Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mount Evans 14er Hike Sept 14, 2008

Pre Blog 14er, hiked 9/14/2008

I was so excited to have my family come to Colorado this year, and my whole family too! Dad, mom, and sister! They havent all come out together since our 2nd year here in Colorado. It was great to have them here!
Here are some photos of us hiking Mount Evans, 14,258 feet above sea level. It was 69 degrees in Denver and 39 degrees at the base of the mountain, and much colder at the top. It was one of the toughest hikes I have done, mostly due to the snow and very very cold wind, but we all forged onward and completed the 5 mile hike. ( It felt much more than 5 miles, and technically we came down a steeper and shorter incline, making the hike less than 5 miles. However, after many years of hiking and running and timing myself, I felt this hike was probably longer than measured)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

~ A pre blog 14er ~ 14ers Democrat, Cameron, and Bross.

Hiked 7/27/2008 ~ Prior to my starting this trail blog.

Josh and I finally had time to hike and camp this weekend, since his math class is now over. (and he has finished his final paper in his DU class). We had planned to hike a 14er named mount Democrat. A 4 mile round trip hike, pretty much straight up! However, there is the option of doing 4 peaks over 14k from this trailhead and Democrat was the first of 4, so we had left it open to see how we felt to continue on the loop. Once you start the hike, you spend pretty much 6-8 hours above 12, 500 feet.
Our friends heather and Russ hiked with us also. Russ is a really fast hiker, and Rock stuck with him the whole time. (I had thought Rock was so loyal to always hike with me.....but nope, She wants to hike with the lead person, and then run back to check on all of us slow saps and whine

Monday, December 14, 2009

Goat Mountain, Start of the Colorado Trail, Waterton Canyon, CO

Goat Mountain at 7,797 feet is west of Sedalia in Waterton Canyon, which is the start of the Colorado Trail (CT); click here to check out the CT site. The entire trail is 7.3 miles and can take anywhere from 4.5-6 hours depending on your hiking speed.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Chief Mountain, Evergreen Colorado

Chief Mountain is Colorado's 1,452nd highest peak at 11,709 feet tall located in the Arapaho National Forest. It is located just minutes outside of the Denver metro area and is a very do-able hike with incredible 360 degree views. I plan to take visitors here the next time they are ready to do a hike, you get a great alpine experience without the long, long hiking.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jones Pass and Stanley Mountain

Over this Thanksgiving weekend I wanted to get out and hike a big peak instead of sticking to the warmer Front Range trails. After searching and searching for an accessible winter peak online, I came across the Henderson Trailhead in the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest outside of Empire Colorado. This trailhead gives access to Stanley Mtn at 12,521 ft, Vasquez Peak at 12,947 ft, Berthoud Pass at 11,315 ft and Jones Pass 12,451 ft and all of those peaks are on the Continental Divide.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Clear Creek Canyon Hike 11-9-09

Clear Creek Canyon is West of Golden, Colorado on highway 6 and the canyon continues up the gorge to Blackhawk Colorado.
Jefferson County Open Space has been building trails in Clear Creek Canyon for several years and their efforts are an ongoing project. Eventually the the goal is to have a trail which connects to the Continental Divide Trail.
Because the project is currently underway, there is often construction on parts of the trail and the only way to find out which is open is to start driving up the canyon. And that is what I did today!
I woke up on my Monday off, feeling very restless and in need of a good hike. I had a couple of hours of work to do then I gathered up my gear, laced up my hiking boots, and got the dogs ready to hike. The dogs and I drove into Clear Creek Canyon and kept our eyes peeled for a trail-head. Since the canyon trails here are new, I don't know where they are all located but I knew of one farther up the mountain near the city of Blackhawk. As I drove up the winding mountain with the music blaring, wind in my hair and two dogs eager to hike, I was taking the time to reflect on my goals in life. The reflection time was much needed. After driving up the mountain for 20 minutes, I came across my hike, which was closed due to construction on the road in that area and no parking.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lumpy Ridge, hike to Gem Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Park History
Lumpy Ridge rises above Estes Park on the North side of the town. It is part of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), but there is no fee to hike here. Lumpy Ridge has a large raptor habitat, and the birds live in the rocks and cliffs on the ridge. One important point to remember is that in 2007 the Twin Owls Trail head was relocated south and is now renamed Lumpy Ridge Trail head. It encompasses the Gem Lake Trail, Twin Owl Loop and all the Lumpy Ridge Climbing destinations. It now has a larger parking lot and bathrooms. Some of the newer maps do not reference this change, if you are seeking to hike Gem Lake or Twin Owl trails, this is where you start.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mountain Biking at Centennial Cone Park

