trip report: Colorado – Walker Ranch loop, September 13 2020

After our 8 day off route backpacking trip into the Wind River Range, we headed back to Denver and had a full week booked for an hotel stay. Specifically, this was pre-vaccine pandemic times still and the full week was in efforts to isolate ourselves so we could see our friends Kevin, Shannon, their new born baby Wyatt, and their dog Ray. Hanging out with our friends after month of isolation at home was well worth the week of working from hotels. It was the break we needed for our mental health and socially starved souls.

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This is also a new experience for us with longer hotel stays in the form of working remote, really remote. A model I would adopt more later for subsequent trips during the never ending pandemic. While our weekend with our friends consisted mostly of drinks and food, we did get out for a hike. The Walker Ranch loop just outside of Boulder was our destination with a few views and some cascading rapids.

This is part 2 of 2 of our trip out to Wyoming and Colorado. In this part, we cover our day hike in Colorado and overall budget of our trip.

index

click to expand
1 trip planning & research for the Wind River Range
2 Wind River Range trip video
3 Wind River Range trip report
4 Wind River Range impressions
5 trip report: Denver & Walk Ranch Loop day hike
      5.1 working remote in Denver
      5.2 hike report: Walker Ranch Loop
            5.2.1 information
            5.2.2 video
            5.2.3 report
            5.2.4 impressions
      5.3 getting out
6 trip budget

working remote in Denver

We didn’t explore the city much during our week working from the hotels. We had hoped to be able to walk around downtown, but this was also the week the west was hit with early snow, the same microburst that knocked down a lot of treats in the Winds. We didn’t mind it as we were still recovering for our long off trail backpacking.

We ended up switching between three different hotels. Initially we were at downtown at the Kimpton Inn taking advantage of the IHG Ambassador status renew free 40k certificate on a stay at their higher tier hotels (frequentmiler) and the buy 1, get 1 free night certificate I had left from the previous year as perk of the program. Essentially, I would get stay 2 nights and a 40k certificate for later for the cost of 1 night and renewal of my Ambassador status. We would have stayed for longer since I had plenty of previous certificates left, but parking was a bit of a hassle. We ended up using my Hilton points for stays first at a Garden Inn and then a Doubletree for the rest of the time, both in the suburbs where parking wasn’t an issue. Hilton redemptions are linked to the cost of the hotel and was very cheap with the low occupancy at the time in the pandemic. We switched to the Doubletree since they were still serving free hot breakfasts with my Hilton Diamond status and the Garden Inn was not, this may be because Doubletree typically are made to order in my experience and the Garden Inn are buffet styles.

Denver like most city have plenty of food option, so I’m not going to discuss it much here (I also didn’t document it at all). We mainly ordered carry out a few times and supplemented with some groceries. Even when we saw our friends, we minimized eating out to a taco place and brewery with outdoor seating.

After the week of hotel living, we were looking forward to stretch out our legs on one of many Colorado hikes. This time, we headed for the Walker Ranch loop.

hike information

  • name: Walker Ranch loop
  • type: loop
  • distance: 8.1 miles
  • elevation change: 1,614 ft
  • time: 3:00 hours (2:52 moving)
  • location: Walker Ranch Park, near Boulder, Colorado, USA (google map directions)

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The Walker Ranch loop is a popular loop being just outside of Boulder. As such, the parking lots easily filled us and there were even volunteers to manage parking and inform hikers about the trail at the trailhead on the busy Sunday that we visited. We lucked out at the Walker Ranch Parking lot as a few early morning hikers were leaving.

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There are several alternative parking lots you can use to access the loop. This includes the Crescent Meadows Parking Lot (google map directions) and the Ethel Harrold Trailhead (google map directions).

Within the Walker Ranch, there are a couple other trails that connects to the Walker Ranch Loop, Josie Heath Trail and Meyers Homestead Trail. You can find more information about Walker Ranch on the Boulder County website.

hike video

hike report

We decided on hiking the loop clockwise because this would mean taking the steep section of the hike on the uphills, which our knees and ankles prefer typically.

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Our first 3 quarters of the mile were relatively flat and ends with the view out toward, Eldorado Mountains, the plains of Colorado in the direction of Boulder,

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and the South Boulder Peak.

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Then our first downhill begin through the forest pine.

