Monday, April 21, 2014

Outside with Charlie: Hope Valley


The goal with very young children on hiking trails is to get them started early to build an appreciation for the great outdoors.

If your child did well on hikes around Sly Park Lake, Granite Lake above Silver Lake and then to Lake Margaret without being carried, this hike is the next step.

Hope Valley is an outdoor paradise. While there are several hikes here, this one will test your little hikers legs and stamina, along with yours. It’s not technical, or overly strange, it’s just 2.5 miles uphill with no lake at the end.

The Hope Valley Overlook trail starts just west of Sorensen’s Resort on Highway 88. The parking area is easy to spot. It’s an old logging road that is marked by the US Forest Service as a fire road.

Just up from where you park the road is gated. Make certain that your car is not blocking the gate.
There may be other cars parked there. If there is no room, find a spot on the north side of the highway, which should be easy to do.

This fire road is where you begin. What is noticeable right away is that this is an uphill experience. You don’t need a ladder or climbing gear, but it is definitely uphill.

You will gain 1,200 feet in about 2.5 miles. There are some spots that level out for a bit, a short respite before the upward hiking begins again.

Notice the blue diamonds on the trees. This road is a cross country and snowshoe route in the winter. Follow the blue diamonds, as the entire hike, up to the spot where you turn for the overlook, is on this road.

You’ll cross a creek about five times along the way. The route takes you in and out of shade for the entire hike. It’s a conifer forest with aspen groves mixed in. In autumn, they are simply mind boggling.

In late spring and into summer, wildflowers are in bloom and will delight your eye and camera.
Take the time to look north when traversing the switch backs. You will find some very camera worthy views out there.

About an hour and a half into the hike, depending on your hiking pace, the road will level out. While it does so in a few places along the way, this time you will be noticeably higher.

Just after this level stretch takes a short, mild downhill, and levels out again, you will come to what looks like a faint road off the north side of the main road. This is it.

The entrance is marked by two ducks, three rocks stacked on each other, about 10 feet apart. Look further down this faint path, and you should see more ducks.

A word of caution here. If you come to a “Y” in the road, after more than an hour and a half into the hike, with Forest Service road markers that say Road 31053, you missed the overlook turn off. At that spot you will also see, on the road you are on, a marker that says Road 31053B. Turn around. Go back on the same road. Look for the ducks marking the trail to the overlook.

Take the faint path over the decomposed granite and lava. Within a short bit you’ll know how come you are here.

Off to the north-west is the big overlook. Keep following the trail to this spot. The views of Hope Valley are stunning.

Your little hikers may be a bit tired. It’s time for snacks or lunch. Keep them close, as the overlook has nothing to prevent anyone from going over the edge.

Enjoy your time here. Work your camera out, fill the memory card.

The trip back will take less time. It is all downhill. The road is gravelly, as you noticed on the way up. Take care on the way down, as slipping on the loose rocks is a possibility.

If your little one is good with this hike, extending your future trips should be OK. Get outside!

Charlie Ferris


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