Escaping The Nutshell

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Hike around Ralph Price Reservoir

We did this loop 2 years ago, so knew what we were getting into. The south side of the reservoir, until reaching North St Vrain Creek, is mostly without human made trails, so we figured we’d tackle this most challenging part first. The forest and terrain of the south side also makes it easy to lose one’s way, so before attempting the loop, we entered 3 waypoints into our GPS:

  1. 7000 line: 40.208150,-105.374212
  2. Saddle pt: 40.210050,-105.384554
  3. N St Vrain Creek: 40.212463,-105.392730

These waypoints are marked with blue markers on the map of our GPS tracks. The first waypoint showed us how far we needed to climb the first ridge following the first cove, which is at an elevation of 7000 ft (2134 m). The second waypoint is a point on the next ridge that is at about the same elevation as the first point. Our plan was to stay at about 7000 ft from the first to the second ridge. The third waypoint was roughly where we planned to cross North St Vrain Creek.

2023-11-06 Stefan walking across Button Rock Dam

Starting at the Button Rock Preserve Trailhead, we headed up Longmont Dam Road to the bottom of the dam. Taking the trail to the top of the dam, we walked across the dam to its south side. From the end of the dam to the first cove, there is a nice shoreline trail, which we used.

2023-11-06 Ralph Price Reservoir from Button Rock Dam

A little after the first cove, we left the trail and headed up the ridge toward our first waypoint. From there, we came across game trails which we used to our advantage when they went in the desired direction. As planned, from the first to second waypoints, we stayed at about 7000 ft. After passing by the south side of the second waypoint we set our direction toward the third waypoint at the creek. This part was all downhill to the creek.

2023-11-06 Mt Meeker, Longs Peak and North Sheep Mtn from after 1st waypoint around Ralph Price Reservoir

Getting to the bank of the creek can be tricky, as the side of the creek has frequent bluffs. At first, we were unable to reach the creek, and so walked upstream above the bluffs until finding an access point. Our actual crossing point (40.21071,-105.39359, elevation 6552ft) is marked in orange on the map.

2023-11-06 Stefan crossing North St Vrain Creek

Once at the bank, we switched from boots to sandals, which had been stowed in our backpacks, and carried our boots across the creek. Being the time of year with the lowest water level, it was easy to cross, but the water was mighty cold.

2023-11-06 Looking upstream from our crossing of North St Vrain Creek

After drying off our feet and putting our boots back on, we headed downstream and upward in elevation until reaching a dirt road, which we followed until the west end of the reservoir, where a shoreline trail begins around the reservoir’s north side.

2023-11-06 Meadow, ponderosa pine and Ralph Price Reservoir

This trip took about 6 and 1/2 hours, with stops for removing and putting on boots, as well as lunch on the north shore, and frequent stops for photography and taking it all in. Total distance traveled was about 9 miles. Elevation difference from lowest (6000 ft) to highest (7100 ft) was about 1100 feet, with lots of ups and downs.

2023-11-06 Clarks Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) in ponderosa pine

Our video of Button Rock Dam and Ralph Price Reservoir

© 2012-2023 Stefan Hollos and Richard Hollos

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