On a peaceful and sunny Monday morning, I decided to drive down the street and visit Deer Creek Canyon Park. It was pretty quiet with only several people around for most of the time I was out there. Here’s some more info about my hike that day:
Date Hiked: July 8th, 2019
Miles Hiked: 2.65 Miles
Route: Meadowlark Trail to Plymouth Creek Trail
For this hike, I made a nice little loop. Starting up on the Meadowlark trail is a nice set of steps that eventually lead you through a forest area.
Pretty soon, the trail starts to go up the side of a mountain with the help of some switchbacks. The views of the red rock formations quickly become visible. Also, a thunderstorm was starting to build just to the west of the park despite it being 11am.
For it being a short hike, it definitely was pretty scenic. The views of Denver are pretty remarkable and it’s just enough of a workout to feel satisfying.
With the storm bearing down, I decided it was time to head back to the trailhead. At this point, the storm was pretty close with cloud to ground lightning becoming visible nearby.
Although I didn’t get to hike as much as I wanted, I was perfectly alright with that. Just being able to visit this park always proves to be a nice retreat. I say this because they close this park a lot, especially when it gets extremely muddy.
Overall, this is definitely one of the more enjoyable open space parks near Denver and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.
A day after hiking to the summit of Mount Sniktau and probably sleeping about twelve hours, I decided to do a much longer hike the following day since I felt so well rested. Although I woke up too late to hike a larger peak, I figured I’d stay closer to Denver and check out Centennial Cone Park. I must admit that this might be one of my favorite parks in the Jefferson County Open Space system.
Nonetheless, here’s some more info about my hike:
Date Hiked: July 2nd, 2019
Miles Hiked: 12.5 Miles
Trails Hiked: Elk Range and Travois Trails
Centennial Cone Park has several trailheads to pick from as you can see on the park map. I chose to park at the Ralph Schell trailhead where I found only two other cars that day.
From the trailhead, I started down the Elk Range trail. It felt really pleasant to hike through the meadow and only encounter several mountain bikers as well as the occasional family every now or then. After a short time, the trail comes to the top of a nice ridge which offers some views of the surrounding mountains and valley below.
Pretty soon, I found myself leaving the meadow and entering into a more wooded part of the hike. Right before reaching the west trailhead, I took the Travois trail where the Elk Range trail meets it and continued on with the hike despite the clouds starting to build to the west.
After a couple more miles, some pretty remarkable views of Clear Creek Canyon opened up right in front of me. At this point, it was starting to get pretty hot and the fact that their was no shade around didn’t help. But that’s how it is sometimes.
I should also mention that their is a pretty significant change in elevation throughout the duration of the hike. I definitely felt it on the way back. With the thunder growing steadily louder, it seemed like the perfect time to pick up the pace before all hell broke loose.
Overall, I thought this was a pretty enjoyable hike. Wouldn’t mind doing it again at some point!
Located to the west of Boulder, Colorado off of scenic Flagstaff road sits Walker Ranch Park. It is a part of the Boulder County Parks & Open Space System and you do not have to pay a fee to hike here.
On a Tuesday afternoon, I set out to do this hike and it turned out to be one crazy adventure! With only a couple of scattered showers nearby, the weather was even holding up longer than I thought it would. But of course, this would change rather quickly. Nonetheless, here are some other details:
Date: June 4th, 2019
Miles Hiked: 7.6 Miles
Trail Conditions: Perfect
I started out my hike around 2pm that afternoon. Because this trail is a loop, I decided to go left at the beginning and was soon treated to views of the surrounding mountains and also Eldorado Canyon. Once I got about a mile and half out, I noticed that it was starting to get cloudy. And before too long, I was hearing thunder and trying to figure out just how far away this storm was.
Luckily for me, I was heading both downhill and into a pretty heavily forested part of the trail. The last place I really wanted to be was in a meadow so I started to pick up the pace a bit. Upon finding a safe place underneath some large rocks and by a small stream, I sat there and waited it out for what seemed like an eternity. But I’m a really big fan of being alive so it’s all good!
After walking down the mountain, I reached South Boulder Creek. The water was absolutely raging with all of the recent snowmelt. It also started raining at this point too.
Once I climbed up the rocky staircase, it surprisingly stopped raining like crazy and the sun started to come out.
After hiking back up towards the top of the mountain, the weather really began to move off towards the plains and it became mostly sunny again. I reached this nice meadow and heard a train horn far off in the distance and didn’t think too much of it. Shortly thereafter, I found myself with a front row seat to watching the California Zephyr Amtrak train make its descent down through the mountains.
After watching the train go by, I came to the top of a ridge and was treated to a view of some snow capped peaks.
