West Ridge Trail from Loveland Pass, Arapaho National Forest

The easier of the trails at Loveland Pass, West Ridge surrounds two sides of the bowl that makes up the Loveland area and the I-70 corridor over the Continental Divide. Still, at 11,990 feet, this is no piece of cake for folks like me who are used to mountains no more than half the elevation. Several ski slopes are visible from the ridge. Look too for cute rodents to peek out of their ground holes, like pica, chipmunks and marmots. My brother Dave and I hiked the short West Ridge Trail on Saturday, July 15, 2017 beginning at 7:30AM and ending about 8:45AM. Our plan was to hike to the crest of West Ridge offering views of the back side mountain ranges, then return.

Hike Length: 1.5 miles Hike Duration: 1.25 hours

Hike Rating: Moderate. Short, but it’s all above 12,000 feet.

Hike Configuration: Up and back Blaze: None

Elevation Change: 356 feet Elevation Start: 11,990 feet

Trail Condition: Fair. Very rocky and narrow.

Starting Point: West side of Hwy 6 at Loveland Pass beneath the long range weaponry sign.

Trail Traffic: We encountered about 10 other hikers. Far more were on the other side.

How to Get There: From I-70 take the Loveland Pass exit, passing the Loveland Ski Area on Highway 6 and go to the top of Loveland Pass. You can also take Highway 6 from Dillon through Keystone resort to the top of Loveland Pass.

 

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Dave and I chuckled at the bright orange sign at the trailhead that was pock-marked with bullet holes and plastered with bright colored stickers. “WARNING – Avalanche blasting at any time using long range weaponry.” Yikes! We figured we were safe because, y’know… summer and all. Not too many avalanches in July. But, you just never know. Artillery shells don’t give much advance notice. We didn’t have climbing helmets, but we did keep our eyes and ears peeled.

We had been here six years before on a memorable hike to the summit of Mt. Sniktau. This time we were on the other side of the road at Loveland Pass. All of the other early arrivals were making the arduous climb up Sniktau, so we pretty much had West Ridge to ourselves for awhile. The start of the West Ridge Trail is just as steep, but nowhere near as long.

After an initial ascent of 200 feet or so, West Ridge Trail levels out somewhat and offers a nice view of the Loveland bowl and I-70 far below. Despite being more than half a mile away and 2,000 feet lower, we could still hear the highway sounds from the busy interstate. We could also hear the chirp, chirp, chirping sounds of the picas that were scurrying about in, around and under the rocky glacial breakdown that dots the trail.

We continued up the next rise, not as steep as the first, and topped the crest of West Ridge. The back side of the ridge opened a broad expanse of snow capped peaks that seemed to extend for miles. You can also see the Arapaho Basin and Keystone ski mountains from this side of the ridge. The steep granite wall of East Face stands sentinel over the A-Basin ski slopes.

West Ridge Trail continues for about another mile on the crest of the ridge, but the views don’t really change much. Since this day was kind of a rest day for us, we satisfied ourselves with what we were seeing, and turned around.

Just in the short hour we had been hiking, the wildflowers blossomed and the marmots came out of their burrows. There is a great view on the way back of two nearby fourteeners Grays and Torreys Peaks as well as Grizzly Peak, another tall and imposing mountain that is accessible from the Mt. Sniktau Trail.

In summary, there isn’t much to this short trail from Loveland Pass, but if Mt. Sniktau is a bit much for your abilities, this is a way to experience hiking on the alpine tundra above 12,000 feet. The views all around you are spectacular, and you are pretty much guaranteed to see cute Rocky Mountain critters along the pathway. Just don’t leave your pack laying around while you’re futzing with photographs.

 

 

This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.

 

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  • Tim Truemper

    My wife and I were really hoping to get to Colorado again this year and this area has been on our list. So thanks as always for a journey given by your excellent posts and hope to see it for real by next summer.