Tanglewood Trail

Distance11.47 mi
Elevation Gain3041 feet
My Time6 hr 28 min
DifficultyHard
Closest TownBailey
Food NearbyOlga’s

Holy Mother of Pearl, the Tanglewood trail has some beautiful sights, a dual alpine lake, and takes you above treeline but it is going to make you work for every step. The hike was very steep and challenging and left me gasping for air more times than I would like to count but in the end I would say it was worth it but only those willing to try. It was a long hike so I will break it down into some sections.

Starting out

Once you find the parking area at the end of the dirt road you are off to the races. The hike starts out in a heavily forested area walking close to Deer Creek. The trail here has some rocks in it but is mostly a well used forest floor feel to it which isn’t too hard to deal with. The only somewhat tricky part is when you come to a small bridge. It looks like the trail continues ahead of you but you should cross the bridge at this point. Here is the view from the bridge.

The trail will continue and you will have to cross back over the creek, this time over rocks. After the second crossing the trail gets a bit more rocky. I’m not sure if I underestimated the incline at this point or what but my calf’s were just burning at this beginning section. I think it was because it looks so easy that I was moving to fast and just burnt myself out a little bit. I had to take a small break and stretch out a bit before I continued on. I would say this first section was about a mile and you only inclined about 500 feet so maybe I was just being a baby too which is all together possible. There are also some cool wildflowers along this section of the trail.

Mt. Evans Wilderness

You will come to a self registration box and sign denoting entry into the Mt. Evans Wilderness. At this point you can continue along the creek on the Tanglewood trail or jump on the Rosalie Trail that heads in another direction. I stayed on Tanglewood so that is what I am going to talk about today.

At this point the trail gets rockier and steeper. I didn’t notice how rocky it was on the way up but on the way down I certainly did. The loose rock made for a slow going descent but going up it wasn’t too bad. The nice part about this section is that you are walking next to or within earshot of the creek the whole time. It really is a beautiful stretch. The downside is there are no switchbacks and you are just walking up a rocky hill the whole time. There are plenty of cool places to stop and a lot of trees that have fallen around the path if you need to sit down and catch your breath (like me!) This section goes for another 1.7 miles and you gain elevation of about 1200 feet so you know that is pretty steep. Here is a look at the trail during this section.

The trail when you enter the Mt Evans Wilderness.  The terrain gets steep and rocky at this point.

At this point you finally hit some switchbacks and move away from the creek. The switchbacks are also fairly steep but during this stage the path becomes less rocks and a bit softer with dirt and pine needles underfoot. You will also have to cross a small stream but you can step over rocks and its pretty easy. During the switchbacks you will go up in elevation around 500 feet in under a mile.

Leaving the trees

Just under the 4 mile mark you will emerge from the forest. You will find yourself exposed on the side of a hill. The trail turns to a mostly sandy mix at this point. When you leave the forest and walk about 200 yards, do yourself a favor and turn around look over your shoulder for this view.

The breathtaking view of the foothills after exiting the forest on the Tanglewood Trail hike

For my money, the views behind you while climbing the hill top are the best of the hike. It also gets really steep at this point. If you scroll down to the gallery you will see versions of this view from about every 200 yards along the path as I had to stop that often to catch my breath and take in the view. Once you get to the hill side you have to climb about 500 feet to get to the saddle in about a half mile. There is a bit of a switchback that makes it a touch easier but I needed lots of breaks.

Saddle and Roosevelt lakes

You made it to the top! Congrats but we aren’t done yet. Once you make it to the top you walk across the center of the saddle between two peaks. The trail is pretty easy for the start. It is half grass half dirt relatively narrow path with a few rocks. As you get to the edge of the saddle the path begins to be more of a climb over rocks style until you can just see the lakes. As you get even closer to the lakes the path disappears completely and you have to rely on cairns. The lakes are pretty cool and to my surprise had a lot of fish in them. There are some nice big boulders around the lakes that you can relax on and get some food and just take it all in.

There are two lakes here that are connected by a stream that you can hear flowing beneath some of the large boulders. It is really pretty and the lakes are crystal clear. There are a couple more pictures below in the gallery as well

At this point if you are following Alltrails it tells you to go through the lakes and start climbing up another hill. I made my way around the second lake and there is a little wood post with an arrow on it telling you to climb another hill. When you get up that hill there is no discernible trail but there are more cairns set up so you can follow a combo of that and your Alltrails map. The Alltrails map abruptly stops where it “connects” to another trail that will take you deeper in the Mt. Evans wilderness and to Bear Track lake. The point where the trail stops on the map is when you can see what I think is Rogers Peak. This is really unnecessary and I would suggest you just spend some extra time at the lakes instead of taking this walk. Plus, here is the picture so you don’t have to waist your energy.

Mt Evans from the declared end of the Alltrails map.

The lakes are really cool and worth the trip but if you don’t have it in you to make it all the way up there, the views from leaving the trees is really spectacular. It is also a long hike which makes it a long way back down. The loose rock on parts of the trail make the descent slow so keep that in mind while you planning your trip back. Here are some stats from the Tanglewood trail.

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. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 11.47 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 3,041 feet including undulations. That put the high point at just over 12,000 feet at 12,133. I was also moving for a total of 6 hours and 28 minutes.

Effort

Not only is this a long hike at over 11 miles but the elevation gain is pretty intense until it flattens out on the saddle at the top. I definitely felt it as I was descending and my legs were pretty useless for the rest of the night once I got home. Here are the stats from fitbit.com

Stats from today's hike from fitbit.com.  Today's step count was 33,960.

Terrain

The Tanglewood trail throws a little bit of everything at you. You start in a forest setting and have to cross the creek in a few places. Get to a very rocky area with some loose rock. Back in a forest floor setting that is easy to navigate. Then onto a dirt path past the tree line and finally onto some grass followed by rocks to walk over during the saddle and lake sections. Hiking footwear is strongly recommended.

Access

This hike starts at the Deer Creek trailhead which is located at the end of Deer Creek Road off of route 43 near Bailey. The last mile of Deer Creek road is a heavily rutted and rocky dirt road. You will need to drive slowly and cars with higher clearance will do better. There are no restroom facilities at the trailhead.

Wrap up

This hike is no joke. While it is definitely a beautiful walk in the woods at the beginning next to a creek and the views once you leave the tree line are absolutely stunning, this trail is very long with a pretty intense elevation gain. It is not technically difficult at any point on the hike but I would not recommend it for novice hikers or those who are unsure on loose rocks. It is also really buggy at the lakes and around the creek. If you plan on trying this hike to the lakes make sure you have plenty of food and water with you as well as you will burn a lot of energy on the way up. Hikers who are just starting out may just want to walk up a little ways along the creek as it is a very relaxing time.

If you have a suggestion for a hike that you would like me to try, feel free to email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or you can follow me on the below social media platforms. I have also added this hike to interactive map that you can find here.

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