Breaking in the Spikes on The Pipeline Trail to Elbow Fork
We had to get our boots in the snow, so Angie and I simply parked in the first parking spot we saw and wing-dinged it up Elbow Fork trail in Millcreek Canyon. Afterwards, we talked healthcare and all about the wild injuries she’s seen over the years as a Trauma and Life Flight nurse.
Nurse Angie is my neighbor. When we moved in, we saw a police car parked in their driveway and thought, uh oh. Not that we’re hardcore criminals or anything, but you just never know what kind of cop you’re going to get. Luckily for us, we got the best cop ever. We immediately hit it off with the whole family. Their daughter and my son are best friends, and we love their 95 pound chocolate lab, Zed, who is the most affectionate of beasts. I can’t say he and my Lucy are best friends, but I can say he tolerates her excitable puppy bullshit pretty well.
We barbecue together, we’ve gone camping together, we have beers together on the front porch. They are the best neighbors we ever had and so I do what any psycho neighbor would do to to people they can’t lose. I vaguely threaten them occasionally about how they can never move away.
We were supposed to go cross-country skiing, but I couldn’t get it together on the ski rental, so we just took the truck up Millcreek Canyon, popped in the first parking space we saw, and started climbing up. I had brand new spikes, which were incredibly useful in the packed snow.
What’s Good About the Trail?
We started off on an entrance to the Pipeline Trail, just off the road, and chose to take the path to Elbow Fork instead of Grandeur Peak.
There is a bit of an incline at first, as always, but once you make that initial climb, the trail is pretty gradual. There aren’t any steep climbs or moments where you are wondering if this will all be worth it. The trail takes you up long, easy switchbacks and the views are incredible, starting about halfway up.
This is not to say the trees aren’t lovely, but the mountains are really spectacular.
The trail is pretty narrow, so we had to stand in the deep snow every time a mountain biker came whizzing by with their fat winter tires, or if there were other hikers on the trail. (We always seemed to be the polite ones who moved out of the way.) You can most likely do this trail all year round very comfortably, as there is shade and it is high enough that you can probably escape the worst of the summer heat.
The only issue is there is no reward at the end. The trail starts becoming pretty overgrown up at the top and just ends, unceremoniously. However, it really doesn’t matter because the entire time you are walking, there is the whole canyon to take in. It’s a great little hike - not too hard, lots of views, and shady patches.
The Pipeline to Elbow Fork Vibe
Moderate hike (on the easier side.)
Approximately 2 miles, 1,000 ft. elevation gain
Beautiful views of the canyon and the valley beyond.
No big payoff at the end, just out and back.
Trail gets overgrown near the top.
$3.00 fee to enter Millcreek Canyon.
Plenty of opportunities to hop on other trails in the area.