This route touches on a little bit of everything that makes State Forest State Park special. You'll get great views of the Medicine Bow Mountains, see three unique alpine lakes (Jewel Lake, Kelly Lake, Clear Lake), experience some excellent singletrack, roll along on nice buff forest road and see towering aspen trees. You're likely to see more wildlife (bighorn sheep, elk, etc.) than you do people. Almost all of these miles are on the northern section of the Never Summer 100k race course. There are spots that aren't signed particularly well, so a keen eye and good route finding will help tremendously. If you're nervous about route finding, download the Hiking Project mobile app
to keep you on track!
All of the creek crossings are easy, and water is abundant. There are a couple of sections that can get toasty on a sunny day, so bring your sunscreen and dip your hat/shirt in one of the many streams or lakes.
From the trailhead, you'll drop along the sides of a short hill on forest road for about 1 mile. Then you'll turn right onto the Canadian Trail - look for the signs pointing towards the North Canadian Yurt - go through a fence opening onto lightly used singletrack. After dropping into a small valley, follow the blue arrow to the right to cross the North Fork of the Canadian River (it is actually a very small stream) - this turn is easy to miss.
The Canadian Trail is not traveled very often, so keep an eye out for the blue diamonds on trees every 100 yards or so - they mark the trail. There are a couple of intersections with social trails, so keep looking for the diamonds. After 3.8 miles, turn left onto the Ruby Jewel Trail
(which is actually a forest road).
Follow the Ruby Jewel Trail
as a forest road for a little over a mile, where it becomes singletrack. Continue on this trail all the way to Jewel Lake. This lake is austere in it's beauty, and it's backdrop is the highest peak in the range, Clark Peak (12,953).
Backtrack a little over a half a mile to the right turn onto the Hidden Valley Trail
. The sign marking this turn is very easy to miss, so keep your eyes open. Follow the Hidden Valley Trail
up a long glacial valley. If you're there in the early-mid summer, the small stream will be choked with wildflowers! Before you top out over a ridge, make sure to turn around and look at the beautiful views of the Nohku Crags, Mt. Richthofen, and Mt. Mahler in the distance - some of the most prominent peaks in the Never Summer Range.
Once you crest a ridge, you'll be gazing down at Kelly Lake - a beautiful tarn surrounded by spectacular peaks. You'll now be on the Kelly Lake Trail
as you make your way down to the eastern shore of the lake.
Continue down the Kelly Lake Trail
among beautiful stands of aspen trees and evergreens. The last mile of this trail will pass through an area that was clear cut for logging. Soon you'll see a sign pointing to the Clear Lake Trail
- take a right onto forest road and follow it for about a mile up a gradual climb to the intersection with the Clear Lake Trail
. Follow the sign pointing the way to the right for the out and back to Clear Lake.
This section of the trail is singletrack and involves a decent amount of climbing (1,100ft and a little over 2 miles) up to the spectacular Clear Lake, with South Rawah Peak (12,644 and the 2nd highest peak in the range) as it's backdrop. Pay attention in the first mile for a small waterfall off to the right.
Backtrack down the singletrack of the Clear Lake Trail
for a little over 2 miles, then you'll be on forest road headed almost due west for 2 miles before the trail turns south. This section alternates between singletrack and forest road, but is easy to follow. As you roll gradually up and down through stands of huge trees, you'll be treated to amazing views of the Medicine Bow Mountains to the east and the Park Range far in the distance to the west on the other side of North Park.
Tick the miles off here - it's easy hiking and you're almost home! The trail will become a well-maintained forest road and you'll pass the place where you turned off onto the Canadian Trail hours earlier. Instead of turning, continue to follow the road for a mile back to your car and enjoy a well-deserved beverage because you just finished 29.5 miles!
Lots of wildflowers, bighorn sheep, elk, pika, marmots.