Colorado Guy

Poplar Gulch Trail - Near St. Elmo, CO

(A Mountain Hike Toward Green Timber Gulch and South Cottonwood Canyon - June 25, 2008)

My first hike on the Poplar Gulch Trail was in 2008, and below are all of my photos. This is a lesser-known trail in the Chaffee County / Buena Vista region that I highly recommend for mountain views, elevation-adjustment training and the lack of crowds. The hike was approximately three miles uphill to the top of a ridge. It does appear that a trail continues onto the other side down Green Timber Gulch and into South Cottonwood Canyon. Study your topographical map for all details.

Directions To The Trailhead: From Nathrop, travel west on Chaffee County Road 162 to St. Elmo. In St. Elmo, the trailhead is approximately 0.2 miles off of Tincup Pass Road (which leads to Tincup Pass). If you do not have a 4-wheel drive high clearance vehicle, park in St. Elmo and walk up the road to the trailhead.

Lastly, special thanks to Derek, Anna and Angela for coming along. We had an enjoyable time in the mountains. :)

Photos and commentary by Steve Garufi in Buena Vista, Colorado - Facebook - Twitter - Pinterest - Google Plus - YouTube

Poplar Gulch Trailhead
Poplar Gulch Trail

The Poplar Gulch Trailhead. You can not miss it if you travel just a short distance up the road as if you're headed to Tincup Pass.

Poplar Gulch Trail The steepest portion of the trail is at the beginning before it reaches the meadow.
Poplar Gulch Poplar Gulch was flowing fast and hard.
Poplar Gulch Trail Some pine trees near the trail with Mt. Mamma to be seen faintly in the background.
Poplar Gulch Trail Out of the trees and into the meadow area.
Poplar Gulch Trail
Poplar Gulch Trail
Then we began to see snow upward in the meadow. Large patches of snow could be seen throughout the forest. Yay!

Recent snow pages from the same year:

  • Cottonwood Pass
  • Independence Pass
  • Loveland Pass
  • Poplar Gulch Trail
    Poplar Gulch Trail, CO
    Poplar Gulch Trail, CO
    Three photos of some of the views near the top.

    Other nearby hikes worthy of your time:

  • Jones Mountain
  • Ptarmigan Lake
  • Short Hike on Cottonwood Pass
  • Turner Peak
  • Colorado
    Unnamed 13er
    At The Top Of The Poplar Gulch Trail

    A small rock pile stands at the top.

    BOTTOM: To the east, a trail leads to the top of an unnamed point (alt. 13,078 feet). We sat and relaxed at the pass, but that peak is an option if you are feeling more ambitious than we were.

    Mt. Mamma and Grizzly Lake The view to the south, looking back down into the gulch we just traveled up from. Mt. Mamma (alt. 13,634 feet) is the large peak to the left. The gulch directly to the right is Grizzly Gulch and that small blue body of water is Grizzly Lake. The town of St. Elmo is way back down in that canyon.
    Emma Burr Mountain, CO
    Emma Burr Mountain
    The views to the west may have been the prettiest. Emma Burr Mountain (elev. 13,544 feet) shows its head in the middle photo. Thankfully, Derek and I summited that mountain later in the summer. :)

    BOTTOM PHOTO: A very pretty and pointed peak to the right has a lot of snow on its north side.

    Snow Cornice
    Look At All The Snow!

    TOP: Derrick walked way out there with his dog to get a closer look at that massive snow cornice! You will probably need to click the adjacent photo to see it at a larger size for better perspective.

    BOTTOM: I also could not resist frolicking in the snow and tossed some snowballs. There was a time when I hated the snow and freezing cold, but I have a changed heart and love every minute of being in the snow.

    Gladstone Ridge, CO
    South Cottonwood Canyon
    Mt. Yale, CO
    Facing north, there is some significant descent and a trail leading into Green Timber Gulch.

    The most immediate canyon, best seen in the middle photo, leads back down toward Cottonwood Lake. Travel up this very canyon and you will reach Mineral Basin, with nice views of Emma Burr Mountain and Mt. Kruetzer. (See: 4-wheeling in South Cottonwood Canyon)

    There is also a 4-wheel drive road that travels close to Ptarmigan Lake.

    A closer view of Mount Yale.

    Purple Flower A few wildflowers were showing their colors, including this purple one.
    The four of us at the top. :)

    By the way, we began at the trailhead at 7:15 a.m. and did not see another person until we were practically back down at the parking lot at 11:30 a.m. No crowds here on this Wednesday morning!

    Poplar Gulch Trail One picture with my cell phone as I sat at the top.

    Thinking About Dad
    Beautiful Colorado Mountains
    We all sat there at the top of the Poplar Gulch Trail for quite awhile, and Angela captured a photo of me with some grand mountain views in the background. I dedicate this hike to my Father. At the time (June 2008), he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he died five months later in November.

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