A rare Saturday night and Sunday morning with no other commitments led to a spontaneous (and quick!) camping trip to Eagles Nest Wilderness.
On Friday afternoon I shot Michael a text, “Throwing this out there: We could camp somewhere not too far away Saturday night and hike Sunday morning.” It didn’t take much to convince him that this was a great idea.
Next came the planning.
Turns out I’m pretty bad at it. There are just so many options for camping here in Colorado! It’s overwhelming. We were looking for an area that was less than 2 hours from Denver with 10-15 miles of hiking trails, minimal snow, and no permit/reservation required. After a lot of Googling and a trip to REI to ask the experts, we landed on a 10ish-mile backpacking loop in Eagles Nest Wilderness, just outside of Silverthorn.
I got home from the event, packed up my gear, and we were on the road by 3:00!
Eagles Nest Wilderness Gear
Since we were just backpacking for one night our packs were much lighter than they were in Lost Creek Wilderness. Here’s what I brought with me:
- Gear: REI Traverse 48-liter pack, 20-degree sleeping bag, Therm-a-rest NeoAir sleeping pad, Black Diamond trekking poles, Etekcity camp stove, fuel, Sea to Summit long camp spoon, Etekcity water filter, Platypus bottle, Osprey 3-liter bladder, 1-Liter Smartwater, lighter
- Toiletries: toothpaste, toothbrush, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, wet wipes, poop shovel.
- Food: ramen noodle packet, tuna pouch, skratch hydration, instant coffee, oatmeal baggie (oats, protein powder, cinnamon)
- Clothes I packed: Patagonia rain jacket, Mountain Hardwear puffy coat, long-sleeve shirt, leggings, 1 pair underwear, 1 pair of socks, hat
- What I wore: Patagonia Happy Hike shorts, Grandma’s Marathon t-shirt, Saucony Peregrine trail runners, sports bra, socks, sunglasses
I also packed some trail mix and protein bars that I didn’t eat.
Saturday Evening in Eagles Nest Wilderness
We parked our car at the Eaglesmere Trailhead (8700 ft) shortly before 5:00pm. It’s a little late to start heading out on a backpacking trip, but better late than never!
We walked along the gravel road to the Surprise Trailhead, crossed over the Cataract Creek, and headed onto the trail and into the forest. It was full of aspens, wildflowers, mosquitoes, and uphill hiking.
2 of the 4 things in that list were not so great. I’ll let you guess which ones.
I hope you guessed the mosquitoes and the uphills.
Luckily we put some deet on before starting the hike. Otherwise, we easily could have gotten eaten alive.
As for the uphill climb, I was on the strugglebus. I’m not sure if it was from the elevation, the climbing, or slight dehydration, but I was pretty light-headed for miles 2, 3, and 4. It didn’t feel great. I had to slow my pace way down and continue to suck down water.
Just over 3 miles into the hike we hit the split for Gore Range Trail. We took a right onto the trail and passed by Surprise Lake (10,050 feet). Since we were tight on time (and I was dragging my feet) we didn’t stop to gawk at the lake. I’m sure it was beautiful though. There was quite a few people camping near there. Maybe we’ll catch it next time.
We continued to hike on the Gore Range Trail. We crossed over a lot of fallen trees, rolling hills, and streams from mountain run-off. A few miles later we hit the Tipperary Lake Trail split. Our original plan was to camp at Eaglesmere Lake, but considering that it was already 7:00 and Eaglesmere was another 2 miles away we decided that Tipperary Lake was going to be our home for the night.
Tipperary Lake was about .1 miles from the trail split. It’s a small and marshy lake at about 9,770 feet.
A group of three men had already set up camp near the lake and had invited us to join them, which was great, because there were not many other options. We changed into warmer clothes, set up camp, and started up cooking dinner (ramen and dehydrated vegetables, classic). Michael pulled a chocolate bar and a little bottle of bourbon out of his pack. What a lovely surprise! He’s the best.
We ate, drank, and chatted with our camp neighbors. One of the men had been coming to camp at Lake Tipperary in Eagles Nest Wilderness for 25 years! So crazy!
We hung out and relaxed as the sun went down and the stars went up. It was a beautiful evening.
Sunday Morning in Eagles Nest Wilderness
We woke up on Sunday morning at about 7:30 to a gorgeous day! Can’t complain about waking up to views like this:
I cooked up my oats and ate breakfast on a boulder overlooking the lake. It was so peaceful. We finished packing up camp and hit the Gore Range Trail shortly after 8:30. Since we did most of the work (AKA uphill hiking) the previous day, our hike north to the Eaglesmere Trailhead was going to consist of some rolling hills and a lot of hiking down.
The landscape of Sunday’s hike was vastly different from Saturday’s. On Saturday we were primarily hiking through groves of tress with very little scenic views. On Sunday we were traversing through more open areas that exposed us to beautiful views of Lower Cataract Lake and Green Lake Reservoir. Also, there were a lot less bugs!
We were able to hike quickly and made it back to our car by 10:30.
The full loop was about 10.4 miles (5.5 miles on Saturday and 4.9 miles on Sunday) ranging in elevation from 8,700 feet to 10,300 feet. It was much less intense that our previous backpacking trip in Lost Creek Wilderness, but still totally worth it.
I love that we can decide late on Friday afternoon to go on camping trip and make it happen. Even though it was only 10 miles and one night, both of us came back to Denver on Sunday revived from hiking, breathing in fresh mountain air, watching the stars come out, and sleeping outside.
I highly recommend spending some time in the Eagles Nests Wilderness! I would love to go back and explore more of the area.