On the trail: Finally, Nancy’s Path

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesA hike onto the Crown, starting on Nancy's Path in Emma, affords sweeping views of the midvalley.

EMMA – Unlike almost every other denizen of the Roaring Fork Valley, I know little about the Crown – that vast expanse at the base of Mount Sopris favored for all sorts of midvalley recreation but perhaps most notably mountain biking.

Yeah, I’ve been up to Thomas Lakes, hiked the Hay Park Trail a couple of times and even once climbed Sopris, but that’s about it. Now, I feel an urge to see more of it, having barely begun to explore a route that’s right in my neighborhood.

I’d long had Nancy’s Path on my to-do list. It’s a hiking trail out of Emma that provides access to the Crown, but it involves driving up someone’s private driveway, and I was uneasy, since I didn’t really know where I was going.

Then I ran into Ginny Parker at a party last weekend and just plain asked for directions. She provided the trail easement for Nancy’s Path at her Happy Day Ranch in memory of her daughter, Nancy Parker West, and was enthused that I had an interest in exploring it.

A friend and I discovered Nancy’s Path quickly goes from bucolic stroll to steep climb up the side of the Crown. What is technically the path, I think, is less than a mile long, but it connects into a trail that continues on Bureau of Land Management property. We were drenched in sweat despite shade in the early going Sunday morning. For the first 20 minutes or so, the trail was concealed in sort of a gully cut through the vegetation. It clearly carries water careening down the slope at times, but the recent rains left only damp dirt, improving our traction.

The pleasing aroma of juniper filled the air from time to time, and we quickly gained enough elevation for stupendous views of the green pastures of Emma and all that lies beyond them.

We weren’t close to the top as far as we could judge it from our vantage point, but dark clouds were starting to pile over the ridge above us. We figured there was a long day’s worth of exploring to be had, but it wasn’t going to be Sunday.

To find Nancy’s Path, go to the corner of Emma Road and Hooks Lane, and turn down the Happy Day Ranch driveway. A brick Victorian farmhouse will be on your left as you drive in. Look for a barn with a red roof, turn right in front of it, and you’ll see the clearly marked parking area for the path. Dogs, mountain bikes and motorized vehicles are prohibited.