Flat hike offers forested scenery | SteamboatToday.com

Flat hike offers forested scenery

Windy Ridge trail provides easy trek to old Indian quarry, breathtaking views

The spectacular views from an 8,000-year-old Indian rock quarry make the 2 1/2-mile hike along Windy Ridge well worth the three-hour investment. Lily Lake lies at the foot of the quarry summit while Rabbit Ears Peak can be seen far in the distance.

— The trail that follows Windy Ridge to an 8,000-year-old Indian quarry near Rabbit Ears Pass offers beautiful scenery near and far, offering gorgeous views that are a common luxury on Steamboat-area hikes.

But there aren’t many trails that start with the ominous warning greeting hikers on Windy Ridge.

The trail, five miles round trip, kicks off with a sign warning hikers against picking up artifacts and asking them to keep America’s heritage in mind as they head toward the trail’s end, an ancient rock quarry mined by regional American Indians for thousands of years.

The 2 1/2-mile trip to the quarry mostly is easy, to hike and appreciate. The trail remains generally flat, descending only slightly over the entire distance before a short climb to the quarry.

The resulting slight incline on the way back makes the return a little more difficult, but the whole trip remains suitable to anyone in decent shape and familiar with area hikes.

The Windy Ridge quarry hike offers plenty that other area trails might not. On a hazy morning last week, a few muddy spots provided obstacles – easily crossable thanks to well-placed tree limbs and a few big steps – as the ridge-top trail wove in and out of various lodgepole pine concentrations and aspen thickets giving way to small but pretty meadows every few hundred yards.

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The trail is worn, mostly dry and easy to track with just two confusing forks.

It departs from a new parking lot at the end of Forest Road 238. The road was blocked off by earthworks, but a trail on the west side of the lot mirrors what was once the road before meeting up with a more-established trail, marked by the warning sign.

The course eventually joins with a wider jeep trail and leads hikers along a ridge. The scenery finally opens up to offer great views to the east of Lily Lake and eventually Lake Agnes.

The quarry trail follows the jeep path all the way down the ridge before splitting away. The more-established jeep road hangs left, descending toward the lakes, while the quarry trail veers to the right and then up toward a rock outcropping on a hill at the end of the ridge.

The second confusing fork again involves breaking away from the well-worn jeep road. After crossing the ridge again, there is a tall, white pole marking where the trail splits off, heading to the right and into the forest while the jeep trail swings left, down and away.

The journey really pays off once hikers are through the last remaining forest and into the quarry area. Loose rock is everywhere and can be troublesome, but a stable path isn’t hard to find. Once atop the rocks, the hike yields vast views of the lakes below, the continental divide between North Park and Middle Park and far in the distance, Rabbit Ears Peak.

Be sure to pack a camera as pictures are the only souvenirs allowed to leave the area. Pictures will prove to be plenty. On the way back, Rabbit Ears Peak looms, with vast fields of wildflowers leading a hiker’s eye straight to the signature stone mounds.

Windy Ridge Indian Quarry Hike

How to get there:

– Take U.S. Highway 40 south out of Steamboat Springs for 20 miles, up Rabbit Ears Pass.

– Turn right on Forest Road 100, about one mile past the turnoff for Dumont Lake

– Go 1 1/4 miles and take a left on Forest Road 238

– Follow 238 up a short hill and park in a wide-open, limestone parking lot. The trailhead is on the west side of the lot.

Length: Five miles, roundtrip

Time: Three hours

Suitable for: Anyone who enjoys hiking

area trails. There are several small muddy portions that can be bridged or jumped, several long, slow inclines and one short, steep incline.

For more

Yampatika is hosting a Windy Ridge Archaeological Hike on Saturday. The hike, guided by a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist, costs $30 for members and $40 for nonmembers. Hikers must be at least 12 years old. Group size is limited to 12.