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A short drive up Poudre Canyon, Hewlett Gulch offers a great chance to explore the areas affected by the wildfires this summer.
The Hewlett Gulch area was affected by both the Hewlett Gulch and High Park fires, and may have downed trees or other hazards riders need to avoid. (The photos accompanying this article are from a trail ride through the area in 2007, so the vegetation will look very different.)
Just 11 miles up the canyon from Ted’s Place and U.S. Highway 287, the turnoff for Hewlett Gulch is on the right over a narrow bridge. This turn can be tricky for longer horse trailers, so drivers on Colorado Highway 14 need to plan ahead and drive carefully.
The parking lot is not large and may be difficult for larger vehicles to use, especially during high-use times such as weekends or holidays. No designated trailer parking is available, so visitors pulling horse trailers should be courteous and park so that others can use the parking area as well.
Despite the difficulty of getting there, the rewards are huge for riders. The trail heads northwest, following an old road bed and creek. This area includes remains of old homesteads from the Poudre Park settlement in the early 1900s. The trail crosses the creek several times, then heads west up the hill.
The official trail ends at the private-property fence, but trail users still use the area past this point. In fact, visitors who get permission from the property owners can ride all the way into the Deer Meadows or Glacier View areas. Such as ride will take most of a day, so riders should plan ahead to have their trailers meet them at the other end.
The trail leads through narrow canyons, up steep hills and through open meadows. The views and terrain are beautiful and rewarding.
This ride is a great chance for visitors to see how fire affects the land and to watch as nature, the unstoppable force, reclaims it. Already in the fire area, grass and bushes are growing back. By next summer, small stands of aspen and sapling pines will be sprouting.
Riders should use caution, especially if venturing off a trail, because the land may be unstable in places where the fire was hottest and completely burned the roots of the trees out of the ground.