Last weekend Josh and I decided to go mountain biking. This is something we don't do very often because it is so much harder to take the dogs; and because I am not the most adventurous mountain biker and it's more fun for my hubby to go with the boys. I would prefer rolling hills to steep rocky trails for my biking experience, but after hiking at Centennial Cone Park, I knew I had to go back and try it on the bike.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Centennial Cone Park, Jefferson County Open Space, Colorado

Park History
The Centennial Cone Park is north of Clear Creek Canyon and it sits on top of the foothills outside of Golden Gate Canyon. It was acquired by voter approval in 1999 to be preserved as Open Space land. The park is created to sustain the elk and mountain lion habitat in the area. You will see many old ranches and homesteads throughout the property which were purchased to preserve the land in the 90's. Now this park has over 3,000 acres of land and is one of the largest Open Space Parks in the Jefferson County System.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Deer Creek Canyon Park, Jefferson County, Colorado

History of the Park
In the late 1800's Deer Creek Canyon was once a homestead for John Williamson from Plymouth England; as well as a campground for Ute and Arapahoe tribes. Deer Creek Canyon was also a hideout for Jesse James and other villains with it's large scrub oak habitat, creeks and fertile grounds it was a great place to hide out. The Plymouth Creek Trail has been a passage way into the mountains since the 1900s. In 1991 Jefferson County purchased the land and named it Deer Creek Canyon Park and it became part of the Jefferson County Open Space.

Getting There
To get to the park from the metro area, take C-470 and exit at Kipling Street. Go west onto W. Ute Avenue, then west or right onto Deer Creek Canyon Road. The streets are well marked with the signature brown Open Space signs at each turn.
Follow Deer Creek Canyon Road into the canyon for a few miles, you will pass South Valley Open Space on your right (which is another good hike deserving of a blog post soon) and continue on Deer Creek Road until you see the Open Space Sign to turn LEFT onto Grizzly Drive.

Grizzly Drive will take you up the mountain through a neighborhood of huge houses and beautiful scenery! Each time we have driven up this road we have come across an animal, most recently a deer and her fawns, we have also seen coyote, fox and turkeys. Continue up Grizzly drive and turn Right into Deer Creek Canyon, you will see the sign above on your right.

The Park
As you drive into the Deer Creek parking lot you will almost always notice that it is busy!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mt. Falcon EAST Entrance, Morrison Colorado

The East Entrance of Mt. Falcon Park is south of Morrison, and it's a close hike in proximity to the city, with incredible city and mountain views.
Mount Falcon Park East is located South of Morrison on Highway 8. Driving west through the town of Morrison, turn left or South on Highway 8; next go .8 of a mile to Forest Ave. This is an easy road to miss, if you go more than 1 mile after turning on Hwy 8, you have gone too far.
Shortly after turning on Forest Avenue, you make a right or North turn onto Vine St. This dead ends into the park.

One of the main trails in the park is the Castle Trail, which used to be a narrow road that once carried Stanley Steamer automobiles in the 1800s. The Castle Trail starts at the East entrance of the park and provides hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders access all the way up the mountain to the Mr. Falcon Park West Access (which can be reached via 285 and Parmalee Gulch Road). There are also picnic tables for those who just want to enjoy a picnic in the area with great views!

The Castle trail starts by winding through gullies and plains then starts up Mt. Falcon with a pretty steep incline.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Camping & other activities outside of Leadville, CO, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

Over the weekend of September 5th; Josh, Rock and I decided we needed to get in another weekend of camping and hiking before it got too cold. We choose the Leadville area in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness which is part of the San Isabel National Forest on County Road 390. (called Chaffe County Road 390 or Clear Creek Canyon Road) We had been planning to hike Mt. Belford one of Colorado's 14ers, and this road was the access road to the trail.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mt. Belford, 14,197 feet; Leadville Colorado

On Saturday September 5th, Labor Day weekend, Josh, Rock and I hiked Mt. Belford which is outside of Leadville, Colorado in the Collegiate Peak Wilderness that is part of the San Isabel National Forest. This was our first fourteener (peak over 14,000 feet) of the 2009 season, and the 8th that we have hiked so far in Colorado. Mt. Belford proved to be one of the most beautiful and most difficult hikes that we have ever done!

