On the trail: Crystal hike a hidden gem | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: Crystal hike a hidden gem

Aspen Times Staff Report
Aspen, CO Colorado

REDSTONE – The Hidden Gems Hike series continues Saturday with a foray into the proposed Crystal River addition to the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area.

The free guided hike will follow the Placita Trail, starting at Highway 133 south of Redstone and making a brisk, 2,000-foot ascent to a shoulder of Elk Mountain. This will take hikers through a vertical cross-section of the Crystal River addition, which is proposed to extend the western boundary of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness down almost to the Crystal River.

The 10-square-mile wilderness addition includes the steep, west-facing slopes and red sandstone outcrops that give Redstone its name. It also takes in the lower reaches of several ecologically important tributaries such as Avalanche Creek, Kline Creek and Gift Creek, which the Colorado Natural Heritage Program lists as containing significant riparian forest habitat.

The slopes of the Crystal River unit provide access for the area’s abundant and diverse wildlife – notably bighorn sheep and elk – to the critical winter range of the valley floor. Bighorn sheep can often be seen in Filoha Meadows, across from Penny Hot Springs, and peregrine falcons nest in the cliffs of this area.

The hike is free, but advance registration is required. To register and receive information about the meeting place and time, go to http://www.whiteriverwild.org. For more information, contact trip leader Dave Reed at (970) 401-4220.

The Hidden Gems Hike Series is presented by the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign, a grassroots effort to secure new, congressionally designated wilderness areas in and around the White River National Forest. The campaign is led by the Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop, the Colorado Mountain Club, The Wilderness Society and the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

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