With record snows in the Rockies making our favorite trails hip-deep in snow; my wife and I decided to hike the Black Canyon trail along the border of MacGregor Ranch. Since the trail is facing south toward Longs Peak, it is snow-free and surprisingly dry, but for the occasional cascades of water splashing out of the mountains and into the greening meadows.We parked at the Lumpy Ridge hiking area and took off on the left fork, where we found purple pasque flowers scattered over the hillside.
With this cool, wet spring the aspen trees along the creek are just beginning to leaf out.At the intersection about a half mile from the trailhead, we turned west along the MacGregor Ranch meadow, a stunning emerald green dotted with elk herds grazing on the new grass.Black Angus calves huddled under trees and in the distance a lone horseman rode down the middle of the meadow with his dog.
The horseman brought back fond memories for my wife Lori, who worked at MacGregor Ranch for six years. She recalled riding her horse, Rocky, along the meadow searching for new calves and checking the irrigation ditches just now filling with water from the spring runoff.To our right as we walked down the trail, the imposing Lumpy Ridge stared down at us. Often in the summer, we can hear the shouts of climbers scaling Twin Owls, Sundance Buttress and the other technical peaks.
We preferred to stay firmly grounded along the trail, witnessing the flowering ball cactus and a red tail hawk skimming inches from the meadow hunting ground squirrels. We’d like to hike to MacGregor Falls, but the weather over Black Canyon darkened and the sky began spitting rain. We turned back and hustled through the cow gates back to our car, watching out for patties along the trail. Still, we hiked more than four miles round trip on a beautiful trail that is mostly populated with local enthusiasts.
The trailhead for this excellent spring hike is easy to find and accessible. From the intersection of Highways 34 and 36, drive north toward the Stanley Hotel until you reach MacGregor Avenue. Turn right and travel north toward MacGregor Ranch, where you veer right at the hairpin turn. The Lumpy Ridge trailhead is only another half mile on your left. There’s a big sign.