Payne Creek Trail by way of Brookside Payne Creek TH (according to the Lost Creek Wilderness maps but it’s Brookside-McCurdy Trailhead on Google Maps). Lost Creek Wilderness (1 hour / 48 miles from Denver). We only did 5 miles out and back but you can plan some solid multi day loops in this area.
The ski resorts have been pretty slushy lately and we’ve been getting antsy to test out some new backpacking gear. Enter Lost Creek Wilderness. It’s an hour from Denver and low enough in elevation that it’s one of the first areas to melt in the spring (Golden Gate Canyon State Park is another great option). But as usual, assume the worst and be ready for that, because there was still at least 16″ of snow in some areas above 9000′.
So what new gear did we get that made setting up a tent on a foot of snow sound fun? Well we upgraded the tent from a REI Passage 2 to a Tarptent StratoSpire 2, shaving off over 2 lbs. We also upgraded our Kelty Cosmic Down 20° sleeping bags to Enlightened Equipment Revelation 10° down quilts, cutting just over a pound each. We’ll post reviews for everything after we’ve had a few more nights to test things out.
What we learned:
- Melting snow to boil water for meals was surprisingly annoying. You can’t just pack up your pot or kettle with snow and expect it to work – I did that at first and scorched our kettle. Instead you have to watch it and keep adding handfuls as it melts in the kettle. This seems like a minor thing but it was a very easy mistake to make while tired and hungry. And expect hot water to take a long time and a lot of fuel.
- Closed cell foam (CCF) pads are really useful. We have Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol pads and decided to bring them with for sitting on around camp. They make for great chairs when you’d rather not sit on snow. Also, sleeping pad R-values stack, so you can put them under your usual sleeping pad on colder nights. We slept on over a foot of snow with an overnight low of 30°F and the inflatable pads didn’t feel cold.
A few notes on the area:
- Rules for the wilderness area can be found here.
- As usual for wilderness areas, there’s no fees at the trail head or for permits. There’s a self serve permit box at the wilderness boundary.
- This area is pretty popular in the summer due to its proximity to Denver.