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)

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