After another downhill section, I reached the creek yet again and stopped for a minute to just take everything in. Looking back at it, I was pretty glad that this part of my hike back to the trailhead was uneventful. I definitely got my adventure fix for the day after all that!
Located right off of Highway 285, Meyers Ranch Park is quite easily accessible and is only a short drive up into the foothills just west of Denver, Colorado. It also happens to be a park within the Jefferson County Open Space system. With it being so close to where I live, I could easily hop in the car and get here in no more than 20 minutes.
And that’s exactly what I did once I got done with work on the last day of May. Here’s some more info about my hike:
Date: May 31st, 2019
Miles Hiked: 4.1 Miles
Trails Hiked: Owl Perch, Lodgepole Loop, Sunny Aspen
and Old Ski Trails
Trail Conditions: Completely dry
The trail starts in a meadow by the road and continues like that for a short time until you start to get into the woods a little bit further on. At the first junction, I went straight up the Sunny Aspen trail. From there, I went onto the Old Ski Run trail.
Even on a Friday afternoon, only several mountain bikers crossed my path which was actually kind of surprising to me. It’s always nice to enjoy some solitude even when you least expect to be able to! Nonetheless, I continued to get deeper and deeper into the woods. The Aspen trees were looking kind of mesmerizing too. Can’t even imagine the sight during the fall!
So I originally intended to hike to the summit of Legault Mountain but thought better of it with some storm clouds moving in. In the end, I think it was definitely the right decision as the sky started to become more ominous.
On the way back down, it started to lightly rain and would eventually stop shortly before I got back to my car. It was definitely a good easy going hike after I worked all morning.
Something else I should mention is that the noise from the cars on the highway can be heard pretty much the entire time. Although it is somewhat distracting, I think it’s still a great place to get a nice workout in if you happen to be close by. I might check back during the fall just for the Aspen trees alone though.
Another park located within the Jefferson County Open Space trail system, Mount Galbraith park is located a short distance outside of Golden, Colorado off of Golden Gate Canyon road. After what seemed like an eternity at work, I headed out there on a Wednesday afternoon and was treated to some much needed solitude and scenic views.
Here are some more details:
Date: May 29th, 2019
Miles Hiked: 4.3 Miles
Trails Hiked: Cedar Gulch and Mount Galbraith Loop
Trail Conditions: Occasionally muddy
Before too long, I started up the Cedar Gulch trail and views of the surrounding area quickly became visible. As Golden Gate Canyon road meanders its way around the nearby hillsides, it isn’t long before you are treated to more dramatic views.
In a short period of time, Golden and South Table Mountain come into view with the Coors Brewery also becoming much easier to recognize. After taking a quick break to hydrate, I was on my way again. The Denver skyline was beginning to come into view and actually looked pretty cool.
I also saw this tree that was growing all by itself on the very edge of a steep cliff. It was kind of symbolic because it had probably been through countless storms of all kinds and yet stands unfazed by both nature and mankind.
Shortly thereafter, I reached the Mount Galbraith Loop trail. It was at this point that I truly realized just how green the surrounding landscape had actually become.
Although it continued to get steep, it wasn’t anything crazy at all. In fact, the only somewhat rough spot was towards the end of the loop as you have to go around a steep little boulder field of sorts. After I got through that, it was smooth sailing all the way back to the trailhead.
Although I hiked this trail on a day when it was barely 60 degrees, I would recommend hiking early in the morning or during the evening due to the lack of shade once it really starts to warm up.
Something else worth noting is that the parking at the trailhead is rather limited. On many occasions when I have gone to Golden Gate Canyon State Park, I have always seen a lot of people parked along the edge of the road, especially during the weekends. Other than that, it’s a relatively easy going hike that could be completed year round.
My first hike during the month of April took me to Reynolds Park near Conifer, Colorado. Located within the Jefferson County Open Space System, the park is home to several unique trails both short and long in variety. Here is what I accomplished that day:
Date: April 6th,
Miles Hiked: 12.2
Trails Hiked: Elkhorn, Raven’s Roost, Oxen Draw and Hummingbird Trail and a portion of the North Fork Trail as well.
Trail Conditions: Melting snow led to muddy trails.
To start out, I combined a couple trails to create a small loop. Specifically, I went up the Elkhorn trail and connected to the Oxen Draw trail before heading back down to the parking area on the Raven’s Roost trail. Despite it being a relatively short loop, the scenery was actually pretty fantastic.
While hiking on the Raven’s Roost trail, the trees open up to provide you with a nice view of the surrounding foothills.
After completing this loop, I returned to the parking area to continue my hike. After walking across the road from the main parking area, I found myself heading up the Hummingbird trail which shortly thereafter becomes the North Fork trail.