Getting there:
We woke up at 4:00am Saturday morning and hoped to be on the road by 4:30. We needed to drive out to the area to get a campsite and set up our tent before we went to the trail-head for the day. Being Labor Day weekend, we figured we'd get a better campsite in the morning to ensure we'd get a good site, also if there was bad weather when we were done with the hike we would have shelter already to sleep in while it rained.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cold Springs Campground outside Blackhawk

Cold Springs Campground, July 2009

Cold Springs Campground is located approximately five miles north of the town of Blackhawk on Highway 119 at an elevation of 9,200 feet. The campground has 38 sites which are well spaced among pine and aspen trees offering fair to good amount of privacy between sites, with some offering a lot of seclusion. The sites can accommodate both RV and tent campers; there are even some sites near the back of the campground where the RV can park alongside the road. The campground is located high at the top of a mountain and many of the campsites have incredibly scenic views of the surrounding mountain peaks. The grounds are well maintained with pit toilets, fire rings, picnic tables, trash service and drinking water. It also has a playground, a scenic vista viewpoint a short hike up a mountain, and access to a trail at the back of the campground which continued on for miles and may meet up with the Fairburn Mountain trails.

The friendly camp host mentioned that the scenic viewpoint was worth the short steep hike up to the top of a rocky mountain peak. From there you have 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and the continental divide. For the avid hiker, there is an old two track trail which starts near the back of the campground by campsites #22-24 and continues on for miles. I was able to hike on the trail for at least an hour which continues east down the mountain and past a very old campground and other old buildings; the trail continued on farther than I had time to hike and probably connects to the Fairburn Mountain Trail.

The only drawback of the campground is that it is located immediately off Highway 119, and the road noise can be heard throughout the campground all night long. Also, due to the proximity to Blackhawk, Central City and Golden Gate Canyon State Park, the campground is very crowded on the weekends. When I camped here on a Sunday night in the summer, well over half of the sites were already reserved for the following weekend, some even two weekends. The camp host said that this is common throughout the summer, but you can practically have your choice of sites during the week.

Price: Campground Cost as of July, 2009. $16 per night

Directions: From Blackhawk go north on highway 119 for approximately 5 miles, the campground is on your left at the top of the mountain before the entrance Golden Gate Canyon State Park. You can also reach 119 from I-70 at exit 244.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Trails in Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek Canyon is west of Golden on 6th Ave towards the town of Blackhawk Colorado. The Canyon is full of incredible scenery; the winding Clear Creek river following the road, lots of rock faces for climbing, and now lots of trails!
Recently a bridge has been built crossing Clear Creek just west of Golden about 1 mile into the canyon on 6th Ave. You can see a small parking lot, always full with several cars, on the south side of the street. There is parking there and you can walk down to the river to cross the bridge which connects you to many miles of trails winding through Clear Creek Canyon. Additionally, farther up the canyon about 1 more mile there is a trail which is currently being constructed and will open October 1, 2009. There you can find a map which shows the location of several other trails in the canyon. After checking out the map, we noticed a trail about 2 miles farther up 6th Avenue just past mile marker 268.
You will see a parking lot on the north side of the street (opposite side of the river) that is lined with several red rocks; park there and you will notice a small trail to the west. It was this trail that I hiked Monday August 24th with Josh and Rock.
The only factor that shows you this is open space land is a gate just past the parking lot with the brown "open space" sign on the gate.
We started up the hike and after about 100 yards of hiking we stopped to adjust our stuff, and I happened to spot several mountain goats about 200 yards away, high up on the rocks! Very cool!
The trail was visibly overgrown and you could tell right away it was not used very much. (probably due to the lack of a sign in the area noting the trailhead). At one point early on in the trail there are overgrown bushes and the trail goes around them. It is easy to miss, and we nearly turned back, thinking the trail had dead ended, but I wanted to check and thankfully the trail continued past the trees and bushes.
Right away, you can tell that the trail is going to go UP! There are no switchbacks here! Just hiking pretty much straight up to the top of the mountain ahead of you. After just a few moments of hiking, you are able to see great views of the winding canyon and river below you.
The trail is very steep as it nears the top and this is definitely not a trail for someone who is afraid of heights! The higher you hike, the better the views get, but the steeper the trail gets, at one point I was using my hands on the ground just to keep balance!
You can see to the left a rough drawing of how the trail goes up the mountain. Once you reach the ridge at the top you are able to see views for miles and miles! Sixth Ave is in view on both sides of the mountain, as is Clear Creek Canyon, there are also cairns marking the top of the saddle in the mountain.
Cairns, for those who don't know are (for this purpose) piles of rocks which are erected to show hikers they are on the proper trail or are taking the proper route. You find them on mountains without maps, and you most often find them on large mountains and 14ers in Colorado.

You can see this photo shows the cairns (rock piles) -----> This is on the saddle of the mountain.

