On September 13, 2015, the forecast was for late summer heat in the mid-90s, so heading to a cooler altitude seemed like a good plan. Sevenmile Creek Trail (Larimer County, Colorado) had been closed due to flooding for most of the summer and just opened a month ago. As the start of the “Mud Loop,” I was looking forward to getting a bit dirty! Sadly, I was disappointed. Our dry August must have done away with all the mud as soon as Sevenmile opened, and I came out as clean as I went in.
Here’s how it went down:
On this run it was just us (but I do have a winch plus ground anchor in case I have to pull myself out) – my husband, son, and dog, and we headed up to Sevenmile which is an hour’s drive from Fort Collins. Head toward Hwy. 14 / Ted’s Place on Hwy. 287, turn left at Ted’s Place onto Hwy. 14, then drive about 30 miles toward the town of Rustic. Just before Rustic (you will see signs for a Rustic Inn) is County Rd. 69 to the right. Drive 0.4 miles down County Rd. 69 and Sevenmile Rd (Forest Service Rd 225) will be on the left. There are no markers other than a hand-made scribbled sign. I initially had trouble finding this trail because Trail Damage (usually very good) said to look for Boy Scout Camp signs, which are actually 6 miles down County Rd 69! I ended up wasting 20+ miles just looking for the start of Sevenmile trail. Sigh. A common Wheeling Newb mistake – never pass up a handwritten sign when looking for the start of a wheeling trail! And, I should probably get better GPS. But I digress...
At first the trail was an easy dirt road, no four-wheel needed. But it quickly turned into rocky areas that required four-wheel drive and some crawling over bigger boulders so I pulled over and disconnected my sway bar to make the ride more comfortable. Lower clearance vehicles would need to ensure careful placement in some areas.
Most of the trail continued in this same manner – rocky areas interspersed with water crossings (none were deep) over Sevenmile Creek. About four miles into the trail a meadow appeared, at which point I bore right and immediately came upon the ruins of an old cabin. At this landmark, I turned left and began climbing. After a good climb with a few switchbacks, the road smoothed out and we passed by a gate and into a large area with many roads exiting from it. Which to take? Once again the Trail Damage directions were no help so we just decided to proceed straight ahead and that turned out to be Forest Service Rd 171 (the right choice as it turned out!). At about 9,500 feet at this point, the temps were mid-70s and beautiful!
Forest Service Rd 171 was an easy trail, back in two-wheel drive, through stands of aspens already beginning to turn.
The trail from here was mostly downward and very easy. Soon I came to a split in the road – decision time again. Left? Right? Left seemed to continue downhill, while right went back into the woods. My husband suggested left, and we met some traffic coming up which indicated we were going the correct way. This turned out to be Forest Service Rd 162, which ended at County Rd 69. This was not marked but as I’d driven back and forth in that area four times (!) trying to find the trailhead earlier in the day, I knew to turn right on County Rd 69, which took us back to Rustic.
Overall I would rate this trail as easy to moderate, leaning more toward moderate if there's mud. Trail Damage lists this trail at 12 miles but it was more like 5 straight through. If you do all the spurs off the trail (which all dead-end) it's probably 12 miles.
While I was sad there wasn’t any mud, it was a good day full of learning more wheeling tactics. And a plus – my sway bar disconnects were the easiest to take off and put on that they have been so far!! Practice makes perfect.