With winter and snow coming to the high country, the delightful lower elevation trail system in the Eldorado National Forest provides rewarding forest getaways. Located at an elevation of 3,400 feet, the trails in the Fleming Meadow area remain snow free for most of the winter.
I started out from the trailhead, located on Mormon Emigrant Trail about three-quarters of a mile past the second dam. The sign says the road is closed in the winter, but it’s actually open to the trailhead.
Heading out on the Number 8 loop trail, I was immediately greeted with the tranquility of the deep forest. I spend most of my time hiking at higher elevations around the tree line, but I do enjoy forays into the deep forest where I’m rewarded with a wider variety of flora.
The morning was cool and crisp, and there weren’t many people on the trail, making for a pandemic-friendly experience. The trails in this area range from wider dirt roads to single tracks that snake through the mixed forest of sugar pines, ponderosa pines, bear clover, black oaks, Douglas firs, incense cedars and manzanita. I happen to love bear clover. Although some don’t care for its pungent fragrance, the spicy scent reminds me of my earliest ventures into the forest.
These are true multi-use trails. I encountered hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians while hiking under the dense canopy. Breaks in the forest canopy that allowed the sun to hit the trail were welcomed as the shadowed areas were quite chilly.
I highly recommend this trail system as it has much to offer to all users, providing a variety of trail lengths. The trails are popular and can get busy on the weekends especially. Make sure you go online to this site for more information and to download the map. The directional markings on the trails aren’t as straightforward as they might be, so it’s a good idea to carry the map as a reference.
I hope you get to enjoy this wonderful resource. You will encounter lots of large sugar pinecones as you walk along, old growth manzanita with its peeling bark, huge Douglas firs, and a wide variety of sights, sounds and smells of the deep forest.