Once at the top of the saddle, you can choose to go either way to further your hike. We chose to go west little farther up the mountain, and we eyed the thunderstorm rolling in as well. After another 10 minutes of hiking we reached another rock formation which was a great lookout point. It was at this time the wind picked up and the sky turned a little more black than you'd want it to be if you were hiking on the top of a mountain. So we decided to turn back. There were definitely many more miles of trails that we could have hiked and I look forward to going back very soon!
The hike down always proves to be difficult when the mountain is so steep, and there were plenty of slides and slipped between Josh and I. Of course, Rock our dog, was fine. There were lots of wildflowers that were starting to wilt in the late summer, and the weeds were very tall and turning brown with the upcoming change of season. This hike would be awesome in the spring when all the flowers are in bloom!

We made it back to the car shortly after and I guessed the hike to the top of the saddle was 1.5 miles one way, and we hiked farther up than that. We did stop at the top for some views and to eat an apple, plus all the photos that I take along the way (see below for slideshow), so the hike took us about 2 hours. However, it could have been done in less time.
We did see one other hiker out on this trail, which was surprising, but it shows that we are not the only ones who found this hikers paradise so nearby Golden.

(Go to the intersection of 58th ave and 6th ave, and go west on 6th into the canyon)

View Larger Map

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mount Herman, Monument Colorado

Saturday, August 21st Josh, Rock and I hiked Mount Herman which is located in Monument Colorado. Monument is just northwest of Colorado Springs off I-25. One of our good friends is moving out of the Springs to California and we went down to visit him and stopped to hike along the way. I had never hiked in Monument before, or anywhere near this area actually, and had a terrible time finding a place to hike in the area. I was googling "hiking in Colorado Springs" and all I really came up with was the website. Which is ok for pinpointing a hike, but that website only gives you a little bit of information before you have to sign up. I checked El Paso County's website, and didn't find much in the way of trails either! I managed to google map some directions to the hike; From I-25 exit 161 and go WEST on Second Street, then you will travel through the town of Monument to Mitchell Ave. (Note* There is a park with bathrooms right BEFORE the train tracks and Mitchell Ave, stop here if you need to go!!). You will go South or Left on Mitchell Ave for a little over .5 of a mile, then you will turn right or west on Mt. Herman Road, you will see this sign ---->
We traveled on Mt. Herman Road for about a mile and a half before we saw the Mount Herman Trailhead sign (Above) on our left. We actually missed the turn, we had thought the trailhead was further up the mountain, we did a U-turn and parked in the trailhead lot.
I noticed right away, there are no trail maps, and there is no bathroom, even at this relatively large and full parking lot. I was very surprised not to see both the maps or port-o-pot, I was also shocked at the amount of trash tossed on the ground as well!
In the little information that I did find about Mt. Herman online, I saw that it was supposed to be 2 miles round trip to the top and back. I felt right away that we were way to far to be 2 miles away. I think that there might be another trailhead farther up Mt. Herman Road, but we decided to hike where we were at, just to check it out. Incidentally, when I went to write this blog, I found another blogger with a post about Mt. Herman. Here is the link. I think that I WAS too far to the east, and there is another trailhead farther up to complete the that's left for another day :)
After about 50 yards into the hike (with no map) we were faced with a choice to either go straight, right or left. We went straight down the mountain, my goal was to keep hiking toward Mt. Herman in the distance and see how close we can get in the time we had!

<---- You can see here, Mount Herman is the round topped peak in the distance. We continued to hike towards the mountain, and were faced with multiple trail choices along the way. We did come across the first dirt road within about 30 minutes of the hike....we walked down the road only a few yards and found the trail again and continued to walk through the beautiful fields full of wildflowers in bloom even this late in August. We noticed right away there are NO trail signs along the way at all, so keep an eye out as to where you are going :) Though it was pretty easy to keep your bearings.
The beautiful trails took us through lush trees and fields full of wildflowers it made me wish that I was closer to the Springs to enjoy these awesomely large mountains and lushness compared to Denver :) In the distance we began to see a huge White Rock sticking out against the mountain. It looked really cool, and all of the trails seemed to head right towards it! I love Colorado's unique rock formations, it shows what unique geology exists in this area.

