“A challenging off-trail route with lots of photo opportunities, and ample challenging terrain.”
— Thomas David Kehoe
River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This 12 mile loop travels up South Rock Creek to a high valley with small ponds, then over a steep ridge with big views, down to North Rock Creek, and out on an old mining road.
Need to Know
To get to the Rock Creek trailhead from I-70 exit 205 in Silverthorne, turn right and go eight miles north on the Blue River Parkway. Then turn left onto County Road 1350. Drive three miles to the trailhead. CR 1350 is a rocky dirt road that's fine for a Subaru Outback but not for two-wheel-drive cars. The parking lot is large, there shouldn't be any parking problems.
The off-trail and bushwhacking portions of the route may not lend themselves well to running.
The trailhead starts at North Rock Creek Trail #46
and then soon continues for a few miles with an average grade of 3.9% on the Gore Range Trail. This part goes by easy and boring, through beetle-killed forests with stagnant ponds. Then you reach South Rock Creek and a large pond with water lilies and a view of the mountains. There are several campsites around the South Rock Creek crossing and the pond.
Next, head along the South Rock Creek Route
for 3.9 miles with an average grade of 4.7% on game trails or off-trail. There's a marsh where you might get your feet wet. You can eat lunch or camp in a high valley with many small ponds and wildflowers (7.0 miles).
Then you go over a ridge to North Rock Creek via the Ridge Traverse Route. You follow an elk trail for 0.8 miles with an average grade over 25% (!). You can then explore the ridge line, with great views. The ridgeline is a minimum of 0.5 mile but can be as much as two miles, depending on how many views you want to see. Once you've enjoyed the view and have caught your breath, you drop down a gully 0.7 miles with an average grade over 35% (over 40% in places, bring trekking poles!).
Next comes the bad part, with a 1.1 mile trudge through the forest during the North Rock Creek Bushwhack Route (-5% average grade, not counting climbing over 4,567 downed trees) to the end of a mining road. There's a good campsite along North Rock Creek just above the mine.
The rest is easy, 2.4 miles (-5% average grade) down the North Rock Creek Trail #46
- which you could drive your Honda Fit on. Total distance was measured at 12.6 miles.
Flora & Fauna
Elk are common here, and elk hunters in the fall. Not a recommended route in October!