An Emerald Valley
When most people think of the American West, they think of deserts, pine trees and the snow capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains. While these might be the most iconic pictures of the west, they don’t tell the whole story. Between all the high peaks and pine trees are pockets of aspens and lush forests that can seem more like the coastal mountains of the northwest than the arid west. Steamboat just happens to be one of those special places where you can from dry pine forests to a lush fern patch in less than a mile.
Each spring as the snow melts and the valley starts to blossom, I’m always amazed at just how lush and green the mountains around Steamboat can get. The scrub oak and aspens that line our hillsides get so green that most photos of Steamboat in the spring look like someone got a little too heavy handed with their photo filters. The valley will get less and less green as the summer wears on, but this year seems to be an exception. Despite the hot temps, we have gotten plenty of rain and there are barely any brown patches on the ski runs. The best way to enjoy the amazing conditions and the forests of Mt Werner is a run/hike/bike up the Valley View Trail.
I chose to get to Valley View by starting out at the Thunderhead lift and running up Yoo Hoo road to the start of the trail, but you can also join it later by taking the Christie Lift. The first part of the trail winds through some open runs and offers some nice views to the north valley. If it’s sunny out, the lower sections can get a bit hot, but don’t worry, there will be plenty of shade to come.
After traversing across several ski runs, you arrive at the top of Christie Peak where you take a left uphill on to Upper Valley View. Make sure to follow the signs since the trail is paralleled by a closed downhill bike trail. After a relatively steep stretch you enter the woods and head in to one of the lushest forests on the mountain. As you leave the ski run and its tall dry grass, you step into an amazing fern forest with lush aspens all around you.
This trail isn’t just called Valley View because it is next to the ski run of the same name. The views as you climb higher showcase the south valley and all the open farmland to the south. On a clear day, the views of the Flat Tops are spectacular from the rocky outcroppings on the trail.
You can take the trail all the way up to the upper roads that lead to the gondola building or turn around whenever you feel like it. The best part about this trail is that you really feel like you’ve been transported to another place only to be reminded where you are every time the thick canopy opens up.
With how much snow we get in the winter, it shouldn’t be surprising that we have forests like this on the mountain. Never the less, I’m still amazed every time I go up there. Ferns in Colorado? Who knew?
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