Jackson County Highpoint Trip Report

Clark Peak (12,951 ft)

Date: August 14, 2004
Author: Layne Bracy

Ruby Jewel Lake trailhead (4WD) (about 10,500 ft)

We left Brighton at 3:15 am, heading to Fort Collins and then taking serpentine highway 14 along Cache la Poudre canyon. The hike is in Colorado State Forest Park near Gould, requiring a $5 entrance fee.

The road to the 2WD parking area itself was rough in spots and would have caused some serious wincing in the Toyota Corolla. We did enjoy a close-up look at a fox along the way. We were in our Honda CRV, and I decided to see if we could make it to the 4WD trailhead. This was definitely the crux of the hike but we did chop off another 1.4 miles each way by getting to the 4WD parking. The altimeter read about 10,500 feet.

Started hiking at 6:55 am. The trail to Ruby Jewell Lake (11,300 feet) is well-maintained, and we covered the 1.5 miles quickly. Skies were perfectly clear so we relaxed some at the lake before continuing.

From the lake we were essentially without trail to follow. We picked the easiest path towards a gentle looking saddle to the northeast, ascending a steep grassy slope. We arrived at the saddle (12,250 feet) and paused again, though I was a bit anxious, not seeing 700 feet of gain anywhere.

We ascended the ridge to the right, still easy class 2, and the peak gradually unfolded to our view. The highlight for me was seeing a new mammal species! Several hundred feet from the top we saw a scrawny member of the weasel family. It had a golden belly, brown back, and black-tipped tail, and peered down at us a few times from some rocks before darting off. We later identified it at the visitors center as a long-tailed weasel.

At the top, we did not find a register but I did see three benchmarks labeled "Clark Peak", assuring me that I had reached my 50th Colorado county highpoint.

Hike statistics: 4.5+ miles round-trip; time to summit 2 hours 3 minutes; class 2

Reference: Hiking Colorado's Summits, by Covill/Mitchler