We hiked up to the rock, which is much bigger than the pics show, and rested in the shade while we ate some lunch. I guessed that it was about 1.75 miles from the trailhead to the white rock formation. It was a very hot day, and we were hiking right about 12 noon, so the sun was pretty unrelenting. I walked around the rock and noticed a fairly large pond of dirty water, at first I thought it was a mirage. haha. It didn't take long before my dog Rock found it, and she was terribly hot and swam in the gross stuff. But she seemed cooler.....
After we past the rock, we continued to head up Mount Herman. It was at this point that the trail gets much steeper, rockier, and you can tell you are starting to hike up a mountain. We were still pretty far from the top at this point, but it felt like we were finally getting somewhere! I could look behind us and see views of the city and even I-25 way out in the distance. There were more trees in this part of the hike and it was cooler in the shade.
As we continued up the mountain for a little over a half mile, we began to hear the road above us. Eventually we came out to a point where we could either go out to the road, or continue hiking south (not west, up the mountain). We walked a little ways south, and it provided us with some great views...but eventually abandoned that route to continue up the mountain, even though we had to deal with the road.
Once up to the road, there was no obvious trail to pick up. We walked in both directions quite a ways, and didnt find any connecting trail. We did see a "pikes peak national forest map" sign, which said the map was 1000 feet ahead. We hiked up the road to the sign, at least along the way were good views to the east, while many noisy dirtbikers drove past us. Unfortunately, when we got to the sign it showed many things, but no hikes in the area?? It was at that point we considered going back. It was a hot day, we had no idea how to hike to the top of Mt. Herman and we still needed to go help our friend in the Springs. We decided to head back and along the way we would take some of the other multiple trails in route to the car.
We had to hike the half mile back to the white rock and then chose to take a trail to the north, which was a raised trail and provided lots of great views!
It was about this time when I noticed a small pond ahead of us (and to think we let Rock swim in a nasty mud pit!) with a cute little bench to sit on and enjoy the views! What a beautiful state we live in! I was so hot, I would have absolutely swam in the pond if I had a bathing suit...but I did not. Josh threw Rock into the water (did I mention she is scared of water) but she was so hot it was good for her!

As we hiked back we continued to take different trails and wound through the forests and fields. I figured that any of the trails we took would lead us back to the car and was glad that proved to be true.
All in all we hiked about 4 miles, and it took us about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Though we did stop along the way quite a bit, so it could have been done in much less time. It was a beautiful hike, but I would have really liked to make it to the top of Mount Herman. I guess it will be left for another day...
Trail maps would have been really helpful for this hike and I would appreciate any comments regarding more information about the hike!! I hope to go back and get better information and update this blog.
Park Quick Facts: (rated 1 - 3) To see the Criteria click here
Difficulty - (2)
dirt trails, some slippery, nothing too terrible
Distance (driving) - (2)
within 1 hour from my house near the Mills Mall
Crowded (2) - This trail was not very crowded even on Saturday, but we did pass several hikers along the way.

Amount of Trails (2)-
There are at least 4 miles of trails, and they probably connect to other trails which are not yet known to me.
Length of time - Our hike was 2 hours 15 minutes, you could hike more or less very easily with the amount of trails in this area.
For the dog lover -I saw lots of dogs offleash and no ranger, with 1 nice pond to swim in :)
Bathrooms? There are NO restrooms and the closes ones that I saw were outside of town near the turn onto Mitchell street, port o johns in a park :( stinky!

(you can click on map, zoom in and out, and get directions to Mt. Herman)

View Larger Map

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Crown Hill Park in Lakewood/Wheat Ridge Colorado

The Crown Hill Park located in Lakewood and Wheat Ridge Colorado was created in 1979 and has 242 acres of wilderness and over 6.5 miles of hiking trails. The park is located on the east side of Kipling Street between 26th and 32nd Avenues. The main parking lot is located on 26th Ave, east of Kipling, where there are restrooms, picnic tables, drinking water, and wheelchair access to the trails. There is also some smaller parking areas across the street from Wheat Ridge High School on 32nd, and if you continue on 32nd east towards Wadsworth, there is another area about a half mile from the school.
My favorite part of the workday is walking over to Crown Hill Park for lunch, and taking some time to walk through the park and on the trails near the lake. As a Midwesterner originally, I love water and lakes of all kinds, so this park is close to my heart in that I can be near the water! I can watch people fishing (fishing with a license is enforced), see the ducks and geese playing in the water, and watch the fish jump and it all reminds me of back home!

The park has incredible mountain views from every angle as well! You can see as far north as the Flat Irons, and as far south as Green Mountain and a little beyond. On a clear day, you can see the big snow covered peaks above the front range mountains and on those days, I am so thankful I live in such a beautiful state!

There are two main loops in the park, a 1.2 mile loop around the lake, and a 2 mile loop around the perimeter of the park. Bicyclists, horses, and walkers are welcome on most trails, and the two main trails are paved. There are multiple smaller foot paths and natural trails throughout the park which adds to the mileage significantly if you want to roam through them. There is also a fitness loop on the south end of the park near 26th Ave with multiple fitness stations to change up your workout if you'd like!
Here is a map of the park:

One very unique part of this Park, there is a wildlife sanctuary and pond as part of the park which only hikers are allowed into. (no dogs in there either!) You can walk through the preserve and see even more animals than within the park itself.

