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.
Located just west of Fort Collins, Colorado, Lory State Park provides its visitors with some spectacular scenery and remarkable views. On January 12th, I arrived around 10:30 to find the trails and mountains snow covered thanks to the snowstorm that came through the previous day.
Upon parking at the Homestead Picnic Area, I briefly planned out my hike which would later turn out to be a little bit over 6 miles round trip. Nonetheless, it was late enough in the morning that the snow was beginning to melt in the open areas revealing a significant layer of mud. Before long, I was on my way up the Well Gulch Nature Trail taking in the views of both the mountains and the reservoir. I wasn’t exactly sure how nice the weather was going to be, but it actually turned out to be a peaceful afternoon with some sun and scattered clouds.
With the birds starting to chirp more and more, I reached the intersection of the Overlook Trail and began to get some better views of the Horsetooth Reservoir. I enjoyed this part of my hike because it had a mixture of both open spaces and wooded areas that looked like they would have some enjoyable stream crossings during the spring and early summer months.
In addition to that, the elevation was pretty easy going and featured only some small up and down hill sections. Something else to keep in mind is that if you go during the warmer months out of the year is to watch for both mountain bikers and those who are riding horseback as well and to yield accordingly. I didn’t have to worry about that this time around because the trails were only open for hiking due to the muddy conditions.
The end of the Overlook Trail leads right into a trail leading you to the summit of Arthur’s Rock. Specifically, you will find yourself embarking on the Arthur’s Rock Trail which seemed surprisingly short to me as being a mere 1.7 miles to the top if you start at the actual trailhead. For me, it was even shorter than that as I came onto the trail about three tenths of a mile in. However, the switchbacks provide you with a great workout and I definitely felt it the next day.
Aside from the beautiful views, this might have easily been the most slippery trail that I’ve hiked in a long time. But the scenery and breathtaking views at the top always make the struggle seem worthwhile. Regarding the most difficult part of this hike, I would have to say that it was the part right before the summit of Arthur’s Rock. It was pretty much like walking up steep and slippery steps with pretty much nothing to grab onto in case you fall. With that being said, it would be wise to have great traction if you plan on doing this hike in the winter months.
Despite going up less than a thousand feet in total elevation, it feels like you are much higher than the 6,780 foot summit of Arthur’s Rock. The views at the top were truly remarkable because you see both dramatic views of the reservoir as well as snow drifts that are several feet deep as well. For even better views, you can even climb the rocks a little bit higher up. Although I was only up there for several minutes, it was really humbling and reminded me why I love hiking and all of the amazing things you can experience while out exploring nature.
Because I only saw a smaller portion of this park, I do plan to revisit at a later time to potentially camp at one of the backcountry campgrounds and explore some of the other trails.
Other Important Information
The entrance fee for Lory State Park is $8 for a day pass that expires at noon the following day. With 26 miles of trails in the park, you can also find plenty more options for hiking at nearby Horsetooth Mountain Open Space as well as the trails that are located in close proximity to the reservoir itself.
To start off 2019, I made an excellent decision to hike to the top of Cheyenne Mountain via the Dixon Trail located within Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was quite a physically demanding 17 plus mile hike that lived up to all the warnings that are posted about it.
For being the very beginning of January, the weather was quite warm and for about 90 percent of this hike I didn’t even need to wear a winter coat as it was at least 60 degrees. With that in mind, it pretty much took me over seven hours to complete this hike but I was up to the challenge and was determined to complete it before sunset and to capture some remarkable photos throughout the day.
At the beginning of the trail, you’re encouraged to sign in on a clipboard to let the park staff know what trail or trails that you plan on hiking in the event of an emergency. After briefly filling in that information, I then proceeded onto the Sundance Trail to begin my journey. After only maybe ten or fifteen minutes into the hike, I encountered a huge white tail deer that I definitely did not expect to see up close that morning. It was so close to me I could have reached out and touched. Additionally, I was even close enough to count all ten of the points it had on its antlers. Shortly after that, I came upon two more deer laying down among some trees.
After stumbling upon several more deer, I turned onto the Talon Trail. This particular part had a decent amount of ice and snow packed on it. However, most of the snow was in the areas that were shaded and had a significant amount of tree coverage. A little bit later, I took a short side trail to find an overlook area that allows you to get a good glimpse of Cheyenne Mountain more up close.
Upon completing portions of the Talon and North Talon Trails, I came to the junction of the Dixon Trail on a small hill. Although it definitely did not seem like it, I had already hiked 3.3 miles at this point. A big warning sign is posted at the very beginning of this trail warning you about what to expect and to be prepared for the conditions of the trail. Take this stuff seriously because you do not want to be without an adequate supply of water and food because this hike is extremely demanding. Always watch the sky for possible changes in the weather too.
