Farmers Trail Loop

Round Trip Distance: 8.25 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 8330 - 10,211 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 6 hrs. 15 mins.
Trailhead: Deep Creek/Raber Cow Camp
Fee: none
Attractions: wildflowers, forest, solitude, wildlife

The Farmers Trail is in the area of the Kannah Creek drainage on the west side of the Grand Mesa. The trail connects the Coal Creek Trail with the Kannah Creek Trail. The only way to get to the Farmers Trail is via the Coal Creek, Deep Creek or Kannah Creek Trails. I put sections of all three of those trails together with the Farmers Trail to make a loop hike. Due to numerous cattle and big game trails, that crisscross the trail, the route finding on the Farmers Trail section of the loop can be difficult. Hopefully this post and a good map or GPS will make the job a little easier. I was carrying a Grand Mesa Forest Service map that I purchased at the Grand Mesa Visitor Center by Ward Lake. It showed all of the trails and the surrounding area.

I began at the Raber cow camp on Lands End Road. Across the road from the parking area is a sign for the Deep Creek 709 Trail. When I walked over to the sign and looked around I didn't see anything resembling a trail. The vegetation was totally obscuring everything. If you look at the map you will notice that the Deep Creek Trail runs easterly parallel with the Lands End Road for almost a half mile. If you stand at the Deep Creek sign and look through a pair of binoculars you will see several markers like the one in the picture. You can pretty much draw a straight line right through them to find your way through the meadow. Or you can come back in the spring after the snow melts and the vegetation hasn't had a chance to grow so much. If you have an idea before hand what the general direction of the trail is it's not that difficult. For me, all the wildflowers and a curious little buck made the meadow rather pleasant.

The trail became more obvious once I crossed the meadow and began the descent into the Kannah Creek drainage. There is an odd little gate on the trail that no longer has a fence to go with it. Just the gate and a few fence posts are all that remain of a cabin called the Doves Nest that was built by W.L. Farmer in the late 1890's. The early cattlemen built the reservoirs on the Grand Mesa at their own expense to insure a steady supply of water for irrigation. Many of them built cabins such as the Doves Nest to live in while working on the mesa.

As you can see in the picture above the trail is over grown quite a bit but you can pick it out without too much trouble. If there are still the pink poka-dot ribbons tied to the trees, left over from the Grand Mesa 100, then the route finding is all that much easier. The Deep Creek trail follows along the west side of Reservoir Creek but never actually crosses it.

My GPS was showing 1.33 miles when I came to the junction of the Coal Creek 702 trail. I took the left fork. The right fork leads up to Carson Lake and that is the way I would be coming from on the return trip.

I was showing 1.54 miles when I made it to the Farmers 727 trail. I mention the Forest Service trail numbers because that is all that is shown on some maps. Once you get out here in the sticks those meaningless little numbers on the map become pretty important.

I came to a wash on the Farmers trail that looked like a past avalanche or mud slide had brought down a swath of aspen trees. The trail was totally obscured by all the debris that was left in the way. Rather than try to climb over it I worked my way down about 50-100 feet and then back up to get around it.

There were also a couple of clearings on the Farmers trail where the route became confusing. Each of the clearings had cow paths that looked about as good or better than the trail did. Generally I followed along the left side of the clearings until I picked up the trail that looked like you could take if you were on horseback and that headed in the direction of Kannah Creek. If the trail looks like you need a machete to clear your way then you are probably on the wrong trail. The Farmers trail also has some orange surveyors tape tied to the bushes and trees in a few places. Not quite enough for you to find your way but enough to reassure you at times.

Kannah Creek was running a pretty good head of water. With all the electronic devices that I carry when I'm hiking I have to take extra care to keep them dry. I'm a real outdoors man with my GPS, SPOT satellite tracker, Blackberry and cameras. Mark Twain thought he knew what 'Roughing It' was all about. I secured my gear and took a seven or eight foot section of tree branch in each hand, to use as walking sticks, and crossed the creek on the rocks without a lick of trouble.

My GPS was showing 3.12 miles when I reached the Kannah Creek 706 trail. I was pretty tickled that I had managed to stay on the right route for the Farmers trail. If I would have had the right section of the Grand Mesa map loaded into my GPS before I started out all I would have had to do was look at it anytime that I had a doubt. The section of map that I had loaded ran out a little way down the Deep Creek trail. From there I had to rely on my paper map when I needed to check the route.

The Kannah Creek trail was easy to follow and didn't require any special route finding skills. It was all up hill from the Farmers trail and Kannah Creek junction to Carson Lake. Other than a few spots where the trail would break out into a clearing I was shaded by aspen and pine trees. No need for sunscreen here. It took me 2 hours for the Kannah Creek leg of the hike.

The Kannah Creek trail comes up on the southwest side of Carson Lake. The gap the trail travels through to reach the lake is called the Hog Chute. From here I walked across the earthen dam, that is aptly named the Hog Chute Dam, to the parking area to gain access to the beginning of the Coal Creek trail. There is a vault toilet at the parking area and it looked like there may have been a campground further up the road.

The Coal Creek 702 trail is located across the access road from the parking area. Whereas the Kannah Creek trail runs along the south side of Kannah Creek the Coal Creek trail parallels it along the north side. A nice alternative hike could be to park at Carson Lake and hike the same loop without having to incorporate the Deep Creek trail. That would cut off about 2.6 miles of total distance and a good bit of elevation.

The Coal Creek 702 trail was well established and easy to follow. I noticed several varieties of mushrooms that were growing along the edges of the trail.

The Coal Creek trail cuts across Reservoir Creek. I looked around for another tree branch to use as a walking stick to make the forge a little easier. I left it leaning against a tree for the next person to use to cross in the other direction.

It took me an hour to get from Carson Lake back to the Deep Creek trail. That is a distance of almost 1.5 miles. I was poking along taking pictures and such so my speed might not be very typical.

The hike back up the Deep Creek trail to the Raber cow camp took about 30 minutes. I think this was the first time all day that I needed to put my sunglasses on. All in all this was a very enjoyable hike. I would have given it a better rating if the route finding would have been easier on the Farmers branch. I would think that either a GPS or something more than beginning orienteering skills are needed for that section of the hike. It's really hard to say because all I have to relate it to is my own experience and I don't think that my route finding skills are anything to brag about. I find myself off the trail and back tracking quite often. The Farmers Loop is a nice hike with a little bit of a challenge to it that takes you through some beautiful forest in the Kannah Creek drainage. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.