I drive past this park to work everyday, and I often see animals in the park such as squirrels, rabbits, deer, and coyotes. I have seen several coyotes in this park, mostly in the mornings, and even saw two running together one time, and another carrying a dead rabbit in it's mouth. This is definitely a nature preserve in an urban setting, so practice caution as when you hike at all times, but specifically dawn and dusk when animals are most active.

This park is known for it's sunsets, as the sun sets over the mountains you can sit on a park bench and watch the colors in the sky reflect over the lake!

Park Quick Facts: (rated 1 - 3) To see the Criteria click here
Difficulty - (1)
mostly paved trails
Distance (driving) - (1)
within 10 minutes from my house near the Mills Mall
Crowded (2) - This is a fairly crowded park and there are always lots of people using the trails in this beautiful setting!

Amount of Trails (2)-
There are 6.5 miles of trails within the park.
Length of time - You can walk around the lake loop in as little as 30 minutes, or you can spend several hours roaming the inner trails and large 2 mile outer loop.
For the dog lover - With all the traffic, horses, and bikers, it is best to keep your dog on a leash. I have never seen dogs playing in the water either, it may be enforced to keep them out of the water.
Bathrooms? There are restrooms at the 26th Ave parking lot, which are very nice, and they are not port-o-pots.

(you can click on map, zoom in and out, and get directions to Crown hill)

View Larger Map

(Mouse over photos to read captions and stop slideshow)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Park Quick Facts Criteria

I want to include some of my "Quick Facts" Criteria, and things you will find in each blog post about that hike, trail or park. Things like, how difficult is the hike? what shoes do I wear? what can my dog do there? and are there bathrooms?! Every woman needs to know where the nearest bathroom is, right?
I want to make sure everyone "gets" my rating system on these hikes, so I decided to include a quick facts page with the criteria or description for each quick fact.

Park Quick Facts: (rated 1 - 3 with 3 being the most)
This is the difficulty of the hike. I take into consideration how the hike is on the body including: the terrain, high altitude, heavy breathing from lots of ups and downs, bad footing or lots of rocks, etc. I also wanted to include what you need to wear or take with you on this hike so that you are prepared!
1. Not difficult at all - wear your walking shoes, the trails are probably paved, gravel, or hard packed wide trails. You probably don't need water. (unless it is very hot, keep in mind this is Colorado!)
2. - Somewhat difficult - you could wear your walking shoes, but hiking boots are recommended. Carry some water depending on the length of your hike.
3. - Difficult - Hike requires hiking gear, including good shoes, carry ample water, food, there are lots of ups and downs along with rocky terrain.
3 ++ - Difficult with Altitude -
This trail is very difficult, long or requires special gear.

Amount of Trails at the Park - How many miles of trails are there at the park? And how long can you go without hiking on the same grounds.
1. 2 miles or less -
great for a walk in the park with your dog, not a hike on a trail
2. 2-5 miles -
A good loop or out and back trail, but you can't hook up with other trails from these, and the open space is limited
3. 5+ -
The park has ample miles of trails or the trails connect to other Open Space parks offering additional mileage.

Crowded? Is it crowded? Will I run into lots of people, or will I have a serene hike with few passers by? Keep in mind, many of Colorado's front range trails are busy on the weekends.
1. - peaceful- very few people around, great for peacefulness!
2. - moderate- amount of usage with steady passers by.
3. - busy trails- especially on the weekends, continual traffic

Distance: How far is it from the metro area? We are talking driving time to get to the hike here, Golden/Lakewood is my central point. For those of you who don't live in the Golden/Lakewood area, judge the distance from the Colorado Mills Mall. I will include drive time for each hike from there.
1 -
Within a half an hour from Golden/Lakewood.
Over 30 minutes, but not more than 2 hours away, great for a weekend afternoon,
Over 2 hours away - anywhere from 2 hours to many hours! This is a long day hike or even a place to hike and stay overnight.

Length of time of hike - I will always include the time it takes me to complete this particular hike.

For the Dog Lover - What can you do with your dog there? Can they swim or drink water? Are there lots of rangers to ticket you for letting your dog offleash? Rattlesnakes or any other dangers for dogs will be listed here.

Are there bathrooms. Yes or No?
Every woman needs to know where a bathroom is, just in case :) And if there is no bathroom, where is the nearest bathroom. I will scope that one out for you too!

