/19
- Summit: Evergreen Mountain (8,536′)
- Route: Evergreen Mountain & Three Sisters Loop
- Trailhead: Alderfer/Three Sisters East Trailhead
- Distance: 8.4 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1,347′
- Class 1
- Total Elapsed Time: 3 h 46 m
- Partners: Solo
I’m sort of amazed that I’d never been to the Alderfer/Three Sisters Park before. I’d heard of it a few times, as many have recommended it, but it wasn’t really on my radar and I’m not sure why. To be honest, this was my backup plan for Saturday’s hike. I didn’t even intend on going here unless the parking lot for Chicago Lakes was so snowy that I wasn’t comfortable parking there. (There had been a pretty decent snowstorm the night before, with Leadville getting about 12″ of snow, and I wasn’t sure how much the Chicago Lakes area had gotten.) I was dying to get to Chicago Lakes and even though it was supposed to be super cold (high of 22*) and super windy (20 mph), I was determined to just bundle up and deal with it. (That’s saying something, because I truly HATE cold & wind!)
But as I was driving down the interstate through the mountains, traffic suddenly came to an abrupt halt. WHAT is happening here!? I pulled out my phone and checked Google Maps…24 minutes to get to my exit 10 miles away? WHAT!? And then I remembered that it had taken Kyle 4.5 hours (instead of 2.5) to get to Leadville the night before. They’d closed down Loveland Pass, the normal hazardous materials route, due to the severe snowstorm, and were re-routing hazmat trucks through Eisenhower Tunnel on the interstate. This means that every hour on the hour, they shut down normal traffic through the tunnel and let the hazmat trucks go through. (If one were to blow up, for example, the general public wouldn’t be trapped in the tunnel.) Well the roads appeared clear from where I was, but SOMETHING was backing everything up.
I wasn’t sure exactly what was happening, but I can tell you that I wasn’t about to waste a half hour sitting in traffic. I plugged Alderfer/Three Sisters Park into Google Maps and lucked out with there being an alternate exit for this park just 3 miles ahead (I’d passed the main exit less than a mile before hitting traffic, of course!). It took 10 minutes to get to the exit, at a crawl the entire way, but FINALLY I was out of the traffic and on my way! I took the back roads to Evergreen and it was SO BEAUTIFUL! Soon after exiting the interstate, I pulled into the east parking lot for Alderfer/Three Sisters at 10am (I swear I can’t wake up early in the winter, I’m so tired all the time). Luckily the parking lot was only about half full at this time, so I easily found a parking spot.
I’d planned on doing a loop that I’d found on AllTrails that toured the main areas of the park: Three Sisters, Brothers Lookout, and Evergreen Mountain.
I took the Sisters Trail from the east parking lot around the Three Sisters, cut over to the Brothers Lookout, then headed southwest on various trails to connect with the Evergreen Mountain Trail. This trail eventually looped back to my car.
Most of the Sisters Trail was forested so there weren’t many opportunities for scenic views. It looked possible to climb/scramble up the Sisters from the trail but I wasn’t feeling very ambitious, and being alone, I wasn’t comfortable with a snowy scramble.
The Sisters Trail was mostly gradual and I quickly made it to Brothers Lookout. I enjoyed some string cheese at the base of the rocky summit, then a quick scramble brought me to the top and 360* views.
I headed down from my vantage point and back to the main trail. Where am I going next? Alderfer/Three Sisters Park consists of a large number of interconnecting trails and it seems there are an infinite number of possibilities to get anywhere. I kept checking my map at each intersection trying to decide the most direct, but also semi-scenic, way to get from where I was to Evergreen Mountain. And then I saw the meadow.
Once out of the meadow I began the steady climb up Evergreen Mountain. There weren’t as many people in this part of the park, which was nice. I need solitude sometimes.
The top of Evergreen Mountain was forested, so was pretty uneventful except for the fact that I had the place to myself (at least for a while). There was a rock outcropping at the summit that looked easy enough to climb/scramble up, but again, I wasn’t feeling like a snowy scramble with being alone.
I get so focused on “getting to the top” or “reaching the destination” or “achieving the goal” that I often forget about just BEING. Who cares who hiked how many miles? Who cares how fast I went compared to someone else? Who cares if I even MADE IT!? I have to stop sometimes and remind myself that I’m lucky that my body can take me to these places, and that I should be happy for the experience, no matter what.
I spent a few minutes at the top of Evergreen Mountain (until another group of people came) just looking and hearing and experiencing. I try so hard to get good quality pictures so you can see what I experienced, but pictures can never truly show what a place is like. There were spots where the forest was so thick, that the trail was nearly dark, and then I’d come upon an opening with the sun shining through onto the snow, sparkling. The wind was so strong that the trees were creaking and popping and I actually thought one might fall over right onto me. None of that can show up in a picture.
I really enjoy experiencing a wide variety of trails because, and I know this is kind of nature nerdy, but I really like seeing different ecosystems. Yes I have my favorite(s) but there’s something amazing about each and every one. And this trail is special because it traversed across a few different ecosystems. Firstly, the Ponderosa Pine forest, best shown in the first picture. Next, the meadow, shown in many of the middle pictures. I really love open areas where you can see out, so meadows, prairies, and alpine ecosystems are some of my favorites. Lastly, the Lodgepole Pine forest, best shown in the second to the last picture. Notice how the trees and overall “look” of this forest is completely different from the Ponderosa Pine forest. I wish I could spend more time learning about each!
I’m so glad that I finally made it to Alderfer/Three Sisters Park and I would definitely not be upset about returning. There are so many trails, it’d be easy to see something new on a return trip!
I hope that you’re able to get out and experience nature this week! And don’t forget to stop and just BE!