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The Millset Trail, like every trail, has some unique features. In the early going it is very shaded. The tree cover is thick and glimpses of the valley below or higher altitudes above are rare.
Of our area trails, it is also one of the steepest. When I hike I have one rule when I am climbing and that is to keep going. No matter what speed I try to keep going and of all the trails I frequent, Millset is the one that tests that resolve the most.
Finally, however, one of the things that sets Millset apart are the meadows you encounter as you climb the trail. Today’s hike, by design, was only about 75 minutes up and 75 minutes back so we only encounter the largest and most beautiful of the meadows at about the 45 minute mark.
The Millset trail is located west of Rye about six miles up Colorado 165. The trailhead is well marked from both directions and is immediately off the highway. The total trail is 5.2 miles and the trailhead is at 7900 feet, rising to 11060 feet. The second trailhead is located on Forest Service Road #369 off Forest Service Road #360.
The first .2 miles of the trail are over private land and the hike climbs immediately from there. In fact the first 10 minutes of the trail take you up rapidly from the beginning 7900 feet.
About 15 minutes into the hike you are surrounded by large Ponderosa Pine and the trail flattens out, giving you a chance to catch your breath. Even though we did this hike in the early afternoon on June 30, the 85 degree temperature was comfortable because you are in shade most of the time.
After about another five minutes you notice a wagon and a home. For a few brief yards you are on private property again and power lines run above you in the landscape that is dotted by wild flowers. There are dainty, delicate wildflowers over much of the trail but in abundance at this point. Those power lines mark the last point man is evident for the rest of this trail. In fact, of the trails we hike it is one of the least populated.
The trail climbs again about half an hour in. Millset is slightly less maintained than many trails and downed trees are common over the trail, making small detours part of the hike.
When the Aspen become more plentiful you are close to one of the most pristine, private spots of any trail. Somewhere around 40 minutes into the hike you enter a large meadow circled by a row of aspens. You imagine herds of animals darting across this open space to avoid predators. Here is a great place to pull up a tree, pull out a book and spend as long as you want in quiet peace.
On the other side of the Aspen meadow the climb gets very steep and for the next 10 minutes or so you climb rapidly as you continue up the trail.
At this point the trail climbs more slowly and you begin to get occasional glimpses of the valley below or higher peaks to the west. Finally, somewhere near the one hour mark, the sun is breaking through as the foliage over head gets thinner.
You encounter another large, old aspen grove about 65 minutes into the hike and after that grove the trail turns to a more north westerly direction. There is less incline at this point but more ground cover to push your way through.
At our turning point for the day, a 1.25 hour hike, we enter an area with alot of downed trees and beautiful open sky. It is a great place to stop and be awed by the power of nature that produces old, fascinating trees and, just as awe inspiring, downs them to decay and replenish the earth.
The trail down of course is steep and you become more aware of the rocks that make it easy to slide on the aggressive incline. But somehow that meadow, that wide open meadow, rejuvenates and makes Millset Trail a place to hike again and again.