Rollins Pass and South Boulder Creek

Activity Date: 
08/01/2009

Our plan was to drive up the east side of Rollins Pass, then hike the Forest Lakes trail from the top. Our plans ended up changing...

We left Columbine campground and took Apex Road north. This is a dirt road cutover that joins with Rollins Pass Road (instead of going back into Central City and then up Hwy 119 to Rollinsville). There are nice views along Apex.

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Apex Road eventually drops us off on Mammoth Gulch Road. From here we can go left back to the Kingston Peak offroad trail we did the other day, or right towards Rollins Pass Road. We went right. :)

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Mammoth Gulch drops you off onto Rollins Pass Road just to the west of Tolland. This is the road you would be on if you drove from Rollinsville. About 2 miles later, you come to what looks like a fork in the road. Left leads to the East Portal of Moffat Tunnel (more on that later). Right is Rollins Pass Road going up to the pass. This is also known as Moffat Road. When we went, there were trucks parked all over the road here, mostly to unload ATVs. They blocked the road so we couldn't see the right turn. Luckily, we realized we missed it and turned around to find the turn between a couple of poorly (rudely) parked trucks.

When you turn right on to Rollins Pass Road, you will see this sign.

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If you miss the turn and continue go to East Portal by accident, no worries, the road ends in a parking lot in about a mile.

After an initial very rocky section (not that great for normal passenger cars, fine for higher clearance cars/SUVs), you come to the easy road up. A little further along that, and you end up in pothole hell. It ends up that Rollins Pass east, while an easy 4WD road, is currently totally covered in deep potholes. Potholes non-stop across the road, no way to avoid them. More potholes than we've ever seen anywhere. Driving that was worse than a rocky road. The jeep just wrenched back and forth non-stop, until my back wanted to scream.

Unfortunately, we didn't take any pictures once the really bad potholes started. This is just the "normal" pothole covered road in this picture.

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Well, with the major pothole infestation, we didn't want to drive the 12+ miles to the pass at 1 mph, so we decided to turn around. In the end, we only made it about 2.5 miles up Rollins Pass east. Oh well. The views were nice.

After turning around, we pulled over and ate lunch. Here is a view back towards the main road that got you here.

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And, a view to the west down Rollins Pass road.

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OK, we're outta here! The new, improved plan is to go hike on South Boulder Creek trail. This will take us to the bottom of the Forest Lakes trail, so we can hike up it instead of our original plan to hike down it. To get to this trailhead, simply turn left back at the fork we saw at the beginning. The road ends in a large parking lot next to Moffat Tunnel.

As we drove up to the parking lot, we noticed really LOUD noise. It sounded like a jet engine sitting on the runway. What the heck is all that racket???? It ends up that the tunnel has some kind of exhaust system. HOLY COW!!! It is LOUD! As we walked up to the trailhead, we were wishing we had earplugs. I ended up plugging my ears. Here is the front of the tunnel.

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The tunnel goes under ground and is about 6.2 miles long. We assume they need the exhaust fans to keep the train fumes aired out(?). Unfortunately, the sound carries out into the woods. We could hear the noise as we hiked. We only hiked about 1 mile distance away (as the crow flies), since our trail looped around the mountain side. You could definitely hear the constant noise the entire time. At least it was not anywhere near as loud out in the woods, just a noticeable presence. We noticed it went off and on and assumed that this was when a train passed through. If that's true, there are an awful lot of trains passing by this area! We actually have no idea if that's why it was turning off and on. On our way back out from the hike, we did see this train entering the tunnel.

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OK, enough about trains and noise. On to the hike...

The trail passes by the tunnel and through some aspens. It's about 1 mile down the South Boulder Creek trail to the junction for the Forest Lakes trail.

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After passing through the aspens, we entered the woods.

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The trail is fairly open after the woods.

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We passed over several little cricks (as they say on the east coast) with nice wood bridges to keep us out of the mud.

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Eventually, we passed over a creek.

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Wildflowers are definitely in bloom! This pretty lavender flower was everywhere.

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After about a mile, we came to the junction. You can go straight through and continue along South Boulder Creek trail, which later joins with the Crater Lake trail junction. Or, you can go right on the Forest Lakes trail, which eventually leads to the Arapaho Lakes trail junction. We went right along Forest Lakes trail.

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Very quickly, you pass over a creek.

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The trail enters the woods again.

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We are now higher in elevation than when we started, so the terrain is more strewn with rocks, which add a lot of character.

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Flowers are everywhere! This pretty pink thing was scattered in the shade by the rocks.

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We've seen these flowers on a lot of our hikes.

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This is the yellow version of the red paintbrush flower above.

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This flower looked so delicate.

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We hiked about 1.5 miles up the Forest Lakes branch of the trail. Unfortunately, not far enough to get to the first lake. But, we started the hike late in the afternoon after detouring for the Rollins Pass drive. This is a really nice trail, we'd like to go the whole way next time.

On our drive back along Apex, we noticed this neat sign put up by the locals.

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