Final Hike of the Week: Acorn Creek
Fall foliage brilliance shines from aspen glades along beautiful Acorn Creek, located 11 miles north of Silverthorne. Two destinations provide walkers a choice between an invigorating and a rigorous hike.I chose Acorn Creek from The New Summit Hiker for this week because few trails rival it for autumn color. The trail offers a variety of ecosystems. Begin in sagebrush meadows; enter pine forest; ascend meadow slopes; then wind through aspen glades. To get there, drive Colorado 9 north 10.7 miles from Silverthorne Interstate 70 exit 205 to Ute Park Road, No. 2400. Turn right. Follow the road onto Rodeo Drive, then to the Acorn Creek trailhead at 1.0 mile. Walk to the parking lot’s south end, beyond the raised berm, to the path.The trail crosses a meadow to a gate in a barbed wire fence. Views at the start provide a dazzling sample of more vistas waiting high in the Acorn Creek valley. Follow a stock drive trail leading to a footpath. Veer left on the trail twice, then again go left to cross the creek on a log bridge. (Avoid a false trail right here.)Alternate through trees and meadows, entering the Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness at two miles. Advance to the first ridge, called “the sheep camp,” where the path meets a side trail to form a T. Go left and enjoy the panorama. This ends the moderate hike, a 2.5-mile walk to 10,400 feet.Continuing hikers advance on switchbacks that become steep and gravelly. A good boot and hiking poles come in handy here. Remarkable views accompany you to the Williams Fork ridge top at 11,200 feet. There, meet the Ute Peak trail and go right to view a glade of gaunt tree skeletons, an unusual sight, at this hike’s end. The ridge trail continues 12.6 miles south to Silverthorne, one mile north to Ute Peak and six miles north to Ute Pass.The historic Acorn Creek Ranch once spread across both North Acorn and Acorn Creek’s lower drainages. The 1,324-acre property began with 160 acres homesteaded in 1885 by Thomas Marshall, a stagecoach driver on the Como-Leadville route. Marriage united the Marshalls to another pioneer family, the Mumfords. George Mumford placer mined near Breckenridge in the 1860s and ’70s before homesteading a ranch on Cataract Creek. Angus steers and hay provided the mainstay of the near-century-old Acorn Creek Ranch. Family descendants still work the property today.Across the valley lies another homestead, the Slate Creek Ranch, developed by a Danish immigrant family, the Lunds. Homesteads comprised 160 acres but ranchers soon learned they had to expand to survive. The Lund Ranch grew along with Slate Creek, which had its own school and the Slate Creek Hall, scene of many lower Blue Valley box supper socials, parties and dances (and a few Hatfield-McCoy-type feud brawls as well).(Please note that the route along Acorn Creek has changed with use. The six editions of The New Summit Hiker prior to 2002 show the old route. Use the 2002 edition for this hike.)Enjoy your hike! Mary Ellen Gilliland wrote The New Summit Hiker, a guide for 50 historic hiking trails near Breckenridge, Frisco, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Dillon and in the Ptarmigan Peak and Gore Range/Eagle’s Nest Wilderness Areas. The book is available in Summit County and Vail bookstores, supermarkets and sporting goods shops for $16.95, or by calling Alpenrose Press at (970) 468-6273. You can request an author autograph free of charge. For additional trails information for both the Vail and Summit County areas, go to http://www.alpenrosepress.com and click on the hiking links.
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