Round Trip Distance: 6.4 miles
Elevation: 9,6,42 - 11,650 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 4 hrs. 45 mins.
Attractions: Scenic views
The Hayden trail is located in the Uncompahgre National Forest near Ouray, Colorado. The original trail begins near the Camp Bird Road where it climbs the northwest side of the mountain to a scenic overlook in the saddle of a ridge at 11,650 feet. Later the trail was extended down the east side of the mountain to Crystal Reservoir in Ironton Park. This post covers the newest segment of the trail beginning in Ironton Park and ending just short of the ridge.
To get to the Hayden trailhead begin measuring at the Ouray Hot Springs and drive 6 miles south on Highway 550. After passing through the scenic Uncompahgre Gorge the highway levels off and enters Ironton Park. The trailhead is on the right near the Crystal Reservoir.
After signing the trail register to let Search and Rescue know that you are in the area proceed across the dam toward the mountain. Once across the dam the Hayden trail turns off on the right.
The trail begins climbing through the trees as it heads away from the reservoir.
A long series of log steps makes the task much easier as it climbs a scree covered slope.
The steepness of the trail varies as it plods its way up the mountain through stands of aspen and pine trees. Wildflowers thrive in areas that are open enough to allow sunlight to penetrate the canopy and reach the ground.
Eventually the trail rises above most of the trees and transitions to the grassy tundra that covers the alpine slopes of Hayden Mountain. Out in the open the trail crosses one of the cascading waterfalls that carry the melting snow down to the Uncompahgre River.
The trail continues to vary in steepness as it crosses the tundra slopes. Fewer hikers venture this high making the trail a little harder to follow but in most places it is still visible as a faint ribbon.
In places where the trail is especially faint keep an eye out for cairns and posts.
The trail finds itself passing through a fold where the rocks look volcanic in nature. It makes for a spectacular seen where various shades of gray, brown and yellowish material is slowly crumbling into raggedly peculiar shapes.
This is also one of the first spots where the trail becomes a bit treacherous. It begins with a talus slope where the rocks can tend to flow out from under your feet. It is followed by a narrow section of scree covered trail that crosses a steep side slope where a tumble could be deadly.
Admittedly when we hiked the trail for this post it was near the end of June and still a few weeks early for an alpine adventure. Most of the colliers were still full of snow and some of it was very slick from being glazed by the sun where it would melt and then freeze over again.
We ended up turning around about a quarter mile from the ridge at a collier that was too steep to chance slipping.
We could have climbed straight up the mountain and gained the ridge at another point but then our map wouldn't resemble the actual trail. There were a couple of other hikers that had started on the Camp Bird side of the mountain that came down that way.
It is always disappointing not to completely finish a trail but there are a few spots on this side of the mountain where the trial is only about a shoes width that are treacherous even under the best conditions. With such incredible scenery to enjoy it is hard to get too bummed out about it.