Big South

Location: Roosevelt National Forest, northern Colorado
Maps: USGS 7.5' Quads: Chambers Lake, Boston Peak; Trails Illustrated 1:40K: Cameron Pass #112
Access: Drive west on HWY 14 from Ted's Place at the canyon entrance 48 miles. Trailhead is on the left (east) side of the highway, about 2 miles past the Tunnel Picnic Ground. Takes about an hour from Ft Collins. Backcountry camping in designated sites only.
Trail: Follows the river through Comanche Peak Wilderness, gentle grade, 6.5 miles to washed-out footbridge near Peterson Lake.
Trailhead: NAD83 zone 13 431802e 4498464n  Elev: 8490'
Fees: None
Dog Regulations: Leash Control
Weather: Current and recent conditions
             Local Forecast

The Cache la Poudre River begins high up in Rocky Mt National Park at Poudre Lake, tracks down through wild country full of fir, spruce and pine, then gushes on north through a deep canyon until it reaches Highway 14, where it veers east and runs through an even deeper canyon alongside the road all the way to Fort Collins some 60 miles away. Before it hits Highway 14, however, it runs through Comanche Peak Wilderness, and here the canyon may not be at its deepest, but it is certainly at its best. With no highway to interfere, all you can hear as you trek the path through the forest is the soothing white noise of white water rushing over granite boulders. The fishing is also not bad, although you can never hope to catch anything really huge. Iíve done several day hikes and one backpacking trip up here over the past several years. Being located near the highway, it gets heavy use, but the trail is wooded, and winding, so one does not often encounter many people on the trail.

The first time I visited here was with Mom in June 1999. We hiked up about two miles before the weather turned us back (rain). Still, it was very pleasant. The trail follows the roaring river closely most of the way and Frank enjoyed swimming after sticks on the shallow water near the banks.

My second trip up the trail was for fishing purposes. I went up with Frank and fished the river, catching several medium sized rainbows. That day was magnificent, with bright sunshine and a cool down-canyon breeze. There are lots of enjoyable holes to fish in, but you have to hike to get to them. 

My third trip was another day hike with Andra in the spring of 2002. We hiked up the weekend after we came back from Kansas with her new dog, Makenzie. She and Makenzie hung out by the river when the little pup got too tired to go further, and Frank and I hiked another hour up the trail and checked out campsites to see which ones were good. We accidentally came upon a couple getting frisky at their camp Oops. Sorry guys.  Seemed I was doomed to meet people at awkward moments on the trail because I turned a corner in the trail and came upon a woman peeing right in the trail. What do you do there? Say hi or pretend you donít notice? Awkward. I sprained my ankle on the way back and that made the trip back long, but nevertheless, it was a fun trip.

In June 2002, Andra, Frank, Makenzie, my 8-year old niece from Oklahoma, Ashley, and I, took an overnight trip up the Big South Trail. She had never been backpacking before, and had a tough time getting used to the absence of toilets. I am glad Andra was there to help her out because helping little girls figure out how to pee in the woods is definitely not on my docket.  I think she enjoyed herself, overall. We went fishing and caught the biggest rainbow Iíd ever caught up till then. Ashley was very excited to see that there were indeed fish below the swirling, foaming waves. I regret that I did not ask Andra to photograph us with the fish, but I was anxious to get the beautiful thing back in the water since it took me a long time to get the hook out. The low point was the hiking. Ashley was very tired hiking that far, even though I tried to point out that it had only been about a mile and that she probably walked more when she went to the mall to go shopping. Anyway, I hope it made an impression of good fun on her. She certainly enjoyed the river rafting trip the following day.

In January 2003 I was back at the trail, tackling deep snow with the two dogs. Weather was great, and I was the first person to arrive at the parking lot for the day so I knew I had the trail all to myself for at least half the time. What do I do when I know I have the trail to myself? Hike naked, of course. Makenzie entertained herself by hunting for sticks. We hiked farther along the trail than I had gone before, and had a grand time.

Mom and Frank up the Big South

Prints and Digital Imagery from Big South
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Page Created August 8, 2002
Updated 1-10-08