On a windy and changeable Easter afternoon, my friend and I drove to the intersection of Fish Creek Road and the entrance to Cheley Camp to hike the Homer Rouse Trail. This is a four mile round trip that took us about two hours and provided many delightful moments. You could hike much faster, but we had too much fun exploring and taking pictures.
The trail is a cooperative effort between the Estes Valley Recreation and Parks District and Larimer County.
This trail is rarely crowded and I’m told it’s a locals favorite. It is open to dog walkers on a leash, cyclists, runners and horse riders.
To get to the trailhead, we took the gravel road from the parking lot near Fish Creek Road to the arched sign that said “Cheley Camp”. Instead of entering camp we went straight and saw the sign for the start of the Homer Rouse Trail.
Most of this uphill hike is wide road, although some parts in the middle are trail sized. On the day we went there were still many pockets of snow tucked under the trees making for some beautiful scenery. The low and steep rock formations are fascinating…a witness to the power of wind, rain, ice and heat.
About a third of the way in we came across an open space where Cheley Camp cleared some trees. The view of the Estes Valley was amazing, although it was a cloudy, windy day with graupel (small soft hail) falling from the sky in spurts.
The trail begins by meandering to the left, then turns sharply to the right and takes you further towards Highway 7.
The slope is gentle and not difficult, leaving energy to admire the landscape which on this day included small streams of water from the melting snow flowing down the hill. There was quite a bit of mud and a few patches of snow, but we didn’t need spikes.
About two-thirds into our trip, my friend and I spotted a fluffy coyote less than two meters from us on the road. This majestic animal was interested in us, but not at all aggressive. He trotted past us on the road, then into a ravine. He even followed us for a bit from that low point, wondering who we were and what we were doing.
I used to live in South Texas where the coyotes looked skinny and hungry. Not this one! He was well fed and his beautiful tail and thick fur were a wonderful sight to behold.
We arrived at the old Baldpate Inn (now the Seven Keys Lodge). This historic place from 1917 is so inviting. I look forward to checking it out soon. Seven Keys Lodge now offers live music and a whiskey bar as well as accommodation. It sits 9,000 feet above sea level.
Our way back was quicker, of course, and facing north most of the way, which provided excellent views of our hometown. If you haven’t had a chance to experience this trail, it’s a great alternative when you don’t have a reservation in the summer for Rocky Mountain National Park.
I’ll definitely go back as it’s the closest hiking trail to my house and it’s short enough to be on a whim when you have a few hours to spare.
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