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Jeeping with friends on Colorado’s scenic forest trails with awesome vistas

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Exploring in Gilpin and Clear Creek counties

By Aaron Storms

Our friends Ron and Becky drove their Jeep Wrangler down to Gilpin County from Madison, WI for another off-road adventure with us. They rented a nice little cabin on the Casey Road in Central City that they referred to as the “cliff-hanger” cabin, and we planned out our weekend trips at the Dostal Alley Friday evening.

Saturday morning we packed our lunches and after airing down our tires to better absorb the rough trails and to get better traction, we headed west on Apex Road to the little pioneer town of Apex, and turned south to start the Kingston Peak trail. The views are great and we saw a few other off-road vehicles on the way to the top overlooking the Fall River Reservoir. The air was a bit thin and chilly up there with the wind, so we found a sheltered spot on the high meadow and had lunch. Heading on down through the “enchanted forest,” we eventually came out in the little town of Alice.

Heading south on Fall River Road towards Idaho Springs, we decided it was too early to have dinner, so turned east on York Gulch, a “short-cut” dirt road to Central City. We eventually came to a series of trails to Bald Mountain Road, Columbine Campground Road, and Yankee Hill Road. We decided to check out the latter and it kept climbing in elevation until we were getting back to Kingston Peak again, so since it was getting late by then we turned back and took the Columbine Campground road back to Central and wound up the day with pizza at Dostal Alley.

Sunday morning we wanted to do the Bill Moore Lake trail starting in Empire, so had a great time making it through the gold aspens, through the chute, and on to the top and had lunch by the beautiful lake. Heading down, we fell in with another group of Jeeps, so ditched them after a bit and went exploring again, this time checking out the Red Elephant Hill and Miller Creek trails. Unlike the wide open spaces of the main BML trail, these were more technical – tight and rocky with our Jeeps barely fitting between the trees. Partway down, we came across a series of old log cabins in disrepair, but someone from Wisconsin had purchased the property and built a log cabin just as it would have been constructed originally. Heading back to Idaho Springs, we finished off another great day in the outdoors with dinner at Tommyknockers.

This is the perfect time of the year for hiking and off-roading, so go check out your backyard!

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