Easy-to-use trail maps loaded with info for hikers, mountain bikers and winter users
We have every Trails Illustrated map of Colorado and beyond — in many cases, several increasingly comprehensive editions both before and after National Geographic took over publication. When I was putting things together for a trip that started in Steamboat Springs where I planned to go for at least one hike, I forgot to grab any of them. I neglected to bring a trail guidebook either. My friend, Reed, and I wanted to find an inetresting trail somewhere in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness, which is north of Steamboat Springs. She hadn’t brought a map or book either. We picked up some basic US Forest Service trail info sheets to help us decide where to go. She read trail descriptions as I drove, and we both thought that the Three Island Lake Trail sounded really good.
We made a pit stop at the Clark Store, a small general store/post office/video rental center/bakery about 20 miles up Routt County Road 129. There I bought a Steamboat-Mt. Zirkel map put out by Sky Terrain Trail Maps. Like other maps in the series, it is printed on sturdy, waterproof and rip-proof material. It includes 16 US Geographical Survey quadrangles, which is a huge area roughly from near the Wyoming border on the north to Rabbit Ears Pass on the south and east and Sleeping Giant/Steamboat Lake State Park to the west.
These detailed, shaded topographic maps are 1:50,000 scale with 80-foot contour lines. They clearly show hiking trails, singletrack mountain biking trails, ATV routes, winter trails for motorized and non-motorized use, campgrounds, campsites, fishing access and wildlife management areas. Mileage and elevation information is clearly shown, and the maps are feature UTM grids for easy use with GPS units, which I don’t use by my husband does.
Sky Terrain maps also feature brief descriptions of selected trails and their highlights. The map and also the USFS information sheet describe the Three Island Lake Trail as “popular”and imply that it tends to get crowded. When we reached the parking pullout off FS 433, three vehicles were parked there. We got a late start, and as we were on our way up, we saw all three parties who were on their way down: four people and two dogs, two people and two dogs, and one person and one dog. That was it for the “crowd.”
The lovely lake at 9,878 feet is nestled in a high basin. We sat on a log, broke out cheese and crackers and fresh fruit and enjoyed the wunny, wind-still afternoon. For those of us hike in the Front Range, such wilderness solitude is rare — and virtually non-existent for a “popular” backcountry route.