If you want to get into the backcountry without a long drive, the Mount Evans Wilderness is just 30 minutes or so from the metro area. There are two sides to the Mount Evans Wilderness, trails are reached from I-70 or Highway 285.
The Tanglewood Trail is off Highway 285 near Bailey (directions below). The Tanglewood Trail winds through a thick forest for 3.5 miles, suddenly emerging at treeline. There hikers are treated to amazing views and even a Bristlecone pine forest.
The trailhead is next to a large dirt parking area with no amenities. No trash can, no bathroom, just a sign board. However, as you stand in the parking lot, you may hear the Tanglewood Creek. You’ll be hearing that off and on for the next 2.5 miles or so.
The hike starts on an old, dirt road. A few steps from the trailhead is a trail split. Go right, following the arrows for the Rosalie and Tanglewood trails. As you hike here, enjoy the sounds of the water crashing over the rocks in the streambed. The trail quickly crosses the stream three times — over a bridge, over some rocks, then another bridge.
About 1.1 miles from the trailhead is another trail split. This is where the Rosalie Trail turns off to Guanella Pass. Stay on the Tanglewood Trail as it goes into the nearby Mount Evans Wilderness. At this point, you’ve climbed about 550 feet of elevation, there’s another 2,100 feet or so to go.
The trail here begins to get steeper, rockier, and thinner as it continues through the forest. There are occasional meadows, but for the most part you are hiking through the thick forest along a stream. This hike is quite popular because it follows the creek.
About 2.6 miles from the trailhead, the trail crosses Tanglewood Creek a final time and turns away from the stream. Just a short distance from here, the switchbacks begin. The good news? The switchbacks are not terribly steep and are actually flat in sections.
Suddenly 3.5 miles from the trailhead, the trail comes out of the trees into the tundra with amazing views. While the trail gains 600 feet in the next 0.7 miles, take lots of breaks to enjoy the views of the peaks above you and the numerous valleys below you. As you get closer to the saddle at the top, you’ll hike through an ancient Bristlecone forest. While some of the trees have been blown down over the years, many are still standing. The Mount Evans Wilderness is known for its 2,000 year old Bristlecone pines.
At the saddle, you’ll suddenly see into the next valley and here you’ll want a panoramic setting on your camera to try to capture the amazing scenery around you — the peaks, the valleys, the rocks, the clouds and so much more. In the distance you may notice the Mount Evans highway cutting across a mountain peak.
Many hikers stop at this saddle for lunch and the views before turning around for the trailhead. If you’re feeling adventurous, the Tanglewood Trail becomes the Roosevelt Lakes Trail here or turn off and head to one of the nearby peaks.
Details: The hike to the top of the Tanglewood Trail and back is about 8.4 miles roundtrip with about 2,700 feet of elevation gain. There are some trip reports that say the trail is 3 miles or 3.7 miles, but the trail was apparently rerouted in the summer of 2012 and my GPS said it was 4.2 miles each way.
Directions: From C-470 in Denver, take Highway 285 west about 25 miles to Bailey. Turn right on Country Road 43A. (This is the turnoff for the library and there is a gas station here.) Take the road about 6.6 miles to Country Road 43. Veer left. CR43 will become a dirt road, then pass a campground, stay on the road until it dead ends at the parking lot/trailhead.
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