Lost Creek Wilderness (Refridgerator Gulch)

For me, the ache to spend a night out under the stars usually sets in as the days start to warm in April.  I begin to keep an eye on the mountains, and plan my first camping trip of the year.  A typical June in Colorado finds most of the high alpine backpacking destinations still burred under snow. With this in mind I decided my first trip would be to the lower altitude Lost Creek Wilderness.  This however, is not a typical year, and we were in for some hot days of hiking.
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Lost Creek Wilderness is the closest wilderness area to my home in Castle Rock, Co.  It is popular for its multi-day loop hikes.  We were strongly considering doing the 26 mile loop from Goose Creek Trailhead.  However, this was our first backpack of the season, and severe blowdown in lake park promised to add miles and elevation to an already strenuous itinerary.  We decided the best choice was to do an out and back hike to refrigerator gulch.

Day One Goose Creek Trailhead -> Refrigerator Gulch

Friday morning I awoke at 5:30 ten minutes before my alarm went off.  Friends from Albuquerque spent the night, and we wanted to get an early start to beat the heat and the crouds.  We were on the road shortly after 6AM, it was around a 2 hour drive to the trail head.  A lot of that time is spent on well graded dirt roads. We parked at the Goose Creek Trailhead around 8:30 AM.  The traihead does not have any facilities, the closest toilet is at the Goose Creek Campground.  There were five or six cars parked in the parking lot.  After readying our gear we hoisted our packs (mine was 35lbs) , and hit the trail.

The first 1/2 mile or so of the trail travels through the burn scar left by Colorado’s largest wildfire.

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Soon you enter the trees, and come to a well constructed bridge that crosses Goose Creek. Just before the bridge there is a trail to the left. We did not follow this trail, but It appears to lead to a nice campsite which you can see across the creek farther down the trail.  At approximately 1 mile in you will come across a few nice campsites along the creek. These sites are directly on the trail, and I would imagine there is a lot of traffic that close to the trailhead.

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In the next couple of miles we passed three solo hikers, they would be the only people we saw all day.  Around mile four we came to the intersection with the side trail that heads down to the “Shafthouse” area.  At this intersection there is a large campsite.  Again it is right on the Goose Creek Trail with little privacy. There is water available from a small stream (probably dries up mid summer).  We stashed our packs in the trees, and headed down the side trail to explore.  Man did it feel good to have the pack off!  A few hundred feet down the trail you come to some “historic” buildings.  The buildings are the bunkhouses used to house workers from Antero and Lost Park Reservoir Company. The company had a failed attempt to pump concrete into the boulders, in an attempt to construct an underground damn of Lost Creek.    If you take a right at the buildings you can head 1/2 mile by trail to the shaft-house area.  The remains of the pump are not particularly interesting. However, the rocks in reservoir gulch are awesome.  They are immense boulders that form a network of underground caves.  We had a blast exploring the caves, and especially enjoyed the break from the scorching sun!!  The Caves have some awesome lighting, we found a spot that had a beam of light that produced photos looking like you were being “beamed up”  (see pics below). The shafthouse area had 3-4 nice campsites.  However, Lost creek is underground here so you have to be willing to hike for your water.  If you get far enough up the gulch the creek re-emerges. However, it is some high class two low class three scrambling to get up there.

If you take a left at the historic buildings there is a trail that leads to a dozen nice campsites near lost creek.  The area is popular, and on Saturday night there was at least 6 parties camped there.  There is a particularly nice site right on the shores of Lost Creek, however, it is not legal as it is to close to the water.

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