| Travels on the Ben Tyler Trail
WARNING: Another out of the norm trip report. Instead of focusing on one individual trip, I put this trip report together for the purpose of showing the variety of possibilities one has when using the Ben Tyler Trail from the North Ben Tyler TH. I have used tracks and photos from a number of different trips up the trail to show the different destinations available as well as various examples of the conditions one encounters in the area. I figure since a few of these peaks don't have TR's, the more info the better. It's a bit different, but hopefully not too confusing.
Photos/Tracks are from 11/23/2008, 4/5/2009, 2/7/2010, 5/16/2010, 1/22/2011, 6/22/2011, 11/4/2012, and 1/1/2013. (Photos will be noted of the date taken.)
Whether or not you've ever hiked from this trailhead, it's certain that you've at least driven by it from time to time on your way towards the Mosquito/Sawatch ranges via Highway 285. Located between the towns of Grant and Bailey, the trailhead is located at a pull off 6.5 miles west of Bailey and 11.5 miles east of Kenosha Pass. It feels slightly unusual to gear up at your vehicle with traffic wizzing by, but you lose the road sensation quickly once on the trail.
Even though the Ben Tyler Trail offers some great sights and hiking options, part of what makes this spot one of my favorites is the close location to Denver. Aside from the Brookside-Payne Trailhead just north of Bailey, the North Ben Tyler Trailhead is the quickest access point to the Lost Creek Wilderness. A 45 minute drive from Denver that offers 10+ mile/4K+ foot elevation options year round is quite a sweet deal.
North Ben Tyler Trailhead (Parking and Trail Start)
North Ben Tyler Trailhead (Trailhead Sign)
Stats - 4.75 Miles, 2,850' Elevation
Regardless of where your final destination is, all trips from the Ben Tyler Trailhead start with the long 4.75 mile hike up the Ben Tyler Trail. After signing in at the wilderness registry a few steps from the start, you are immediately faced with switchbacks that take you southward up the hillside. These switchbacks are necessary to reach the Ben Tyler Gulch because the spot where the gulch meets the highway a nit further down 285 is surrounded in private property. The switchbacks are over quickly enough, and after another half mile southward, the trail turns westward and enters the Ben Tyler Gulch. Shortly after entering the gulch, you will cross the boundary line of the Lost Creek Wilderness.
The trail follows the gulch steadily, passing from pine to aspen as you work your way up above the 10K mark. Finally, near 10,600' (N39 24.929 W105 38.207) you discover that the trail has finally decided to take a hard left. This marks the beginning of another set of switchbacks that lead 400' to the Craig Park/Ben Tyler Trail intersection. The start of the switchbacks is in a treeless area, making the turn difficult to find in the winter. In fact, I don't think I've completed a winter ascent of this trail without losing it around here. Fortunately, the terrain isn't overly steep in this area that you can't take a bearing and head straight towards the trail intersection above. Needless to say, GPS is nice luxury to have on this trail in winter. When you finally reach the intersection, a healthy chunk of the distance and gain for the day is behind you. Now, depending on the goal of the day, you have the option of turning right and staying on the Ben Tyler Trail (towards Platosha, Foster BM, Twin Cones) or turning left unto the Craig Park Trail. (Towards "Little Platosha", Kenosha Peak and Platte Peak.
Starting the switchbacks up from the TH. January, 2013
Finished with the switchbacks, about to enter Ben Tyler Gulch January, 2013
Well, hello old friend. (Entering the wilderness along the Ben Tyler Trail on a few different occasions.
Entering the gulch. March, 2009
Aspens along the east side of the trail. January, 2013
Summertime aspens along the east side of the trail. June, 2011
Aspen canopy. June, 2011
Canopy after collapse. November, 2012
Canopy just plain "in the way." Moonstalker clearing the path. January, 2011
The start of the switchbacks, 400' below the trail intersection. January, 2011
Snow gets thick in this hood. Greenhouseguy working his way up just shy of the trail intersection. February, 2010
Reaching the trail intersection @ 11K. January, 2013
Kenosha Peak Stats from Intersection - 1.75 Miles, 1,000' Elevation
(Kenosha Peak RT Total - 13.25 Miles, 3,900' Elevation
Platte Peak Stats from Intersection - 1.8 Miles, 900' Elevation
(Platte Peak RT Total - 13.3 Miles, 3,810' Elevation
For the southern summit options, take a left (southern) turn onto the Craig Park Trail. You'll only be following this trail for about 1 mile, as it slowly and easily ascends to the saddle between Kenosha Peak and Platte Peak. This saddle is also referred to as "Little Platosha". Once on the saddle, the views open up to the South and East. From this point, there will be no more trail to follow, as the Craig Park Trail heads SE in search of the Brookside/Payne Trail. I have often stopped at a nice , large rock cairn for a break at this point, as it is a good landmark to find the trail on your way back later in the day.