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The first half mile was at a gentle -5.0% grade followed by a half mile of -12.6% grade. This brought us to two junctions for the Ethel Harrold Trailhead separated by under a mile of flat trail.

The next third of a mile dropped us at a -11.8% down to

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Martin Gulch and

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then South Boulder Creek.

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There were a few cascades

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and spots to hang out along the creek here, but the trail did not remain next to the creek for long to my disappointment.

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We would be heading up the steepest portion of our hike next at 26.6% grade, but only for a few steps. There were ongoing trail work here when we visited in September of 2020 with the first couple switchbacks with stairs

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turning to rocks at the top.

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On our way up, we had another glance up the South Boulder Creek.

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After the steep portion, there was a quarter mile of flat terrain, our next half mile of uphill at 8.0% grade, and then another 1.2 miles of incline at 6.5% grade. As we headed up, the pine forest

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gave away to a dry meadow where we briefly crossed over into Eldorado Canyon State Park (Colorado Parks & Wildlife). This was also where the trail junctions for the Crescent Meadows Trailhead.

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We continued to follow the loop as it briefly parallels Gross Dam Road, but we don’t get much of a view out toward the peaks in the Front Range.

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Our descent back down toward the South Boulder Creek (further upstream of our previous crossing) over the next mile at roughly -9.7% grade. On the way down, we saw some cool rock formations from across the way.

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However, we were pretty happy to reach South Boulder Creek as the sun was wearing on us. Hats, shirts, Kevin, and Ray were dunked promptly.

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After a break. we continued on the trail crossing the South Boulder Creek and then following it downstream for a half mile. The was my favorite parts of the hike.

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There were even placard here to explain the origins of the creek.

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Our uphill back to our trailhead and car started after we crossed Tom Davis Gulch, which I don’t recall if it was dry at this time of year. The final mile of up hill was a relatively even 9.5% grade, but without much cover. It wasn’t without some interesting rock formations though, named Langridge Dyke.

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hike impressions

ratings

The rating below are based on an unevenly distributed scale of 1-5. For full description of the ratings and the categories, see the explanation here.

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views/experience: 2. My favorite sections of the hike were the short stretches next of the South Boulder Creek, which I wished we had more views of. Otherwise, the terrain was of grassy hills and pine forests. While it was different terrain than I’m use to on the east coast, there wasn’t much that stood out about it relative to what is out there in Colorado.

difficulty: 1. While the 8 miles seem long, it was a relatively easy 8 miles without too much elevation gain. The most difficult aspect of the hike was the sun beating on us for a good portion of the hike.

technical: 1. The trail was well signed, well traveled, with plenty of trail work.

getting out

After our week in the Wind River Range and another week working remote in Denver, we were on our way back home. Our total mileage on our rental car was 1162.8 miles.

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Our flight was a direct flight on Southwest Airlines from Denver (DEN) to Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Southwest was still keeping the middle seat empty at this point, so all of it was done as safely at possible in regards to the pandemic. After being cooped up at home for more than half the year, it was welcoming to jump on a plane once again.

budget

Our total out of pocket cost was USD$2,777.96 for 2 people over 17 days of travel. During our time, we spent just over a week out in the Wind River Range backpacking and followed that with a week of remote work/isolation in the hotel before seeing our friends for a few days. Summary of our out of pocket spending is show below with detailed list at the end of this sections:

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The out of pocket cost for the first part of our trip backpacking into the Winds and second part of our trip working remote week were roughly the same cost for us, but that was mainly because we burned through our hotel points for housing during our week of working remote. Effectively, our work remote week was more costly value wise because of that.

Our biggest expense was the rental car and gas costs that it took to drive us out to Wyoming from Denver. The gas costs were expected as we decided to fly into Denver for the cheap Southwest flight.

We didn’t try very hard to save money on food as we ordered carry out more in comparison to living at home. Food is a typical cost of living expense, so I don’t know how much lower it would have been in comparison to us staying at home for the 17 days.

Again, we were able to keep our out of pocket housing costs down by using our hotel points. Specifically, IHG and Hilton points, which are tied directly to the monetary hotel rates rather than the hotel categories. Since this was still in the phase of the pandemic where people were still ok with staying at home, well the tail end of it, hotel prices were relatively low. That made IHG and Hilton points more worth it.

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2 thoughts on “trip report: Colorado – Walker Ranch loop, September 13 2020

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