Fall Hike: Whiteside #697a Trail

Distance5.69 mi
Elevation Gain1,073 feet
My Time2 hr 47 min
DifficultyModerate
Closest TownGrant
Food NearbyShaggy Sheep

Whiteside #697a Trail

The Whiteside #697a Trail was an accidental find for me in a search for some fall colors. I had heard that the colors were good on Guanella Pass so I pulled into the Three Mile Creek trailhead. I wasn’t finding any good color on the lower sections of the trail so decided to climb a hill in my search. A search that proved fruitful.

Geneva Creek

The two main trails at the Three Mile Creek Trailhead are Three Mile Creek and Geneva Creek. Geneva looked a little less intensive than Three Mile so I decided to try that one. I headed out south-east on Geneva Creek and was a little disappointed to find that the Aspens in the area were still green. It is the time of year where it is hit or miss at lower elevations so when I found the Whiteside #697a trail junction that looked like it was up a nice hill I decided to try that out.

Geneva Creek was mostly flat and a little rocky for the short time that I was on it but seemed like a nice trail.

The Climb

Right off the bat the Whiteside Trail gets pretty steep. While Geneva was an easy walk this turn was steep, rocky and had some loose dirt which made the footing a bit tricky. The biggest problem that I had was that the trail and the map that I had were not matching. I came up to an older section of trail that on the map was correct. But it was overgrown and not the right way to go so I had to back track.

My Map led me astray to a section of really overgrown trail.  This turned out to be an older version of the trail and I continued onto the new version of the Whiteside 697a Trail
The lower section of the trail was still green on the Whiteside #697a Trail

Once I got on the correct trail it continued to be a steep switchback style trail. Over the first half mile of this trail you will gain over 500 feet of elevation. The grade sits in the mid teen range but does go as high as touching 24% for a short time.

As you continue up the hill you start to see more and more fall color. You will also intersect with the old version of the trail.

A couple of aspen trees with gold leaves peak out through the evergreens on the Whiteside 697a Trail.
A few pops of fall color as I started to gain elevation on the Whiteside 697a Trail

Top of the Hill

When you make it to the top of the hill and the trail finally starts to flatten out and you begin to see more and more color.

The flatter top section of the Whiteside 697a Trail was full of golden aspen trees on this fall hike.
The higher I went the more fall colors on this hike on the Whiteside 697a Trail

As you continue down the now flat trail it transitions from a steep hike to a really enjoyable walk through the woods. The further you walk on this top level the more the forest thins out. The views start to improve and showing the surrounding hills and meadows. This was the most peaceful part of the hike for me and I really enjoyed it.

Yellow aspen trees in a meadow next to a hill on the upper portion of the Whiteside 697a Trail.
A view of the Fall colors from the upper meadow on the Whiteside #697a Trail

The trail is really well defined on the top portion of the trail. I continued down it and at one point looked at my map and saw that I missed a turn that was on the map and had to back track.

Bad Maps, Good Views

The trail that the map told me I was supposed to be was a faded trail compared to the one I was on but since it was the only map I had I didn’t want to get lost. The map called for crossing the meadow into another section of trees. Eventhough this turned out to be the wrong way it did supply with my favorite view of the hike.

The view across the meadow is full of golden leaves and in the back ground a large rocky topped mountain on the Whiteside #697a Trail
The view back towards Mount Logan littered with fall colors

Following the older, overgrown trail led me into the next section of trail which was beautiful. The trail was noticeable but didn’t stand out. I followed the trail and the map as best as I could and it took me through another wonderful aspen grove.

When I followed my actual map it took me to an overgrown older section of the Whiteside #697a trail that isn't really in use anymore.
The harder to follow trail on the old version of the Whiteside #697 Trail

As I continued deeper and deeper on this old trail that the map claimed was correct it became more difficult to make out where the trail was supposed to go. I stopped a bit short of where the map said the trail ended. I didn’t feel comfortable anymore. While the trail was beautiful it was just too hard to follow.

Video of Whiteside #697a Trail Fall Hike

I have put together a couple of videos of this hike. This first one is the shorter narrative version of the hike:

This second one is a time-lapsed version of the hike that I like to call the Hikers Edit. It gives you a chance to see what the trail is like and my journey through it. If you enjoy these videos make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel. It is free to subscribe and you will be notified when there is a new video available.

Distance and Elevation

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 5.69 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 1,073 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 9,853 feet. I was also moving for a total of 2 hours and 47 minutes.

Effort

The Whiteside #697a Trail transitions from the mostly easy Geneva Creek trail to an immediate climb up a hill that is steep and rocky. The 1000 foot hill was a challenge and a bit of a struggle for me to get up. Once you make it to the top of the hill the trail gets really lovely and flattens out and walks along the flatter ground on the top. That first bit is a bit rough though!

Terrain

The trail was rocky and had some loose dirt to deal with. This made the trip back down a bit of a challenge in the steep sections. Stay to the more established trail. I took the trail from the map I had, which I see now was an out of date map, and that made the trail have a mixed bag of terrain that wasn’t very defined. When you get to the top of the hill the trail is flatter and becomes sandy is places.

Access

The Whiteside Trail #697a comes from a junction with the Geneva Creek trail. Geneva Creek can be accessed from the Three Mile Creek trailhead and parking area on Guanella Pass near the Grant and 285 side of the pass. There is parking for about 10 cars, some picnic areas, and pit toilets at the trailhead.

Wrapping up the Whiteside #697a trail

I had no idea where I was going when I found the Whiteside #697 trail. I had an area map and it had some trails on it so decided to do a bit of exploring. I found a really enjoyable fall hike full of color. But you had to put in the effort of a steep hill to unlock the golden leaves.

The higher you went the better the fall views were but ultimately I ended up getting a bit lost. I think if I would have followed the common sense trail and ignored the map I would have been better off. But it is never comfortable to be on a trail that isn’t registering on a map.

If you decide to try this trail, and I think a lot of you would enjoy it, stick the the well defined trail. The views from that trail are great and well worth the effort in the fall.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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