photo essay: a hike to continental falls… spruce creek and mohawk lakes trails, mosquito range…

A hike Erin and I took last month in the high country… the Mohawk Lakes Trail up to Continental Falls, south of Breckenridge in the Mosquito Range. Always one of my faves, this hike has everything – forest, waterfalls, mine ruins, and high mountain lakes obviously. But today we’re only hiking up to the lower falls – 6 miles out and back. So we get an early start and we’re at the trailhead by 8:00. The air is cool and very humid when we get there. It’s been a very rainy year and that’s always good here in Colorado.

Early morning, I-70 heading up to the high country. Hey, no traffic!
Early Saturday morning, I-70 near Dumont, heading up to the high country. Hey, no traffic!
Trailhead of the Spruce Creek Trail, south of Breckenridge... Our starting point.
Trailhead of the Spruce Creek Trail, south of Breckenridge… Our starting point.
Along the Spruce Creek Trail...
Morning light along the Spruce Creek Trail…

Starting from the Spruce Creek Trailhead, it’s 2 miles of well-marked, well-maintained trail through pine and spruce forest, starting at about 10,400 feet and gradually, gently ascending to the Mohawk Lakes Trailhead. So this is the easy part of the hike. If you have a high-clearance 4WD vehicle, you can drive up to the Mohawk Lakes Trailhead and start from there, otherwise you’ll be hiking through the forest alongside Spruce Creek.

Over the years this has become a more well-known and popular hike so if solitude in the forest is your thing, you’ll definitely want to start early – the earlier the better. I hadn’t been on the first part of the trail since 2003 and it receives a lot more traffic now. Also, pay attention to the tree roots that criss-cross the trail lest you take an unexpected tumble (as a few hikers did that morning).

Erin... Stylin' on the trail...
Erin… Stylin’ on the trail…
A clearing... Quandary Peak, center-left with Mt. Helen on the right. That small splash of white, slightly to the right of center, is where we're heading... Continental Falls.
A clearing… Quandary Peak, center-left with Mt. Helen on the right. That small splash of white, slightly to the right of center, is where we’re heading… Continental Falls.
Mt. Helen... As above, so below...
Mt. Helen… As above, so below…
Spruce Creek at the start of the Mohawk Lakes Trail.
Spruce Creek at the start of the Mohawk Lakes Trail.
continental_falls2
Close-up of the falls…

When you get to the Mohawk Lakes Trailhead, there the real hike begins. The trail is steep for the next mile and only levels off when you approach the first set of mine/mill ruins and Lower Continental Falls at about 11,500 feet. This was our destination today.

Mt. Helen... Onward and upward.
Mt. Helen… Onward and upward.
We reach the falls... Lower Continental Falls.
We reach the falls… Lower Continental Falls.
Lower Continental Falls.
Flowing downward...
Flowing downward…
Mine/mill ruins near the falls.
Former human activity… Mine/mill ruins near the falls.
The cabin near the falls.
The cabin near the falls.
the_falls3
Pure (mostly) Rocky Mountain spring water… Sounds like a beer commercial.

The trail to Lower and Upper Mohawk Lakes continues to the left after you reach the cabin which is relatively intact from the 19th century and still used as a shelter for hikers, backpackers, and mountaineers, particularly during the winter months. There is a guest book here so sign on in and say ‘hi’!

View from the cabin looking southeast.
Step out the door of the cabin and this is your view looking to the southeast.
More ruins...
More ruins…
And the trail down...
The trail down…

After spending some time at the lower falls, Erin and I make our descent back down the Mohawk Lakes Trail, then veer off onto the 4WD forest road as it’s not quite as lengthy and time-consuming as the hike back through the forest on the Spruce Creek Trail. It’s midday so it’s about a 4-hour hike, out and back, to Lower Continental Falls. Despite the abundance of mosquitoes after a rainy spring and early summer, it’s still a great hike.

And a last look back.
And a last look back.

We drive back to Colorado Hwy. 9 and head north through Breckenridge up to Frisco and stop in at a favorite watering hole I’ve been coming to since the 90’s, the Backcountry Brewery, for lunch and a couple of seasonal beers from their brewery – the customary celebratory pints at a local microbrew afterwards. The Golden Maiboch is especially good.

Driving back over Loveland Pass... Very green for July.
Driving back over Loveland Pass… Very green for July.

To get to the trailhead for this hike… Through Breckenridge, drive 1 mile south on CO Hwy. 9 to the small town of Blue River and take a right on Crown Dr. Follow Crown Dr. – it becomes Spruce Creek Rd. and follow the signs to the trailhead parking lot. Coming up from Fairplay on Hwy. 9, take a left on Spruce Creek Rd. (Forest Road 800) and follow it to the left to the trailhead parking lot.

The new 4-song EP, “Santos“, was released in July and is available now on CD Baby,  Bandcamp,  iTunes/AppleMusic, eMusic and Amazon MP3.

Nights on Venus, "Santos"... to be released July 8, 2015...
Nights on Venus, “Santos”… released on July 8, 2015…
"Perspective," the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.
“Perspective,” the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.

Perspective” and all previous albums  from Nights on Venus are available as MP3 digital downloads on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, and the NoV website.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky), Facebook, and Instagram.

 

 

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Author: nightsonvenus

Musician and producer with the band Nights on Venus.

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