Dakota Ridge - Dinosaur Ridge Hike

The Matthews/Winters Park became part of the Jefferson County Open Space Land in 1982, it has over 8.5 miles of hiking and biking trails for public use. The Matthews/Winters Park consists of multiple trails on both the east and west sides of Highway 93 near Red Rocks. One of these trails, Dakota Ridge, runs along the top of Hogback Mountain, which is the mountain that rises up between C-470 and Highway 93. Hogback Mountain has incredible views of Green Mountain and C-470 to the east and Highway 93 and Red Rocks to the west. If you are looking for a trail with views for miles near the metro area then this is it!
Personally, I have always been rather confused with the Hogback Mountain Trail. It is part of Matthews Winters Park, but the parking for the trailhead is in the Stegosaurus Parking Lot at Dinosaur Ridge right across the street from Matthews Winters. (or you can park at Matthews/Winters and then take your chances running across highway 93).

(it's best to park in the stegosaurus lot)

To be sure I knew where I was going, I stopped at the Matthews Winters trail-head to grab an Open Space Map. I was surprised to find the Hogback Mountain Trails on the same map, maybe I had just never noticed this before? As I looked at the map, I noticed you could make a loop out of the Dakota Ridge Trail, and I much prefer to hike a loop. The loop goes from the Dakota Ridge Trail, to the Zorro Trail which runs along the east side of Hogback Mountain and down to Rooney Road, next you hike along Rooney Road to Dinosaur Ridge Road and then back onto the Dakota Ridge Trail to get back. The two hiking trails added up to 3.1 miles and that seemed a good mileage for me to hike, as I had other things to do yesterday. But I noticed later on into the hike, the mileage is for the trails only and does not include the mileage down the roadway. I marked this with my car after I hiked so I knew exactly how far I went...but without this mileage noted on the map, it made for a much longer hike than I had originally planned! The total mileage for this loop is 4.5 miles and it took me 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete.

(map is of route, yellow = trails, orange is time on road, mileage is for the time spent on Rooney road and then on Dinosaur Ridge Road)

The hike starts with a steep uphill climb to get to the top of the ridge along Hogback Mountain. The road noise from I-70 and 93 is pretty loud, and I am reminded this is an "urban hike". The trail provides views for miles to the east and west and you can see along the ridge line to the south in front of you, which is very cool! For the first mile of this trail, you cross back and forth over the ridge line of the mountain viewing both Red Rocks and Green Mountain to the west and east. The terrain is rough and there are lots of rocks and uneven surfaces to watch out for, which is hard when the scenery is so beautiful. You will encounter mountain bikers on this trail, so keep an eye out for them too, as there are sharp curves and steep hills! After 1 mile, the trail winds down into a valley and you can see a fork in the trail where you can continue straight or go east down the Zorro Trail. For my loop, I went east, down the Zorro Trail, which is .9 miles long.

The Zorro trail declines steeply and you can see the parking lot for Green Mountain Open Space in the distance. The trail is somewhat overgrown, as it does not get much use and I only passed 1 set of hikers up to this point on a Monday afternoon and none on Zorro trail in particular. The Zorro trail ends at Rooney Road where you need to go right or south along the road. I did not realize when I started the hike that it would be along the roadway, the map does show this, but I had expected some sort of foot path along the road...unfortunately there was none.
The walk along Rooney Road took me about 12 minutes, which was .75 miles (I checked the mileage in my car later). It was a fairly cool day, luckily, otherwise the walk along the road would have been horribly hot! After .75 miles you come to a fork in the road, and the Dinosaur Ridge Visitor Center is directly in front of you. To continue my loop you turn right or west here, and hike up the Dinosaur Ridge Road which runs through the Hogback Mountain Valley near the North Entrance of Red Rocks on the West, and Alameda Street on the east.

This was my first time up Dinosaur Ridge, surprisingly as I have lived in Golden for the past 6 years! Dinosaur Ridge is a unique piece of geology with lots of fossils and even dinosaur footprints! The road is closed to cars, so the walk is much more pleasant than Rooney Road. The highlight of the Dinosaur Ridge are the dinosaur tracks which are fossilized in the side of the mountain about halfway up the road. At this point, even on the coolest of summer days, I was feeling hot as was my hiking partner Rock, my 11 year old black lab mix.

Finally, I was able to see the Dakota Ridge trail sign and knew we were going to get off the pavement and back on the hiking trail soon! The distance up the Dinosaur Ridge road I estimated at .6 miles from where you left Rooney Road. Meaning you are on the road for 1.3 miles along this hike. Just a few yards past where you get onto the Dakota Ridge Trail again there is a very clean port-o-potty and a few yards further up from that is a lookout vantage point. I hiked up to the lookout point and got some incredible views looking south down the front range and Hogback Mountain, there is also a nice bench and a shade structure for sitting and checking out the views. After this I visited the bathroom and then started back on Dakota Ridge for the final 2.2 miles back to the car.
The remainder of the hike back is along the Dakota Ridge trail, it is 1.2 miles back to where we started our loop and an additional 1 mile back to the car.

