Watrous Gulch Trail is a 5.8 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Idaho Springs, CO and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and downhill skiing and is accessible from June until September.
Directions from Idaho Springs, Georgetown: Travel west on I-70 to exit 218. At the stop sign turn right and then turn right again and take the frontage road east to the parking area. The trail begins by the restrooms in the parking lot. The trailhead is shared with the Herman Gulch Trail.
Great views. Not too many other hikers. Nice creek running along side for most of the hike.
Great alternative to avoid the crowds at Herman Gulch. The first mile gets a lot of highway noise, is all incline and mostly exposed – which made for a disgruntled beginning on an unseasonably hot day. :) After the first mile the trail begins to feels much more secluded and you get short breaks between elevation gains. Gorgeous views the entire way! Trail is rather narrow and rocky in some spots. The peaks that the trail leads you to are more than tempting, can't wait to return!
Great winter snowshoeing hike! Awesome views of the divide.
Great Hike. Lots of sun
Watrous Gulch Trail Part Deux..
a different time and place.
I have now gained about a thousand feet above the rock outcropping where I had my photo shoot with spooky dude and I was thrilled I placed some distance between me and the rocks before taking my next picture.. Three more small hills and the loss of one-third of a lung later and BOOM BABY!!!!! VICTORY!!!!!!!!! You can see for yourself, this was worth every scrape, cut, broken pole and even an encounter with the scariest guy on the planet. I have also included a map overview of the Watrous Trail
As you go through some of the pictures, you will see small clumps of trees that were full of deer, elk and all kinds of woodland creatures that you must be lightening quick to catch if you want to get them on film. The camera I had with me at the time was too slow and the zoom was not enough to capture all that was available for you to see on this most amazing trip. I will, in the second segment of this tale, show you the “Left Leg” of the trail taking you up the Herman’s Gulch side all the way up to the lake.
Always enjoy the vast treasure we have before us, but do it responsibly and cautiously and with all due respect to the kings of the forests that live there. Remember to be safe, always pack the right gear and never ever go into their domain up prepared, not ever for a minute. Until the next time if you ever come across a trail jumping flesh-eating creek-vaulting gun-toting knife wielding stick swinging Metal Chef-ing banjo pickin' guitar playin' owner of a face you'll never forget and one only his mother could love scarier than your mamma could ever warn you about spooky dude who might just cook and eat you, NEVER, EVER, use the term bushwhacking in his un-holy presence…
This is THE AMERICAN WOLVERINE…
Watrous Gulch Trail
Set in the Arapaho National Forest just before the Eisenhower Tunnel, this breath-taking hike leaves no doubt as to the wondrous beauty our state holds. Herman’s Gulch trailhead is accessible from Exit 218, just off I-70. Your climb starts at about 10,400 feet and you can roll over 13,300 depending on the peak you plan to tackle or you can simply stay on the trails to enjoy the pristine beauty.
As you start your accent, you will have a choice of taking the left or the right fork. The right fork takes you across a path that isn’t quite as steep and offers many wide open shots overlooking the I-70 corridor as you wind your way up the trail. The trail has many switchbacks in both directions but I believe starting with the right fork is much easier. The left fork takes you along a creek for a shorter period and leads you into more wide open fields where, if you time your trip correctly, you will have an amazing view of some of Colorado’s most colorful wildflower blooms (remember, this is the harder leg of the trail). I must also warn you, this is the location I saw what was said to be the impossible; a porcupine attacking a dog. Yes, the dog was on a leash minding its own business when the creature came out of the brush unprovoked and swatted the dog with its tail; giving the poor dog a face full of quills. The “experts” at Colorado Division of Wildlife said this was an impossible occurrence. These are the same “experts” that were at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars coming from our license fees and tax dollars stocking the wrong cut-throat trout in Colorado for decades. These are the same “experts” that insist a crossbreed Cutthroat-Brown Trout didn’t exist until I caught and produced pictures of this nonexistent fish... but I will get into this at another time. Here is just a little general information for you to know: The Porcupines found in North and South America are good climbers who spend much of their time in trees. Some even have prehensile (gripping) tails to aid in climbing. The North American porcupine is the only species that lives in the U.S. and Canada, and is the largest of all porcupines. A single animal may have 30,000 or more quills. North American porcupines use their large front teeth to satisfy a healthy appetite for wood. They eat natural bark and stems, and have been known to invade campgrounds and chew on canoe paddles. North American porcupines also eat fruit, leaves, and springtime buds. Needless to say had that been my dog I would be sporting a new porcupine hat.
Back to the trail, we will go up the Right fork first. As I started up on the trail within just a few minutes, I had my first run in with a bull moose; he was docile and simply trotted off into the woods after giving me the once over. This area isn’t as brushy as the left fork and I shortly jumped trail to hit a peak that was too tempting to pass up. I started my climb and was blown away by the amazing shots that surrounded me. The game trail just across the creek was my chosen path (I recommend you have some good climbing poles to help with the grade and the rocks). I actually broke a climbing pole on the way up and if it were not for my multi-tool, I would have not been able to make the repair which would have made the trip home quite difficult.
In spite of all the snow that was visible, it was quite warm and shorts and a T-shirt were all I required to wear for the trip. I must add here that you should never go into the wilderness unprepared, ever! My small pack has all the essential gear I will need to make it through a few days if I need to. The shorts I wear are zip off and I carry the legs parts to make them pants in my pack. I carry a light jacket, a fire starter, first-aid, a flare gun, an emergency blanket, food, water filter, etc. Carry what you think you need but always have what will help you survive should the unthinkable happen. Always remember where you are and know that this can be a very unforgiving place.
As you turn to the west, you can see I-70 as it rolls its way to the tunnel (Cars look like ants from here and I am still not to the top). Three more self manufactured switchbacks and I came around the corner of a small outcropping of rocks facing something I never expected to encounter this high up or anywhere in Colorado for that matter. Standing there facing me as plain as day, as bold as you please was this scary, "make you scream like a little girl" burly dude packing at least two large guns with the possibility of a third and without even having the chance to think he said, “Hey you, Take my picture”. Thinking of all of the terrible things that could befall a cozy little creature like me so far from civilization I said “Sssure, Mmisster.” Taking a few quick shots with his camera and one of my own, I was off on my way breathing a sigh of relief that I had not just become dinner to what I presumed to be a dying species, a Neanderthal belonging to
Watrous Gulch is a great place to ski. I skied here several times this spring. The snow is consistent on south and east aspects and the views from the ridge are spectacular. Probably the best view of the Tuning Fork on Torreys Peak, another great spring ski. You may even see a ptarmigan or two on the ridge.
I was planning to do Herman Lake, but I've been there several times. So when I got to the split for Herman's lake trail or Watrous gulch I went right for Watrous. It has had some tree cutting for probably the first mile; but after that it becomes nice. Really nice creek crossing. Once across the creek it splits again left for watrous trail or right for Bards creek trail. Also there is a really nice camp spot here with a good fire ring and shade and a "lean to" shelter here. Plan on a backpack trip here for a base camp. On up watrous for a ways to the top of the ridge. You can actually do four 13ers here also. My plan! Only saw 4 people on the hike. Which was on a Friday. The first part is not so great; but once you get out of the tree cutting area it becomes quit nice.