Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Twin Rock Trail

In just an hour at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument I'd seen interesting petrified stumps and beautiful wildflowers, and decided the place was pretty good. What I would soon realize is that it was also home to one of the more enjoyable hikes I'd ever been on -- the Twin Rock Trail.

Twin Rock Trail, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
The trail is an out-and-back, ending as its name would indicate at a pair of large granite formations at the monument's boundary.  A fence separates NPS land from private property.

Twin Rock Trail, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
One of the best aspects of the hike is the variety of terrain.  In just 2.2 miles you travel through dense pine forest, open meadows, past a pond, along a creek, by granite formations and even through a small aspen grove.

Twin Rock Trail, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
The gentle rolling of the meadows and jagged crest of the rocks complemented each other strikingly.

Twin Rock Trail, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
The trail went right through a prairie dog village in this meadow that seemed oddly deserted.  Then I saw a coyote lope through, and I understood why the rodents had made themselves scarce.

Twin Rock Trail, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Nice job by gravity arranging pine cones in the trail rut.

Twin Rock Trail, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
A crow kept watch from the top of this formation for a while before alighting right before I took this shot.

Twin Rock Trail, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
The trail rises just a little more than 400 feet over its length.  So elevation gain is no issue.

Twin Rock Trail, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
A small pond provides a murky mirror for aspens along its shore.

Twin Rock Trail, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
I don't think this bridge actually sees much use by people.  The trail is overgrown in several spots, and there was more varieties of scat along the trail then I had ever seen before -- both indications that it just doesn't see a lot of human traffic.  If I'd been out a few hours earlier I might have seen some of the animals responsible for all that poop.  But after hearing from a ranger how common mountain lions and bears are in the area, it's probably for the best that I didn't.

The most challenging part of the Twin Rock Trail is the somewhat steep ascent along the Hornbek Wildlife Loop to get to it.  But that just gets the heart and lungs working for the immensely enjoyable walk to come.

So if you do make it to Florissant -- and I hope you do -- make it a point to set aside enough time to hike the Twin Rock Trail.  The monument was celebrating the grand opening of its new visitor center and had a sizable crowd on hand, yet I didn't see another person at any point during my hike.  Come enjoy the solitude and natural beauty for yourself!

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