Headed south towards "Little Platosha" after turning left on Craig Park Trail. January, 2011
Just shy of the saddle. (Little Platosha) January, 2013
On "Little Platosha". Brian Thomas looking west, our saddle ascent point in the background. January, 2013
From the rock cairn at "Little Platosha", the route is directly west and obvious. It is less than a mile to the summit of Kenosha from here, but the most direct route requires navigation of the willows in Craig Park. Don't spend too much time looking around for the easiest route through the willows, as it seem each option is as good as the next...and none are all that annoying. I will say, this section is easier in winter with the added height of the snow. Once through the willows, head straight up the eastern side of Kenosha Peak. It is steep for about 400', however relents the final 100' and presents a pleasing and easy stroll to the highest point. It is a very mellow summit, marked only by a few large rocks. The views from here are quite nice.
Kenosha Peak from "Little Platosha". January 2013
Looking SE towards Platte Peak from the slopes of Kenosha Peak. January 2013
Willows guarding the ascent of Kenosha. January 2013
Brian Thomas standing atop Kenosha Peak. January 2013
Twin Cones from the summit of Kenosha Peak June, 2009
Derek dwarfed by the expanse of Little Platosha January 2013, photo by Brian Thomas
From the rock cairn at "Little Platosha", the route up Platte Peak is a bit more obscure than Kenosha. Again, the summit is less than 1 mile away, however you are again blocked by minimal willows and some trees. The easiest route up is to head due east and follow the highest point you can find. After about 250' of elevation, the trees clear away and you are treated to an unobstructed view of the summit. It's an enjoyable stroll to the summit area (well, depending on the weather... ) and a mini scramble atop the highest point.
Looking south towards Platte Peak from "Little Platosha", summit not visible. January, 2011
Todd (zoomie83) headed through the small tree covered section on the way up Platte Peak. January 2011
Exiting the trees, final distance to Platte Peak visible. January 2011
Looking north from just below the summit of Platte Peak on a nicer day. Kenosha Peak just out of sight on the left, the Northern summits (Twin Cones, Blaine and Foster BM) in the distance. June, 2011
Moonstalker, zoomie83 and Brain Thomas on the summit of Platte Peak. January 2011
Foster/Blaine/N+S Twin Cone Stats from Intersection - 9.75 Miles, 2,250' Elevation
(Foster/Blaine/N+S Twin Cone RT Total - 19.25 Miles, 5,100' Elevation
Revert back to the Craig Park/Ben Tyler Trail Intersection....
For the northern summits option, pass by the Craig Park trail and continue right (west) on the Ben Tyler Trail. The trail has a few minor switchbacks, and gains 650' in just over 1 mile. You will need to follow the trail all the way to the saddle of Kenosha Peak and Foster Benchmark. This saddle is also known as "Platosha". (As opposed to "Little Platosha" a couple miles south.) The trail continues on its way towards the South Ben Tyler TH, but you are done with it once you reach Platosha. The choice/combination of summits from this point are wide open in terms of preference. Just a few things to keep in mind that may help with decision making from this point:
1- There is a rather defined trail that leads from Platosha to the South Twin Cone/Foster Benchmark saddle, skirting the SW side of Foster BM. It's not marked on any maps, but this is a handy trail for coming and going, especially if you want to bypass Foster BM.
2- If headed for North Twin Cone, it's easiest just to summit Mount Blaine on the way, as heading straight for North Twin Cone would result in unneeded elevation loss.
3- None of the willows in here are as bad as they look. Just head through them, don't worry about taking time to find ways around them.
4- North Twin Cone isn't technically part of the LCW. Therefore, there is a road leading to the summit, and the summit is covered in some antennas. Just a fair warning.
5- This northern option is also an alternative way to hike Kenosha Peak from the north. Just head due south from Platosha.
Twin Cones and Foster Benchmark from Platosha November, 2012
Foster Benchmark November, 2012
DanR on South Twin Cone. November, 2012
Peak X and company from Mount Blaine. November, 2012
Summit of Mount Blaine. November, 2012
North Twin Cone from South Twin Cone. November, 2008
South Park from North Twin Cone. November, 2012
North Twin Cone. November, 2012
Red: Ben Tyler Trail Yellow: Craig Park Trail Blue: To Platte Peak Green: To Kenosha Peak Black: Northern Summit Loop
Map of total area. Click to enlarge.
So next time you're looking to get out, look close to home...and check out the options of the Ben Tyler Trail. Also, feel free to give me a shout if you would like a GPX file of any of the routes noted in this report. I would be happy to send one your way.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):