Burning Bear Trail | Colorado | 02/24/19

Burning Bear Trail | Pike National Forest

  Grant, CO | 02/24/19 | 7.45 miles | 1,410′ gain

The Guanella Pass area has long been a favorite of ours, and my husband and I have made a point to explore as much of the area as possible. We’ve hiked many of the trails, drove down 4×4 roads to reach mine ruins and ghost towns, climbed 13ers & 14ers, panned for gold, honed in our backpacking skills, and even got married nearby last September. This place feels like home.

I hadn’t been to the area since last fall and was looking forward to returning. There are a few trails on the south side of the pass that we hadn’t yet explored, and I randomly picked one, the Burning Bear Trail. We’d walked down this trail a short ways once before, but I was interested in going further.

Burning Bear Trail starts off the west side of Guanella Pass Road, just south of the Abyss & Burning Bear Trailhead parking area. It follows Burning Bear Creek through a valley and eventually climbs up a ridge. According to the sign near the beginning of the trail, the ridge summit is 3.7 miles in. The trail then descends the opposite side of the ridge and ends at the Hall Valley Trailhead.

The parking lot hadn’t been plowed, but enough vehicles had driven through that the snow had become somewhat compacted and easy to drive on. Guanella Pass Road is plowed up to the winter closure just past the Abyss & Burning Bear Trailhead, but is still slick in some areas.

The trail is hard to see from the parking lot, but if you cross the road and head south, you’ll come to a gate and a few small signs for the Burning Bear Trail. I planned to go to the ridge summit 3.7 miles in.

Burning Bear Trail starts off as a gradual walk along Burning Bear Creek.
The parking area is just left of photo center. This picture is taken from the start of the trail.
Occasionally the trail crosses the creek.  The first crossing is on a great bridge.
Much of the trail is in the forest. Blue diamond blazes mark the trail.
The waters of Burning Bear Creek are rust colored due to minerals in the water, particularly iron.
Often the trail exits the forest and crosses a meadow, with views of surrounding peaks.
Gorgeous views as the trail climbs higher.
About 2.5 miles in are the remains of a log cabin.
Much of the trail had a great trench put in, but I still found snowshoes to be helpful.

About the time my phone told me I’d walked 3.7 miles, the trench became much less compacted, and covered with 4-6 inches of soft snow. Not many people come in this far. It didn’t seem like the ridge summit was coming anytime soon and I was sick of plowing through loose powder, so I turned around before I found the high point and quickly made my way back to the car.

The trail had been nearly empty on my way up, but on the descent there were a number of others snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Everyone was set to enjoy the gorgeous day, just as I did.


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