New York Creek

Round Trip Distance: 8.4 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 10,069 - 12,308 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 6 hrs.
Trailhead: New York Creek
Fee: none
Attractions: alpine hike, mushrooms, berries

New York Creek is located in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area of the White River National Forest east of Aspen, Colorado. Beginning off of the Lincoln Creek Road, at an elevation just over 10,000 feet, the trail climbs up the New York Creek drainage, through idyllic stands of spruce and fur trees, to the saddle of a ridge that divides the White River and Gunnison National Forests, where the elevation is just under 12,300 feet. Panoramic views and fresh alpine air are the crowning reward for the effort that comes as a result of the more than 2,400 feet of elevation gain.

To get to the trailhead follow Highway 82 east out of Aspen for 10 miles and turn right onto the Lincoln Creek Road. A high clearance vehicle is recommended from this point. Continue for 3 miles to the New York Creek sign where the trailhead with ample parking will be on the right. We added the trailhead to Google Maps for turn by turn directions using that app.

The trail starts out by crossing Lincoln Creek. We waded across in the morning and made use of the logs coming back. Either way, trekking poles can come in handy.

After crossing the creek the trail follows an old jeep road for much of the way up to the old aqueduct road. The trail is moderately steep as it gains a little over 500 feet of elevation between the trailhead and the aqueduct road.

The next half mile follows the aqueduct road which provides a nice reprieve. When this photo was taken a fox had just crossed the road up near the bend. Too far away for a photo but still fun to watch.

After leaving the road the trail crosses unceremoniously into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area as at present there is no sign to indicate the event. Hiking through the dark timber with only minor elevation gain is very pleasant as the trail travels along the side of the mountain above New York Creek.

Near the 2.2 mile point the trail crosses to the west side of New York Creek and continues up the sunny side of the valley.

On the west side of the creek the trail begins to get a bit steeper as it alternates between the forest and the meadowy slopes with an occasional thicket of alpine pussywillows. We call them pussywillows because of the telltale cotton like plume. They are of the salix genus but exactly which species we haven't determined. One aspect of being the first person on the trail in the morning means that you get the honor of brushing the water off their leaves with your arms and legs. If they seem especially burdened we usually rattle them with a trekking pole to knock most of the water off. By the way, the ultimate destination for this trail is the saddle in the ridge in the middle of the photo.

Just past the 3 mile point the trail turns more westward toward the basin on the south side of Difficult Peak (12,812 ft.). As it nears the basin it veers more eastward and transitions to the tundra slopes that are below the ridge. This is the steepest part of the trail but it's almost over and the prize is almost in hand.

The ridge forms the boundary between the White River and Gunnison National Forest. The trail that continues over the pass is now named the Bowman Creek trail. According to our map the faded trail to the left leads to Ptarmigan Lake. Our map also shows a route down through Brooklyn Gulch but we couldn't see any signs of that trail from below at the Brooklyn Creek Diversion. (That's where the water is siphoned off to the Eastern Slope.)

We hiked up the knob on the left so we could get a look down into the head of New York Basin to see the two small lakes that are the source of New York Creek. The extra little climb took us up to 12,308 feet. In this photo that should be Peak (13,123 ft.) in the near background and Brooklyn Gulch on the east side of that ridge.

The impressive view to the north peers all the way back down New York Creek to the trailhead at the base of Green Mountain (12,791). The tall peak on the left should be Difficult Peak (12,934 ft.) with New York Peak (12,811 ft.) just beyond.

Several faded plaques nailed to trees indicate that the route the New York Creek trail takes was once the Center Stock Driveway. We saw signs, in the form of scat, that sheep had been driven up to the ridge from the south sometime earlier in the summer. Judging from all the elk scat it is also one of their main migration routes. Equally as noticeable is the large variety of mushrooms that seemingly carpet the ground. Varieties included King Bolete and Hawk Wings (both edible) and the Fly Agaric (poisonous/hallucinogenic) and Russula (it is called the sickener but is eaten in some places). All four of these are easy to identify. Anyway, New York Creek is a fun, interesting hike and a great bit of exercise. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.