When our friends told us they were coming to visit for the 4th of July and that they wanted to backpack, we made sure not to disappoint! Alex picked a 14er near Buena Vista, Colorado, Mt. Antero, that offered a long trek (14 miles, round trip!) and a non-technical route that allowed us to split our trip into 2 days and ensure our out-of-town guests would be comfortable summiting. We’d be tackling Mt. Antero via Little Browns Creek trail.
We rolled into Buena Vista on Thursday mid-afternoon with ornery thunderstorm clouds above. As we pulled into the Browns Creek Trailhead parking lot, the skies opened up, dumping rain and hail for a solid 30 minutes. We waited out the storm by reading or napping. As soon as the worst had passed and thunder and lightning had passed, we threw on our packs, laced up our boots and hit the trail!
We followed Brown’s Creek Trail for just about 1.5 miles until we found the Colorado Trail intersection. Turning right/north on the Colorado Trail, we followed it for about a mile until we found the Little Browns Creek Trail intersection. Turning left/west at this intersection, we hiked another mile and started looking for a place to camp.
The trail was HOT and MUGGY after the thunderstorm and full of bugs, unusual for Colorado. We swatted mosquitoes constantly and ingested an unhealthy number of gnats. The trail is densely forested below treeline so there was ample shade which provided welcome relief. And a side note to anyone considering this trail – Browns Creek Trail and the Colorado Trail portions of this trek are heavily used by folks on horseback…so there are plenty of ‘road apples’ to dodge as you hike. Consider yourself warned.
The route from Brown’s Creek Trailhead to the summit of Mt. Antero is 7 miles one way so our plan was to backpack in 3.5ish miles to an elevation of 11,000ft-ish and spend the night. We’d scouted out a few possible areas on the map that looked conducive to camping for the night (below treeline, flat-ish, near the creek for water). At exactly 3.5 miles, we found a decent site just off the trail and claimed it for the night.
Minutes after setting up camp, the skies opened up again and we hunkered down while rain pelted our tents. More reading, more napping. The rain eased up to a soft drizzle just before 8 p.m. and Alex and I ventured out to warm up our rice + chicken packets we’d brought for dinner.
(Side note: new favorite, incredibly satisfying trail dinner? Ready Rice packet + Kroger cooked chicken packet. We heated the rice in the bag in boiling water, added to the chicken packets (Alex and I split 1 rice packet, we each had our own chicken packet), mixed and devoured.)
We turned in shortly after, damp from the rain, and set our alarms for 5 a.m. Friday’s plan was to leave camp by 5:30-6 a.m. to get us up the 3.5 miles (accounting for 1 mile/hour + breaks) to Antero’s summit by 10 a.m. and well below treeline before thunderstorms began rolling in.
The hike is relatively ‘easy’ in that it’s not super steep right off the bat; it’s mostly a steady incline until you reach the 4WD road and join the ‘standard route’ trail. We chugged along, got above treeline, up the 4WD switchbacks and hit a flat area just before the ridgeline.
And then, it was summit push time!
We crossed the giant talus field ridgeline (maybe .25 mile?) and reached the summit just after 10 a.m.
We snapped a few photos and quickly turned around to descend Antero. As you can see behind us in the photo, baby cumulus clouds were popping up and we knew the weather called for more afternoon thunderstorms. We weren’t sure how fast those clouds would blow in but we weren’t sticking around to find out.
Trekking back out, we made great time and reached camp just before 12:30. Like clockwork, the dark clouds were moving in and we moved quickly to tear down camp, refill our water in the creek and hit the trail. As the thunder started booming in the distance, we picked up our pace to a slow jog on the flat/easy downhill sections of the trail. We kept our heads down and hustled out, cheering each time the Garmin chimed another mile down.
Just before 2 p.m., we reached the car, still dry! We’d outrun the thunderstorm! (or: we were lucky that it hadn’t blown in just overhead but settled slightly to our north) It took us just over an hour to cover the 3.5 miles from camp to car, clocking our pace at 15-17 minute miles. We booked it outta there!
My Garmin chimed our 14th mile just feet from the car so the trip reports we’d read were pretty darn accurate, mileage-wise.
I’d definitely recommend this hike as a 2+ day trip. The 14 miles roundtrip is not something I’d ever be interested in doing in one day – as you see above, we gained more than 5,500 feet! – but I’m certain people do it.
The trail is really well marked – both with signs at the 2 intersections (can’t miss ‘em) and cleared trail on the mountain. Bring a map (always) but it’d be pretty darn hard to miss the trail.
Campsites were pretty obvious near 11,000 ft – still mostly secluded off trail but had designated fire rings. And we did not encounter one other party camping on a holiday weekend – so I’d venture to say this isn’t that busy of a trail so you’ll likely have your choice of campsites.
As the trip reports state, this is definitely a class 2 hike. The ridge looks intimidating but it’s all bark and very little bite. Just take the talus field slowly (ascending and descending) and you’ll be fine!
[Summer Resolution #13: check!]