Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Moffat Tunnel Hiking Trail in Denver, Colorado

The Moffat Tunnel is a 6-mile underground tunnel that stretches beneath parts of the Continental Divide. Located just 50 miles west of Denver’s Union Station, the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel is a common destination for hikers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Although it’s impossible to hike inside the tunnel, numerous trails and paths lead to scenic vistas over and alongside the Moffat Tunnel.
The East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel is the entrance closest to the city of Denver, Colo. According to, the East Portal sits just below 9,200 feet in height, and acts as the starting point for a variety of hiking trails into the mountains. To reach the East Portal trailhead from Denver, follow CO 119 west to the small village of Rollinsville, located 4 miles south of Nederland. From here, head west on the well-marked Rollins Pass road for 8 miles until you reach the trailhead.
The Crater Lakes Trail
The “Denver Post” recommends this trail for its access to several high lakes nestled under the Continental Divide. Considered a popular destination for day hikers and campers, the Crater Lakes trail follows the East Portal trailhead for 2.8 miles, gaining an altitude of 1,500 feet. After you’ve reached the lower Crater Lakes, you can opt to continue the remaining half-mile to the upper lakes. This remaining stretch of the trail is less maintained, and makes an elevation gain of 500 vertical feet.
Rogers Pass Lake Hike
To access this trail, you will want to follow signs directing you north from the East Portal trailhead parking area. Follow the South Boulder Creek trail until you notice a wide path rising gently above and west of the Moffat Tunnel. Keep left and pass the Forest Lakes trail junction until you notice trail markers for the South Boulder Creek trail, at which point you will begin hiking steadily uphill through forest. According to the Pro Trails website, this trail will lead you up and over parts of the Continental Divide, leaving you at the foot of Haystack mountain near the edge of Rogers Pass Lake.
Heart Lake Trail
After resting on the banks of the lake, you can continue up the ridge on the Heart Lake trail by following a path that winds northeast of Rogers Pass Lake. This is perhaps the steepest climb of all, bringing you to an elevation of 11,347 as you advance your way up the ridge. From here, the trail will afford a good view of both Rogers Pass and Heart lakes, along with stunning vistas of Haystack Mountain, Rogers Pass and James Peak. Follow a small faded path northeast down the ridge to reach the shoreline of Heart Lake.

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