This segment of my hike was pretty cool as the scenery varies immensely. Towards the beginning of the Hummingbird trail, the incline is quite steep before it gradually evens out and actually begins to decline significantly for the rest of the trail.
The further down the North Fork trail I got, the more I began to notice an increase in clouds and the occasional rain shower popping up. Additionally, the surrounding scenery was also changing as the trail entered through a burn scar area.
Upon reaching the burn scar, the mountainside to the immediate east of the trail is completely barren with what looked to me like newer houses and some small cabins up at the very top. I really enjoyed this part of my hike because of this unique contrast in scenery.
Although the trail steadily declines as you hike south through the valley, it does prove to be somewhat deceptive. With the North Fork trail being just short of 9.5 miles one way, I decided to turn around at roughly the halfway point.
The way back proved to be somewhat uneventful, but I loved every second of it. The whole time I was out there that day I really only saw several other people on mountain bikes and that was about it. It really was a nice feeling to experience such solitude on a Saturday afternoon in early April.
With the clouds beginning to fill in more, it seemed like the right time to pick up the pace in the slight chance that a thunderstorm were to form. Before long, I was back in the parking lot and already thinking about my next journey into the woods!
On the last Saturday of 2018, I woke up wanting to do something to end the year on a strong note. I had the perfect hike all picked out a week in advance and was not bothered by the fact that it was a balmy 8 degrees at 8:15 in the morning. As the fourth car in the parking lot of Windy Saddle Park looking out over Golden, Colorado, and the Coors Brewery, I simply had to take a moment to pause and reflect on everything that I had accomplished in 2018.
Despite working two jobs for well over a year, I was certainly surprised at the amount of hiking that I was still able to do in my spare time when I wasn’t sleeping or doing other adult chores such as laundry. For most of the hiking I did in 2018, I was literally getting home from my second job at 10:30 every night and probably getting six hours of sleep if I was lucky just to wake up early to go hiking on Saturday mornings before thunderstorms formed up in the mountains. With that being said, I learned in 2018 that you have to always find time to follow your passion no matter what your circumstances are in life in order to be happy.
After briefly reflecting and pondering life for several minutes, I soon found myself hiking up the Beaver Brook Trail with my trekking poles in hand prepared for whatever I was going to encounter that day. At the beginning of the trail, you will come to a warning sign telling you that hikers have gone missing in this vicinity before and that if you need to call for help that your cell phone might not work due to the limited amount of service. Another sign also warns you that the trail is also 10 miles one way and to make sure that you have a map with you.
On this particular day, I was the first person on the trail as evident by the lack of footprints in the freshly fallen snow from the night before. Shortly into the hike, you come across a boulder field that can easily be maneuvered through with the help of trekking poles. Once you pass through it, the trail stays pretty rocky and goes up and down before you reach a really steep cliff of sorts where you could definitely fall off the trail if you’re not careful. You will also get some good views of the surrounding foothills as you go in and out of the woods.
Shortly thereafter, you end up at a cool little stream crossing where you have to cross a log to get to the other side. I’ve always enjoyed unique little stream crossings like this and what made it even cooler was that I could hear the water rushing quite quickly underneath the ice. This looks like the kind of place that would be cool to dip your feet in during the warmer spring and summer months just to cool off for a little bit. The sound of cars on the highway had faded away, and all I could hear was the relaxing sound of the wind moving through the trees. In addition to that, the views of the surrounding foothills were really starting to open up.
Before too long, I came to the Gudy Gaskill trail which loops around to reconnect with the Beaver Brook Trail. It’s a pretty nice little 2 mile loop that provides excellent views of the foothills as well as an overlook into Clear Creek Canyon down below. The overlook area was a little slippery due to the winter conditions but was nothing too crazy. Once I reemerged on the Beaver Brook Trail, I decided to hike several more miles west and found myself with some pretty amazing views in every direction. At this point, I had hiked for 4 hours and not seen a single person, but that all changed as I ran into countless people on my way back to the trailhead.
Overall, I hiked just under 12.5 miles that day, and it was
a lot better than I had expected it to be in terms of the trail conditions. I
was really amazed at how such a cool trail could be just fifteen minutes away
from my front door. I would absolutely recommend this trail if you’re looking
for a cool and unique hike near Denver and Golden.
Located in Elk Meadow park near Evergreen, Colorado, the Bergen Peak trail proved to be a rather enjoyable trek. It was a picture perfect Saturday morning right after Thanksgiving with only four other cars in the parking lot when I arrived at 8:30. The sky was a beautiful shade of light blue with only some wispy upper level clouds. Towards the beginning, there were only several patches of ice and snow that were easily navigable. Part of this probably had to do with the fact that the first several miles are completely exposed to the sun.
