An absolute gem in the Sangres, where loops are hard to find, including lakes, views, aspens, and the "need to experience" phantom terrace.
From Westcliffe, drive south on CO 69 to Schoolfield Road (CR 140) and turn right. Go about six and a half miles to Alvarado Campground, then follow the signs to the Comanche-Venable Trailhead.
It is standard to go up Venable Trail #347
and return down Comanche Trail #746
as Comanche is a bit more steep. For backpacking I agree, but for trail running I prefer to power up Comanche Trail #746
and glide down the gentler Venable Trail #347
. Chose direction according to your preferences, but the description here will be Comanche-Venable.
This loop starts at the Venable Trailhead (directions in "Need to Know" section) outside of Westcliffe.
Upon leaving the trailhead, simply follow the signs for Comanche Trail #746
. This will take you up a long climb and after a couple of miles, you'll start paralleling Comanche Creek. Continue climbing, and suffer through the switchbacks and pop up above treeline. Not long after that, you'll come to Comanche Lakes, which is a good place to enjoy the view, rest, relax, and replenish.
From the lakes, you'll continue a short climb up Comanche Pass. At the pass, you'll hang a right onto Phantom Terrace #359
toward the northwest around the backside of Spring Mountain (it'll be to your right/east) to reach the saddle, which has spectacular views of the surrounding area and mountains and gives you a glimpse of the drainage you'll hike down.
From the saddle, you'll descend and cross the most unique aspect of this hike, the "phantom terrace", named so because it is hard to find from a distance given its location against the bare rock. This is a very cool section, but make sure you take caution if there is ice or snow expected.
Just past the Phantom Terrace, you'll connect with Venable Trail #347
, which will take you down the drainage, and you'll soon reach Venable Lakes, another good place to simply "be" for a bit. From there continue to descend Venable Trail #347
About 2 miles down, you'll come to a spur trail for Venable Falls
. This is completely worth the short sidetrack, particularly is the creeks is really flowing. The power and the beauty are amazing and the spur is short.
Continue dropping past the falls all the way back down to Rainbow Trail where there will be a sign pointing you back to the parking lot, where hopefully you have a cold IPA and snacks waiting.
Standard Sangre fare with some stretches with wonderful wildflower displays in early to mid-July