East Fork Trail #56
ElevationAscent: 1,867' 569 m
Descent: -55' -17 m
High: 11,497' 3,504 m
Low: 9,685' 2,952 m
GradeAvg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 17% (10°)
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“A great trail through sub-alpine terrain in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains”— J. Bella
The trail is either all climbing or all descending depending on the direction you travel. From the northern point (as mapped) the trail starts off climbing on easy to moderate grades, winding up the mountainside until it passes the Sawmill Park Trail after a mile and reaches the Big Ditch, a 41-mile mining feature constructed in the 1800s to transport water to mines in the Moreno Valley. There is a sign here describing the history of the area
Bypass the tempting singletrack leading into the forest on the right side of the ditch and continue on the more worn trail to the left. The next 2.5 miles are a combination of smooth Sangre de Cristo mountain dirt and rocky and rooty climbs as the trail contours upwards through several drainage gullies and new-growth forests. Along this ascent the environment gradually but noticeably transitions to a more high alpine clime, and once you reach the wooden bridge across the Red River you'll be surrounded by older spruce and fir trees. After crossing the river, the trail climbs moderately with more rocky and rooty sections.
There are a few stream crossings leading to an exposed outcrop with some amazing views of Wheeler Peak's eastern slopes and the valleys to the northeast. Continue along the trail as it skirts the Wheeler Peak Wilderness boundary and crosses Horseshoe Creek, then comes to the junction with Trail 91. Here there are three options; turn right and continue towards Lost Lake, return on trail 56 back to the parking area or go left to Horseshoe Lake and some epic views.
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