Something that I really liked about the Dixon Trail was that it was well marked and easy to follow. The trail is marked in half mile increments in both directions to let you know how much further that you have to go. The first several miles are primarily switchbacks that were snow covered with several areas that were somewhat rocky. At this point, really notice that you are starting to go up in elevation. Once you reach the 2.5 mile mark of the trail, you will come to a huge turnaround area designed for bikes and people riding horses to turnaround. You will notice yet another warning sign that alerts you to the steepness of the remaining two miles of the Dixon Trail before you finish your ascent and continue onto the Mountain Loop Trail.
Continuing on, the trail does get much steeper as previously mentioned by the warning sign. However, this did not seem to phase me at all because the scenery just kept getting more amazing with every step. With it being a clear morning, I could see the large snow capped peaks to the southwest that looked absolutely breathtaking. I was so amazed by the scenery that I simply had to stop and have lunch for about twenty minutes and just take it all in. It’s really difficult to capture just how beautiful places are because sometimes pictures just simply are not enough. You have to be there to experience it all firsthand to truly understand. After lunch, I continued up the trail and started to run into some much deeper snow as well as some wreckage from a small plane crash that happened quite some time ago.
After a short time, I reached the end of the Dixon Trail. However, I ultimately made the decision to keep going and add on the Mountain Loop Trail because I wanted to see just how deep the snow was at the top of Cheyenne Mountain. And I was not at all disappointed! With no footprints to follow, I pretty much relied on looking for the little trail markers and flags used to mark the trails at the top. I did fall several times due to it being both very slippery and also muddy in certain areas. Before long, I found myself going through snow drifts and areas that had knee high snow. Despite the conditions of the trail, the views of both the surrounding mountains and Colorado Springs down below really made me glad that I completed this long hike.
As the day progressed, it started to get cloudy and so I started to descend back towards the trailhead. When all was said and done, I made it back probably about fifteen minutes before it started to get dark. Overall, I’m very glad that I took advantage of the warm weather for January to get out and hike this trail.
Other Important Information
The cost for a day pass to enter the park is $8 and is valid until noon the following day. You might hear artillery fire on this hike as Fort Carson is located right across the street from the park entrance. On the Mountain Loop Trail, you will also notice various no trespassing signs due to the fact that the land nearby is owned by the United States Government. You can find more interesting information about the Cheyenne Mountain Complex by clicking here.
If you’re looking for a cool and unique hike near Denver, then look no further than Roxborough State Park. I have always enjoyed this park because it is one of those places that is both beautiful year round and also makes you realize just how amazing nature truly is. And the red tilted sandstone formations are just an added bonus too!
Carpenter Peak Trail
One of the first hikes that I can remember doing in this park was the Carpenter Peak trail back in July 2016. Since the park is located at the edge of the foothills, the hike to the summit is relatively moderate with a steady elevation gain. From the parking lot to the summit, the elevation gain is a little over a thousand feet.
And once you get to the
summit, the views are quite remarkable. Off to the northeast and the east, you
can get a pretty good view of Denver as well as the surrounding plains.
Although the summit is only 7,160 feet, it still feels like you are much higher
up considering that the skyscrapers in Denver look so tiny and insignificant.
Meanwhile, off to the
west you have nothing but an endless view of trees and mountains that is just
so comforting to see and it really makes this hike a rewarding one. Something
else worth mentioning is that this trail connects to several other trails
nearby including the Waterton Canyon trail which is the beginning of the 486
mile Colorado Trail which runs from Denver to Durango.
Although the views are magnificent, there are also several other things to keep in mind. Depending on the time of year, it’s important to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes as I’ve had an encounter with them nearly every time that I’ve been on this trail. Mountain lion sightings are also somewhat common and their is even a sign on the trail to give you a heads up about them as well. The amount of wildlife is definitely plentiful here as I’ve also seen herds of deer and coyotes too. Aside from the wildlife aspect, the park also has several signs posted in various spots to let you know what time the park will be closing for the day so you can plan your hike accordingly.
Fountain Valley Trail
Another unique hike is the Fountain Valley Trail. This trail is a relatively easy loop that is family friendly and is just a little over two miles long. It also has the Fountain Valley overlook and the Lyons overlook which are so breathtaking to the point that the state park allows you to have your wedding ceremony held at either one of them for a fee. Both are amazing but I personally liked the Lyons overlook the best because it just kind of comes up out of nowhere and provides you with a spectacular view of the entire valley.
Things to Remember
As a part of the state park system in Colorado, a day use fee must be paid prior to entering the park which currently sits at $7 but will soon be raised to $8 beginning in 2019. The best times to go are during the week or early in the mornings on weekends because parking definitely goes fast! Lastly, you always want to make sure that you are properly prepared for the weather conditions and any wildlife that you may encounter.