We left the Springs on Friday at 5:30PM and got to the Comanche/Venable trailhead about two hours later. The sun was setting, so we were only able to hike about half a mile to meet up with the Rainbow Trail before we had to set up camp. Very chill night with a fire and a few PBRs.
Next morning we were up around 6AM and on the trail by seven. You follow the Rainbow Trail for about four miles until you come to Hermit Pass road.
Hermit Pass Road is definitely a road, if not one most people would take their vehicle on. But it's easy to follow if you're hiking. On a beautiful Saturday aftenooon we saw three other vehicles, a Jeep Wrangler and two other go-kart looking things. Not very busy at all.
We were right at treeline around 11:30AM and there were some ominous clouds up higher, so we decided to break for lunch. Ate some Mountain House grub, I think my first meal of dehydrated food since my Army days.
The standard for this loop is beautiful views no matter what direction you look. A few more on our way up to the high point of the hike, Hermit Pass:
Here is $100 arriving at the top of the pass:
After a mile or so of downhill, the trail kind of peters out and you need to do some cross country for another mile. Not difficult, as you can see the pass you need to get to.
Somewhere between Hermit Pass and Eureka Pass is the second pass of this hike. It's not far after Hermit, and it's fairly insignificant as I didn't even think about it until heading up to Eureka.
After a 16 mile day, over 8.5 hours, on pretty rough trail, we were all beat and staring up at the last pass, Venable Pass. We had hoped to make it to Venable Lake to camp, but we knew that would mean another two hours of hiking just to set up camp in the dark. So we decided to call it a day around 5PM.
I have been stalking Ted M on his blog as he and his wife have spent a lot of time in the Sangres, and when he is not trying to crush some KOM he does some more leisurely stuff, and he always has what he calls "happy hour" before turning in for the night. Not my usual happy hour of seeing how much booze I can consume between 5PM and 6PM, but a nice relaxing end to the day. We had our own happy hour as we brewed some coffee and had a few sips of whiskey. And a tiny bit of fireball. You can see our tent in these pics.
Sunday morning was another late-ish start (I'm usually up before 5AM on weekdays, here we slept past 6AM each day) and we headed up Venable Pass. Took us just under an hour.
From Venable Pass it's roughly six miles back to the trailhead on easy to follow trail. The trail intersects with the Comanche trail and we thought about taking that to add a few miles, but we decided not to press our luck.
Stopped for coffee and jerky at the last of three Venable Lakes.
A few waterfalls on the way back. First a smaller one:
This is the trail the last five or so miles of the loop. Very easy to follow:
Venable falls. Awesome place and this picture does not do it justice.
Overall this was a great hike I'd put up against most of the other more famous hikes in Colorado. 23.5 miles total, most of it at or above treeline. We spent two nights outside, giving us a good chance to start figuring out what to carry for the Colorado Trail. My pack was pushing 40 pounds when we started, and $100's was over 30. The dog carried her own food the entire way, three pints of dog food per day plus various treats. Would like to cut our pack weight down by five pounds each, gives me something to work on this winter.
The two days we took was fun, though that 16 mile day was pretty big for us. Getting out there a bit earlier on Friday to get a few more miles in would have made things much easier. Once I'm rich and famous and don't have to worry about a job I think the perfect schedule would be to camp towards treeline on Hermit Road, then below Eureka Pass, then at Venable Lake.
It would also be a great loop to run, though I would say it will take you longer than you think. My guess is that it would take me a good eight hours of my usual not-walking-but-not-pushing-too-hard ultra pace. Lots of water along the loop, but damn if you get into trouble out there between Hermit Pass and Venable Lake it's going to be tough to get help. We did not see a single person on that part of the hike. Although I did notice that with verizon I had good service for almost all of the entire loop.
No brewery in Westcliffe to celebrate at, so we hit Florence Brewing on the way home for some well deserved beers.