By Deb Stanley, Examiner.com
Keystone and Arapahoe Basin are great places to ski and the mountains and gulches in between the two ski areas are filled with great hiking trails. Chihuahua Gulch, about six miles from Keystone, features mountain peaks, streams, wildflowers and a beautiful lake.
The hike starts on Peru Creek Road (directions below). If you have a high-clearance, 4-wheel drive, you can drive the first two miles up Chihuahua Gulch Road, but we decided to hike it. The road is rocky, but wide. A short distance from the trailhead, you’ll come to a scree field that we decided must have been deposited by a glacier because there are just so many boulders piled up.
The road takes a major dip at a stream crossing, but just go upstream a short distance to find a bridge to help you cross. From here, it’s just a short hike into a large, wide-open gulch/meadow surrounded by mountain peaks. The road is fairly flat as it winds through the gulch, crossing a stream several times. There are no more bridges along the way, so you’ll either be rock hopping through the water or getting your feet wet depending on how much rain and snow there’s been.
After 2.1 miles, the Jeep road ends at a sign that says “Chihuahua Trail” and “no motor vehicles.” There are a couple parking space for those who drive here, but there are not many. Look around, somewhere in this area is a trail that branches off to the backside of the 14er Grays Peak.
From here, the trail turns rocky and steep. There’s about 1,000 feet of elevation gain in the next 1.4 miles to the lake. Take your time. When you need a break, turn in a circle and enjoy the views in every direction.
About a half mile from the Chihuahua Gulch split, the trail levels off again above tree line. The trail winds through the tundra here, below the rocky cliffs around Chihuahua Lake. You may even see cascades of water coming down the cliffs from the lake above. The trail goes past the lake to a rocky scree field. Carefully scramble up the very loose rocks to the lake’s cirque above.
At the top of the saddle, you’ll be awed by the peaks that surround the lake, but you won’t see the water right away. You have to hike a short distance for a view of Chihuahua Lake on a shelf below the peaks.
This is a beautiful place. You may have to explore around the rocks, down to the shoreline and maybe up the cliffs a bit to find a good place to take a picture of this lake. Come early enough to avoid the afternoon storms and still spend some time at this scenic spot.
Details: From the trailhead at Peru Creek Road and Chihuahua Gulch, it’s about 6.8 miles round-trip to the lake with 1,800 feet of elevation gain. The lake sits at about 12,300 feet.
Directions: From Keystone, drive west on U.S. 6 to Montezuma Road. (With all the growth at Keystone, this road is at the western edge of the resort.) Take Montezuma Road 4.5 miles to Peru Creek Road and turn right. There’s a huge parking area with a sign that says “This is Peru Creek.” Peru Creek Road is rough, but most cars can make it. Drive Peru Creek Road 2.1 miles to the Chihuahua Gulch turnoff and find a parking space off the road.