Goose Creek Trail to Shaft House, Lost Creek Wilderness

Sprawling across 119,790 acres, and only 50 miles from either Colorado Springs or Denver, the Lost Creek Wilderness is stocked with countless wonders. One could spend a lifetime exploring the 130-plus miles of footpaths, feasting upon rock formations, lakes and mountain plateaus. More than the eye candy, the solitude is what makes the wilderness so great. For some reason - the relatively low elevation? The spread-out variety? - Lost Creek doesn't get the crowds. If you haven't been, this day hike is an excellent introduction and suitable for any season.

The destination offers a glimpse into the history of the area. Not far from three cabins that housed workers are remnants of a shaft house, the site of a damming operation that failed in the early 1900s. From the Goose Creek trailhead, dip into the Hayman burn scar, which glows with aspen in the fall. At about a half-mile, rather than go straight, take the bridge across the stream. Continue along the water, past campsites - a reminder that the wilderness area is a prime site for multi-day backpacking. The trail steadily climbs into the woods and above the water that eventually disappears, giving Lost Creek its name.

The trees clear at points for views of Hankins Pass and distant monoliths and spires. Approaching 4 miles, a sign directs you left to "historic buildings." You'll soon come to the former houses. A trail spans north uphill, to rusted machinery. Stop to observe before proceeding to a rocky playground with this trip's best views. Massive boulders lean against one another, forming cave-like precincts to explore.

Trip log: 8 miles round trip (out and back), 1,100-foot total elevation gain, 9,500 feet max

Difficulty: Moderate

Getting there: Going west on U.S. 24, continue through Florissant and Lake George. Turn right onto County Road 77. After about 7 miles, turn right onto Matukat Road, which becomes Forest Road 211. Follow 11½ miles to the trail's parking lot.

FYI: High-clearance vehicle/four-wheel drive recommended but not required. Hiking and horse riding only in wilderness areas. Dogs on leash. Trails could be icy in winter.

Seth Boster, The Gazette

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