On a windy, ever-changing Easter Sunday afternoon, my friend and I drove to the intersection of Fish Creek Road and the entrance to Cheley Camp to hike the Homer Rouse Trail. This is a four-mile round trip journey that took us about two hours and provided many delightful moments. You could hike it a lot more quickly, but we were having too much fun exploring and taking photographs.
The trail is a cooperative effort between the Estes Valley Recreation and Parks District and Larimer County.
This trail is rarely crowded and I’m told is a favorite of locals. It’s open to people walking dogs on a leash, bicyclists, runners and horseback riders.
To get to the start of the trail, we walked the gravel road from the parking lot near Fish Creek Road to the arching sign that says “Cheley Camp.” Instead of going into the camp, we went straight and saw the sign announcing the start of the Homer Rouse Trail.
Most of this trek uphill is a wide road, though some parts in the middle are trail-sized. On the day we went, there were still many pockets of snow nestled under the trees, making for beautiful scenery. The craggy low rock formations are fascinating…a witness to the power of wind and rain and ice and heat.
About a third of the way up the trail, we came upon an open space where Cheley Camp has cleared some trees. The view into the Estes Valley was amazing, even though it was a cloudy, windy day with graupel (soft, tiny hail) falling from the sky in spurts.
The trail starts out by winding to the left and then abruptly turns right and takes you further toward Highway 7.
The incline is gentle and not difficult, leaving energy to admire the landscape which — on this day — included small rivulets of water from melting snow running down the hill. There was quite a bit of mud and some snowy patches, but we did not need spikes.
About two-thirds of the way through our journey, my friend and I spotted a fluffy coyote not even six feet away from us on the road. This majestic animal was interested in us, though not aggressive at all. It trotted in front of us up the road and then down into a gulley. It even tracked us for a bit from that low point, wondering who we were and what we were up to.
I used to live in South Texas where the coyotes were sort of scrawny and hungry looking. Not this one! It was well-fed and its beautiful tail and thick fur were a wonderful sight to behold.
We arrived at the old Baldpate Inn (now the Seven Keys Lodge). This 1917 historic place is so inviting. I can’t wait to check it out soon. Seven Keys Lodge now features live music and a whiskey bar along with accommodations. It sits at 9,000 feet elevation.
Our way back down was faster, of course, and facing north most of the way which provided excellent views of our home town. If you have not had a chance to check out this trail, it is a nice alternative when you don’t have a reservation in the summer for Rocky Mountain National Park.
I will definitely go again as it is the hiking trail which is closest to my house and it short enough to go on a whim when you have a couple of hours to spare.
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