Best in the late spring/early summer, this hike travels through field and forest to pass babbling springs and historic cabins.
Fill up on water wherever you find it. Maps and actual trails are not always correct.
The trail during the first part of U-bar requires some route finding and map skills or GPS. The signage is not great. You are sometimes on a lightly marked trail or road.
There were lots of wildflowers on this entire hike. Many I didn't know, but we did see wild iris, lupine, and at one spot a small flowering cactus. There are areas of young forest, some that have been subjected to fire and older untouched portions with denser undergrowth. Mostly, you see lots of green plants, grasses and ferns especially near the springs and water. The water was relatively plentiful with many places to fill from. You still want to take advantage of water where you can and especially before stopping for the night.
One thing that was disappointing to see were the campsites with fire rings right on the trail. Some were no more than a foot off the trail. There are alternatives. You may have to hike a little farther for water, but you come this far to get there in the first place.
Back to U-bar. This trail is the more difficult of the cabin loop trails with steep ups and downs that cross the canyons. The first place we filled with water was after a steep descent to barbershop canyon. The stream was flowing nicely so we stopped for food and water. There were lots of small fish and a few crayfish. I used a new steripen adventurer and MSR trail shot filter for the first time. It was clean tasting and cool.
Our next stop was Dane Spring and the remnants of a cabin. The water was flowing from the spring through a pipe. This is nice because it guarantees reduced risk of contamination, but still treat your water.
Next was the intersection of the Barbershop Trail. Your trail signage gets better from here but be aware that maps that show that this trail is different from what the GPS track shows. In addition to signs, there are rock cairns and tree blazes. The trail alternates between trail and short portions of old roads.
Our goal was to camp the first night somewhere near water along the Barbershop Trail. We stopped at the 11.3-mile mark in Barbershop Canyon. The small creek was barely flowing. The water was murky so we filtered and boiled. We set up camp in the trees above the trail and meadow. Lots of elk droppings and a few elk bones, but we didn't see any the entire trip. There was another fire pit a few feet off the trail. It’s one of those things I don’t understand. I used a hammock system which worked great for then uneven terrain. The night was about upper 40's I'm guessing. When we woke up there was no condensation.
Our goal for the morning was to hike to Houston Brothers Trail and hike to the trailhead. We traveled uphill to the Barbershop Spring, then the intersection with the Houston Brothers Trail #171
. This trail is a gentler trail without the steep ascents and descents of the U-Bar Trail #28
. We saw more oak and aspen here, some being very large and old.
We stopped at Aspen Spring and Cabin Site. The spring was flowing very slowly, but we did fill up.
We finished the route at the trailhead passing Pinchot cabin.
Elk sign. Ferns, ponderosa, oak, aspen, lupine, iris. Robins, flicker, woodpeckers.
The forest is mainly ponderosa pine along the route, with some oak and aspen sprinkled in.
There is a brief history of the cabins on a sign at Pinchot cabin.