(here you can see back to the start of the loop, I needed to go straight)

The hike back continues to impress with views for miles and miles to the east and west. There is one particular vantage point where you are directly across from Red Rocks park and in the past I have been able to hear the music playing at this point!
Rock and I were quite tired at this time, and it was also about the time I realized that I had forgotten sunscreen (something that I never do!). We huffed it back to the car, taking only about 45 minutes to get back to the car. Along the way I passed a confused couple with children who were trying to see the dinosaur footprints. Sadly they were still nearly 1.3 miles from the end of the trail, then a walk down the road to see the tracks (and back again). I though to myself at least its not just me who was confused on this trail, and made me excited that this blog could help someone else from making the same mistake :)

Park Quick Facts: (rated 1 - 3) To see the Criteria click here
Difficulty - (2.5)
for difficult footing and terrain
Distance (driving) - (1)
within 10 minutes from my house near the Mills Mall
Crowded (1) -
I do not see many hikers here, even on busy weekends, it is not a well known or hiked trail.
Amount of Trails (3)-
Matthews Winters has 8.5 miles of trails, and they connect for even more trails to both Green Mountain, Red Rocks, and Mount Vernon
Length of time - the loop I did was 2 hours 15 minutes, but you could do an "out and back" on Dakota Ridge and hike as much or little as you want.
For the dog lover - I have never seen a ranger here and often see people with their dogs offleash. There is no water for dogs on the trail.
Bathrooms? None at the Stegosaurus lot, but across the street in Matthews Winters there are bathrooms, also there were 2 port o pots along the loop I did, in the Green Mountain Parking lot and at Dinosaur Ridge.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Welchester Tree Grant Park, Jefferson County

The Welchester Tree Grant Park founded by the Timbre Culture Act of 1878 is located in Jefferson County on 8th Avenue, between Indiana and Simms Street and behind the Welchester Elementary school. The Tree Grant Park is part of the Jefferson County Open Space department, but if you checked out the Open Space website, it lists the park with just two tenths of a mile in trails. However, the locals in the area know that is not the case!

The Park sits on 18 acres of land full of trees, wildflowers, streams, waterfalls and beautiful nature scenery. The highlight of the grounds is a large bridge in the middle of the park high above Lakewood Gulch and you are able to view the new waterfall feature completed in 2007. Often I see dogs playing in the water here with their owners! (too bad my dog is terrified of water!) There is a .2 mile trail that goes directly through the park, but there are also other loops within the park which offer about 1/2 mile each of trails through the woods, and along Lakewood Gulch. Also, there are several smaller foot path's that roam through the park and if you are up for being a little adventurous, you can follow the foot paths throughout all 18 acres of land! Construction which is scheduled to be completed August 31, 2009 is adding gravel to a footpath which helps complete the loop around the park, over the new concrete bridge on the west end of the park, and back around to the main trail. (see photos below for map of construction project) With the new construction of trails the Welchester Tree Grant Park offers approximately 1.2 miles of constructed trails, and many smaller trails which wind through the grounds.
The Grounds with ample water and lush woods are home to a variety of animals including deer, rabbits, snakes, foxes and coyote (which may have been removed recently by Jefferson County). I have walked in the park for years now, and while I have seen several coyotes, none ever bothered me or my dog.
Overall, this is a great park to visit, and with the newly constructed trails it offers even more space to walk within the urban setting of Lakewood.

Park Quick Facts: (rated 1 - 3) To see the Criteria click here
Difficulty: (1)
Leave your hiking boots at home - mostly paved or gravel trails.
Distance: (1) -
Located in Lakewood/Golden, no mountain driving necessary.
Crowded: (2) -
The park is never too crowded, but if you go after work in the evening, you will see the most people.Amount of Trails: (1) - Only about 1.2 miles of constructed trails on 18 acres of land.
Length of time: anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes
For the Dog Lover: (3)- Water to play in.
Bathrooms? NO Bathrooms: The closest would be the 7-11 at Simms and 8th near the exit from 6th Ave going North. About .5 miles away.

Link to Park Open Space:

Park is Located in Jefferson County near the Colorado Mills Mall on 8th Avenue. There is parking for the park along the from Yank to Zang Streets. It is best to park far off the road, as 8th is a bike route.

(hover over photos for captions and to stop slideshow)