Once you get more into the woods, the incline becomes more moderate but can easily be managed with good traction. However, on this particular day, good traction and the help of trekking poles were needed as the trail becomes quite icy for long stretches. I really enjoyed this hike too because it had quite a few unexpected vistas that opened up out of nowhere to give you pleasant views of the tree filled hills and valleys nearby.
The closer that I got to the summit of Bergen Peak, I noticed that the weather was beginning to change. The once clear skies were starting to become cloudy and the wind was picking up with each step that I took. I knew that it was going to snow that day, but I was simply in awe of how quickly the weather can change. Nonetheless, I got to an overlook just before the summit that typically offers views of both Mount Evans and the rest of the front range mountains, and sure enough I could see a snow squall beginning to move in from the west.
At the summit, you will find a sign marking the highest point. Leading up to this hike, I wasn’t really sure how good the views would be at the summit but I was definitely surprised to the point that I even sat down to eat a cinnamon bun as the snow was beginning to fall just to take it all in. The views are so splendid that I’ll probably head back up there in the summer to have a picnic. In a similar fashion to my Square Top Mountain hike, the weather going back down to the trailhead made it feel like two different hikes. Most of the way back down the mountain consisted of hiking in white out conditions.
Other Relevant Information
Overall, the trail is a little over nine miles round trip from the Lewis Ridge trailhead but may vary depending on what trail you take coming back. Elk Meadow Park is part of the Jefferson County Open Space system which consists of 252 miles of trails in 28 parks. A fee is not required to access this park. Another parking area can be accessed off of Stagecoach Boulevard as well.
Back in late November of 2018, I hiked up to the summit of Bergen Peak within Elk Meadow Park and was thoroughly amazed by the remarkable view while still being so close to Denver. With that in the back of my mind, I decided to head back up that way to Evergreen and see how both the trail conditions were and if I would be lucky enough to see some elk and other cool wildlife too.
Here are some quick details about my hike up that afternoon:
Date of Hike:
March 21st, 2019
Miles Hiked: 9
Trail Conditions: Partially muddy at lower elevations with a snow covered path closer to the summit.
Shortly after I started up the trail, probably about no more than five minutes into my hike, I happened to observe a coyote hunting for food and pouncing in the open meadow. From that moment on, I knew that I was going to indeed have a splendid afternoon.
In shaded areas, the trail was still snow covered but not icy at all. It was more in the way of being slush turning to mud. On the contrary, the areas that were able to get enough sun throughout the course of the day had become muddy.
Once I got about halfway to the summit, I started to see more people descending. It was starting to get later in the day but that didn’t really bother me much because I figured that if worst came to worst, I would just do a little bit of trail running back down to the trailhead before it started to get really dark.
Further towards the top, the snow was still at least 2 feet deep in most places. However, a trench had already been dug out and frequently traveled leading the to the summit for some more breathtaking views.
Around 5pm that afternoon, I reached the summit. I stayed for about 5 to 10 minutes just taking it all in and being thankful for it all. The way back to the trail head was rather uneventful as I saw very few people with it being a week night.
But all that changed when I was probably about a tenth of a mile from my car. Much to my surprise, a large herd of elk had stopped traffic in both directions while they began to emerge from across the road and walk into the meadow.
Right as I got my camera out with the little bit of sunlight that was left, I took a picture and got the dreaded insufficient memory on card message. It just wasn’t meant to be that day and that’s completely alright. I’ll get some good pictures of them at some point!
After previously running out of space on my memory card for my camera, I was determined to redeem myself and see if the local elk herd was nearby. With that being said, this was my second visit to Elk Meadow Park in the span of just six days. Nonetheless, I set out on a quite brief afternoon hike to enjoy a warm spring afternoon.
Here are some more details:
Date: March 27th,
Miles Hiked: 4
Trail Conditions: More muddy than anything with only a few snow covered spots
For this particular hike, the trail goes in the same direction that you take to reach the Bergen Peak trail until you reach an intersection leading you into a deep wooded section. In this area, the trail was slushy for about a mile until I reached a clearing and was treated with a nice view of the meadow.
After reaching this viewpoint, I then entered into the woods again as the trail began to gradually meander its way back downhill. The scenery sure did prove to be relaxing after a pretty stressful day at work!
Despite being a nice little afternoon hike, unfortunately no elk were to be found anywhere nearby. My quest to find the elk has truly only just begun though. I’m sure they’ll find me the way the Bighorn Sheep crossed my path in Waterton Canyon. It’s only a matter of time!