Still searching for that favorite hiking trail |

Still searching for that favorite hiking trail

Colleen O’Neil

Cathedral Lake to Electric Pass

Length: 5.2 miles one way

Trail use: Heavy

Difficulty: More difficult

Elevation gain: 3620 feet

USGS Map: Hayden Peak

Quick overview: A hard day hike to the highest trail pass in Colorado with breathtaking views of the Elk Mountain Range. For a beautiful backpacking experience, camp overnight below Cathedral Lake.

Access: From the Highway 82 roundabout west of Aspen, turn onto Castle Creek Road. Drive 12.2 miles. The trailhead is up a gravel road on the right just past Ashcroft.

In the Roaring Fork Valley, there are literally hundreds of miles of trails to hike. When I first moved here from Pittsburgh, I tried to get on as many of them as I possibly could. I read all the trail guides, went up Red Hill every day, climbed Sopris and went out as often as I could with the local trail running group.

Since then, I’ve been exploring more of Colorado. I’ve done some mountain biking farther west of Glenwood Springs in Grand Junction, Fruita and Moab and east to Breckenridge. I’ve gone south to Buena Vista, Salida and Durango. A couple weeks ago, I went north to Steamboat Springs to escape the rainy weather at home. And I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface.

I’ve been on lots of trails — not nearly enough, in my opinion — but I’m still stumped when people ask me which is my favorite.

Over the weekend, I revisited a trail I’d sped through on a run last year with a friend. The plan was to go up to Cathedral Lake and Electric Pass. My husband, Montana (who just finished riding the 560-mile Colorado Trail in under six days) and I got a late start that morning.

We got to the trailhead at 1 p.m. as the sun burned off the morning’s storm clouds. There were a few cars in the parking lot, but it wasn’t close to full.

As we started up the trail, Montana wasn’t in high spirits. He sat down on a stump.

“I think I’ve done enough walking up mountains in the past week,” he said. Good point. His shoulders and legs were probably trashed after riding 80,000 feet and 560 miles in just a few days.

He waved me on. “You go ahead, I’ll wait.”

I felt bad and continued walking up the trail in a funk. I walked as fast as I could, hauling past two hikers who’d passed us earlier while Montana sat on the stump. Hiking alone is silly.

Up a steep, rocky field. A family passed me on their way back down.

“It’s totally worth it,” said one of the women.

“I know,” I replied.

The trail got steeper and forked. I took the turn to Electric Pass.

I climbed up another steep section and into a thick carpet of ruby-red paintbrushes. At the top, the jagged turrets of Cathedral Peak soared over the valley. The long, sloping field glowed green in the intermittent sunlight, and seemingly millions of wildflowers nodded in a gentle breeze. Down below, Cathedral Lake rippled a deep mountain blue.

I walked up the trail by myself as clouds bunched up over the mountains, darkening the valley. There wasn’t another soul in sight.

At the top of the rocky ridge, I stopped and looked around. The ragged peaks and emerald valleys spread out infinitely beneath me. I breathed in as the wind picked up and whipped a few raindrops into my face.

I may not have explored enough yet to call this my favorite trail, but it sure is nice.

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