Grand County Backcountry: Trail of the Week
ST. LOUIS LOOP
Activity – Backcountry Ski or Snowshoe
Level of Difficulty – 3 (on a scale of 1-5, 1 being the easiest)
Round-trip Mileage – 4.87 miles
Round-trip Touring Time – 2 _ hours
Altitude, GPS Reading at Trailhead – 9052′, 39°54’25″N, 105°52’59″W
Altitude, GPS Reading at Highest Point (5) – 9516′, 39°53’28″N, 105°54’34″W
Trail Fee Required – No
Dogs Permitted without Leash
Trailhead Location – On US Hwy 40 in the town of Fraser, at the Fraser Valley Shopping Center turn south on CR 72 for .3 miles. Turn right onto Fraser Pkwy for .8 miles. Turn left on CR 73 for 3.8 miles and then right into the parking area. The trailhead (1) is at the far west end of the parking area.
Tour Description – Follow the St. Louis Loop trail straight ahead. Merge with a road from the left (2), and continue straight. The trail follows a road used to monitor experiments throughout the Fraser Experimental Forest. This road is closed off for snowmobile use, with the exception of forest service employees, who may occasionally be seen conducting research. Gently climb through the montane forest of lodgepole pine, spruce, and fir trees. At the fork and trail marker (3), the Deadhorse Creek Loop trail is on the right and the St. Louis Creek Loop trail is on the left. Take the left fork and continue on the road. Ahead on the left is a research area (4) where snow depth and snow melt are measured. Please do not disturb this area. Beyond the research area are a couple of small clearings with a view of the side of Bottle Peak. At the next fork and trail marker (5), the Byers Peak trail is on the right and the St. Louis Loop trail continues on the left. Turn left down the short hill where the trail is level. Follow the road through the woods. Look for a green vent (4′ high metal pipe) (6), which is on the left. From this vent, the road continues to the right, but turn left down a clear-cut hill for .2 miles. This hill is very steep with several dips, but a lot of fun. At the bottom of the hill is a 4-way road intersection (7), which is closed to motorized traffic during the winter. From the bottom of the hill, turn left (north-north-east), and descend gently along the road. Parallel the creek and follow the road all the way to the beginning of the plowed road (CR 73) (8), and the Fraser Experimental Forest Headquarters. Follow the brown fence beside the left bank of the road to the fence corner (9). Turn left and follow the fence to the trailhead (1).
Backcountry Tip of the Week – This area is part of the Fraser Experimental Forest where ongoing experiments are being conducted. Many of the trees are marked with paint, ribbons, and tags. Experimental projects are visible throughout the area, which collect data including wind speed, temperature, rain fall, snow fall, snow pack, and water flow. Do Not Disturb these experiments and remain on the trail.
More trails and information are available in “Backcountry Skiing and Snowshoeing in Grand County, Colorado”. The book is available locally in many retail outlets, gift shops, sporting goods stores, and coffee shops or visit our website at http://backcountrybound.home.mindspring.com/. This column is a partnership with Headwaters Trails Alliance (www.headwaterstrails.com), who works to plan, build, preserve and maintain multi-use trails in Grand County.
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