Grand County: Trail of the Week |

Grand County: Trail of the Week

Deborah Carr and Lou LadriganBackcountry Bound

Activity – Hiking Level of Difficulty – 1 (on a scale of 1-5, 1 being the easiest)Round-trip Mileage – 4.07 milesRound-trip Hiking Time – 2 hours Altitude, GPS Reading at Trailhead – 8345′, 4006’39N, 10544’48WAltitude, GPS Reading at Highest Point (between (7) & (8)) – 8459′, 4006’24N, 10544’09WTrail Fee Required – Yes, $5 per day per vehicle available at self serve kiosk on CR 6 (FDR 125). Free with ANRA annual pass, Golden Eagle, Golden Age, and Access passports.Dogs are Permitted with leashIndian Peaks Wilderness Area Regulations Apply – See USDA Sulphur Ranger District regarding large groups.Trailhead Location – On US Hwy 34, between Granby and Grand Lake, between mile markers 5 and 6, turn east on CR 6 (FDR 125). From US Hwy 34 to the trailhead is 9.8 miles. Cross the Granby Dam and follow all signs to Monarch Lake. This is a good dirt road. Trailhead parking is at the end of the road at the Road Closed gate.Trail Description – Pass around the gate, walk to the Forest Service cabin, and register. The trailhead sign is next to the cabin (1). The Southside Trail is on the right. Follow this trail around the west side of Monarch Lake. The view across the lake with the mountain backdrop is beautiful, especially with the early morning reflection off the water. Cross over a dam and pass a picnic area in the woods. In the woods, the view of Monarch Lake disappears. Climb above the lake to the remains of four cabins – three on the left and one on the right. These cabins housed workers from the Monarch Lumber Company that once occupied this area. Next is an old boiler on the left side of the trail (2) probably used to run the sawmill. This is a spruce-fir forest and is shaded by the canopy of the trees. At the fork and trail marker (3), the High Lonesome Trail is on the right where there are the remains of several old cabins. Continue straight toward the Arapaho Trail where there are more old cabins on the right and an outhouse on the left. Cross Arapaho Creek where there is another fork and trail marker (4). The Arapaho Trail continues to the right, but take the left fork and follow the Southside Trail. The trees open slightly with small meadows leading to lake level. Climb gently through the forest. Cross Buchanan Creek on the wooden bridge. This is a beautiful wide creek. At a fork and trail marker (5), the Cascade Trail turns to the right leading to the Pawnee Pass Trail, Cascade Creek Trail, and the Buchanan Pass Trail. Take the left fork and continue around the lake. The creek runs near the trail hidden behind the thick tall willows. There are several short ascents and descents and a clear view of the creek beside the trail. Pass through a field of boulders, which have fallen from the stone cliffs above. The trail is well maintained through this area. When Monarch Lake is again visible, hug the lake back to the trailhead (1).Backcountry Tip of the Week – Do not throw cigarette butts or matches on the forest floor. Pack these out with your trash. Forest fires are a major concern in the mountains. More trails and information are available in Hiking 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 This column is a partnership with Headwaters Trails Alliance (, who works to plan, build, preserve and maintain multi-use trails in Grand County.

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