|Elevation Gain||3419 feet|
|My Time||7 hr 11 min|
Have you ever eaten a hot dog at a baseball and immediately signed up for one of those hot dog eating contests? That is pretty much what I did with the Ben Tyler Trail. My longest hike so far this year had been around 12 miles and my highest elevation gain had been about 2200 feet. So of course I would try to best both of those on a single day. Spoiler alert, it went about as well as when I entered the hot dog eating contest.
Ben Tyler is a bit of a beast. Over 13 miles and about 3500 feet in elevation. It was my first 11er since I began this blog and I am feeling every bit of it. Because the hike was so long I’m going to break it down into some smaller sections.
This trail isn’t messing around from the very start. As soon as you leave the car you start out onto some switchbacks that have you climbing 500 feet on the first mile. Its a nice little start to the hike to let you know its serious. This is mostly wooded and the trail is typical dirt and sticks so it isn’t that difficult other than the fact you are just going up. After the switchbacks you will circle the first small hill and be exposed until you get to the entrance to the Pike National Forest. The views are pretty nice at this point as well.
The next 3rd
After you pass the first hill and make your way around the next hill, you will come to the entrance of the Pike National Forest. You need to register at this point according to a sign. The forest area is really nice. You are walking next to the Lost Creek and you hear that great sound of running water for this portion of the trail. You even need to cross over the creek a couple of times. It really is a nice little creek.
After you cross over the river, which is only walking on a couple logs, it starts to get real again. From this point the hike goes pretty uphill the remainder of the time. Not the nice up like the first part on the nice soft forest floor. At this point you will start walking up loose rocks in what seems like an old riverbed. There are the nice hard rocks embedded in the trail to stub your toes on too! This is just what it is. Walking over rocks going pretty straight up. According to Alltrails (legit) and my math skills (not so much) the average grade is around 20 for the trail. There are some points where it levels off but never really for long enough to really catch your breath. There is some good news, this whole stretch you are walking through a really nice Aspen forest.
There are also about 100 million moths/butterflies that are living within these trees. Every time I would walk they would take off and it would look like an unorganized drunken ballet. The second I would stop to take a picture and they would all land. So I got smart and tried to walk and take video at the same time. The lengths I go for my fans.
I can neither confirm or deny that I tripped right after this video finished. The moths were cool…until they flew into my mouth a couple of times. They would just scatter as soon as I moved by with no rhyme or reason as to where they were headed.
The final 3rd
Once you clear the aspen trees and cross the creek again you are in an area with Evergreen trees and that is more similar to the start. The incline flattens out here and the trail is more of a switchback than the more up an down that it was around the aspens. The main difference in the trail here is that it is still rocky and not soft as the start was. There is also far less shade at this point. The evergreen’s are spread further apart and you are higher up so the sun is a bit more intense. The clearings are wider and more consistent at this point as well. You can really start to get a feeling of how far you climbed.
The next final 3rd
Are you kidding me? This is still going? I have to be honest at this point I think I’m done. I don’t think I can make it any further. I have already had more elevation gain than ever before and we are really only about 5 miles out.
Once you get to this point you will be back in an evergreen forest with more shade. You will walk over to another ridge and continue the ascent. There are some switchbacks and the terrain is still a rocky sandy mix. After about a half mile in the forest you exit onto an exposed hillside. There is actually still snow at this altitude in some of the shady areas which are few and far between.
This has to be it, right? Nope. Well I’m done. I don’t think I can finish. I sit my fat butt down on a fallen log that creaks and groans in protest. I have one last trick up my sleeve. I sit there and eat an entire bag of beef jerky and drink water like its going out of style. IF this is the view from here why do I need to keep going anyway?
The top third, for real this time
So after stopping for food I was re-energized. I forgot the golden rule. I had ascended about 3000 feet in 6 miles and 3 hours of walking. I was drinking water the whole time but I hadn’t replenished the fuel for my leg muscles. So I stood up and now my joints creaked and groaned in protest but now I had a pep in my step. It also helped that the top is flat. On the top you find yourself in a valley with little 3 foot plants that stick your legs as you walk by. You walk for about another half mile on the top to get some great views of the mountains. The real ones with snow on the top and treelines. This view made it all worth it. It is actually one of the few times that I can say that the pictures don’t do justice to the actual view. A big word of warning, the trail is really hard to follow at this point. It is not very well defined and you can find yourself walking on boulders or lost in the sticky bushes if you aren’t careful. (I wasn’t careful)
Well I did it. I’m not sure how sore I will be in the morning but it will probably be pretty rough. Climbing down this one was actually just as tough as going up. I think it took me longer to get down because of all the loose rock on the trail. This is every bit of a 7 hour hike and the elevation gain is no joke. While I think there are a lot of people out there that would love this hike, if you are starting out or unsure of your ability I wouldn’t recommend it. The views at the end are spectacular but it take a whole lot to make it up there.
Elevation and Distance
If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. It also got me back on trail today when I got lost. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 13.6 miles and had a total elevation gain of over 3419 feet. I was also moving for a total of 7 hours and 11 minutes.
The terrain on the Ben Tyler trail is a mixed bag. It starts with soft woodland trails before switching to hard and loose rocks that you will need to navigate. You will also have to deal with crossing the creek and some flooded trails are possible so a good waterproof boot is recommended by me.
The access point for the Ben Tyler Trail is just a pull off on 285 just past Shawnee if you are coming from Denver. There is room for probably about a dozen cars. There are no restroom facilities at all here.
Here are the rest of the pictures from today’s hike. I have also placed some video’s that I didn’t use in the Zen section of the website for your viewing enjoyment. After the hike I found a real gem of a local place to eat in Olga’s Eatery.
If you have a suggestion for a hike that you would like me to try, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow me on the below social media platforms. I have also added this hike and all my hikes to the interactive map that you can find here.