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Lost Creek Wilderness earned its name for a particular creek in Colorado that has a pesky habit of disappearing at various times during a year. A part of that is it’s largely fed by snowmelt, and once the spring thaw passes, its supply of water dries up literally. Another part of the reason it seems to “disappear” is: portions of the creek flow underground, emerging at various points downstream, which adds to the illusion of it being lost. This region was one of the last refuges of the endangered American Bison, which roamed the valley up until the early 1980s. To protect the dwindling population, the state of Colorado officially established the region as Lost Creek Wilderness in 1980 to protect the herd’s territory. Unfortunately, the bison reached a point where it could not support its population, and they were removed from the area in the 1990s. Lost Creek Wilderness gained its 15-minutes of fame when it was used as a location in a popular television show, Supernatural, in its first season.
Although Bailey is the closest town with a grocery store, restaurants, and shopping, Bailey lacks an urgent care center or hospital with an emergency room. For any health emergencies, patients will need to head back into Denver roughly 30 miles to the east. For this reason, all adventurers should be well-prepared for emergencies in the wilderness.
Encompassing close to 120,000 acres, Lost Creek Wilderness is surrounded by Pike and San Isabel National Forests. The terrain mainly consists of low alpine hills, two mountain peaks - Kenosha Mountain and Bison Peak - and an open valley blanketed by wild grasses and flowers. Due to its proximity to Denver, Lost Creek Wilderness is a popular destination for many Denver residents, and the area sees a large number of hikers in the summer months. Although the traffic is high, particularly near the trailheads, well over 130 miles of trails ensures that many hikers will experience solitude and quiet the farther they get from the start.
As soon as the temperature drops, the number of visitors dwindle. Winter tends to arrive in the Colorado mountains very early. Some years, the Lost Creek Wilderness will see snow as early as September. Once the snow hits the ground, adventurers hit the ungroomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Bring a camera. The wooded slopes teem with wildlife, and it’s quite common to see deer and elk sharing the same trails as humans. Bighorn sheep navigate the sheer rock walls with ease that can only be envied. In summers, black bears often forage for berries of bushes that line the trails.
Note that Giardia has been detected in most waterways in Lost Creek Wilderness; it should be treated before consuming.
What Lost Creek Wilderness RV campgrounds lack in amenities, they make up for in views and access to wilderness. Step out the front door of an Airstream rental to watch deer nibble moss on a misty morning. Listen to birds sing merrily in the trees overhead. In evenings, distant owls hoot as they prepare to hunt. RV camp near Grant, CO, at Kenosha Pass Campground, which is a small facility with around 20 sites for RVs. At an elevation of 10,000 feet, there is no running water. However, it does have vault toilets and fire rings.
Deer Creek RV Campground, a few miles west of Bailey, CO, is close to Mount Evans. It is one of the few peaks in the country that people can drive all the way up. Deer Creek RV Campground is open year-round; however, take note that there is no dump station, and it operates on a first-come, first-serve basis. On the upside, there is running water, which is available during the summer months.
RV camping near Dillon may be a good option to consider, too. The Geneva Park Campground has 26 sites, and though none have hookups, there are vault toilets for visitors to use. Vehicles longer than 25 feet are not advised due to the tight turns.
This region was once populated by miners and loggers, and there are several ghost towns and abandoned mines still standing, the last vestiges of a bygone era. Idaho Springs has several mines that are open to tours. Visitors can venture deep into the bowels of the earth and get a glimpse of the dangers miners endured in their endless pursuit of precious metals and gems. Most tours end with an interactive exhibit in which people can attempt to pan for gold or crack geodes.
Several mountain towns operate historic sites, historical societies, and museums that honor their heritage and past. The Sawmill Museum in Breckenridge spotlights the local logging operations as well as demonstrates how to build log cabins, which isn’t as simple as it seems. The museum is open to self-guided tours year-round, and in summers, volunteers are on-hand for a guided tour.
At the end of a long day of hiking and exploring, kick up your heels outside a camper rental, and look skyward. Although Lost Creek Wilderness is relatively close to Denver, the mountain ranges to the east block most of the light pollution. The night sky is typically extremely clear as a result.