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3 Days Exploring the Gores

For July 4th this year I decided to switch it up from the usual jaunt to the San Juan's - mainly because of these gas prices! The San Juan's are about 6-7 hours from Fort Collins, so I have to pick and choose my time there unfortunately. Plus, we managed to sneak in a trip the Uncompahgre and Sneffels area on memorial day, so my next trip will have to wait and go out with a bang in the Weminuche. On the brighter side, staying closer to home revealed a place that looked like it could be a great new find - Bubble Lake in the Gore Range. Prior to this trip I had only visited the Gores once to upper willow lakes. Zodiac Ridge is spectacular, as seen below:

Sunrise over Zodiac Ridge as seen from near Upper Willow Lakes - Gore Range - Colorado

After visiting Upper Willow Lakes, I knew there had to be more photographic opportunities in this range. As I began doing research, bubble lake came across my radar - with descriptions from the highly respected Exploring the Rockies comparing it to the likes of Sunlight Basin. I thought there could be no way so close to home! For reference, please see my Sunlight Basin Journal for what Bubble Lake would hopefully to live up to. To my pleasant surprise, it did not fall short, coming in as one of my favorite new areas close to home.

Day 1:

The approach to Bubble Lake starts off at the homey and accessible Piney Ranch. Filled primarily with day hikers, paddle boarders and vacationers, it certainly feels like you won't soon be secluded in the alpine. However, once reaching the end of the traditional trail, crowds become non-existent. The trail turns a bit bushwhacky and steep, until you eventually plateu out on a beautiful alpine setting below Peak C and Mount Powell. We chose this as our camp for the night with a fairly easy and short day. We figured this would be the best option as we knew we had to ascend the infamous knee knocker pass the following morning. The day was off and on stormy, and we got lucky with afternoon golden hour light splitting the gap and shining onto Peak C.

Golden Hour Light Shining on Peak C above Knee Knocker Pass - Gore Range - Colorado

Day 2:

The following morning I wasn't planning on shooting sunrise as there wasn't too many compositional opportunities, but I managed to wake myself up and halfway sleep walk to a place I thought might work after shooting sunset last night. The views of Holy Cross Wilderness were splendid:

Sunrise over the Holy Cross Wilderness as seen from high up in the Gore Range - Colorado

After shooting sunrise, I took a quick nap and we began to pack up camp and head for the infamous Knee Knocker pass. Luckily, we could see almost the entire approach that the south face of the pass was snow free. However, we had no idea what the other side held. To our surprise, the backside held much more snow than expected! We figured the steepness was manageable, donned our axes and microspikes and went on our way.

After glissading most of the pass, we still had some extra gain to get over some cliff bands that Bubble Lake is situated above. Nothing to difficult, but all off trail and mixed with snow and boulder hopping. We slowly navigated our way and eventually popped up out at Bubble Lake. This was our camp for the night and the 360 degree views for sunset were spectacular:

Golden Hour Light over some 12ers above Bubble Lake

Dusk over a portion of Ripsaw Ridge over Bubble Lake

Dusk over Bubble Lake

Day 3:

The following morning we slept in once again, as I needed a bit extra rest after taking one too many sips of some cheap backcountry whiskey - and headed our slightly hungover way out of the basin. We were soon back to the snow filled Knee Knocker pass and began our ascent:

Ascending Knee Knocker Pass on our Exit

Once we were up and over the pass, we had a nice walk out and were rewarded with sodas, burgers and beers at Piney Lodge. A welcomed ending to a great trip in the Gores.

Click the image below for my route on FATMAP.

Appx. 12 Miles, 5000 Vert


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