Monday, January 4, 2010
Beaver Brook and Chavez Trail at Genesee Park, Colorado
The Beaver Brook trailhead was built by the Colorado Mountain Club over 90 years ago and it's an incredible hiker only back-country trail just outside of the city. The map to the left can be clicked to enlarge and you can see all of the hiking options in the Genesee / Lookout Mountain area. You can also find more information on the park here.
The Beaver Brook trail travels 8.65 miles from the park in Genesee to the Windy Saddle trail on Lookout Mountain accessed from the the windy saddle parking lot. You can also access the trail by parking at the Nature Center on top of Lookout Mountain and then you hike 1 mile down to connect to the Beaver Brook trail.
Josh and I started our hike at Genesee Park lot which is the east entrance for the Beaver Brook trail, click here for google map. Take I-70 west and exit Chief Hosa #253; turn north at the off ramp stop sign, then right onto Stapleton Drive. Stapleton drive is a dirt road which you take for less than 1 mile to the winter parking lot which is easy to spot on the left side of the street at Genesee Park. Start walking toward the bathrooms on the hill below, and you will see the trail that leads you down about .4 of a mile to the summer parking lot where you will find the trail maps. Start on the Braille Nature Center trail which will take you to the Beaver Brook Trail one third of a mile away. The Braille Nature Center has lots of great information on the surroundings on the mountainside.
Our route this day was to hike through the Braille Nature Center to the Beaver Brook trail, we hiked Beaver Brook for 2.5 miles, then turned around and looped back on the Chavez Trail. The Beaver Brook trail is well marked with signs on trees that say "B/B" and there are mile markers every half mile. Our total mileage for the hike was just under 8 miles.
It was only 35 degrees when we parked in the nearly empty parking lot on a Sunday afternoon to hike. Josh and I have both been sick with winter colds and needed to get outside into the fresh air. We had a little trouble finding the trail, but after walking down to the bathrooms we were able to follow the heavily traveled path in the snow down to the summer parking lot and trail maps. The hike starts at an elevation of 7,440 and you hike down to Beaver Brook which is just 6,617 feet. The Beaver Brook trail starts just after the Nature Center and it's well marked with signs along the way. The trail starts out in the woods and you catch glimpses of the surrounding mountains and Beaver Brook below. It was very icy on our trek and I wished that we hadn't forgotten our hiking poles which would have made the decent much faster. There are several spots on the trail where there are steep ledges and a narrow trail which was covered in ice that we gingerly walked across.
There is one tricky right hand turn that is easy to miss. After about 1 mile into the Beaver Brook trail there is a sharp turn right down the mountain along some rock stairs. Someone has drawn a black right turn arrow on the sign to help guide you in the right direction.
Once you get into the valley near the brook you will come across a trail intersection. You can make a loop out of the hike and head back to the parking lot on the "Chavez Trail or Nature Trail" which is 1.5 miles back to the parking lot. Or you can continue straight towards Windy Saddle on the Beaver Brook Trail. We opted to continue on the Beaver Brook trail for a while longer hoping to get to the top of Bald Peak at 7,990 feet. Just shortly after this trail intersection the hike starts it's incline. You cross Beaver Brook which was frozen when we hiked and started up the mountainside. The incline is steep at first, but then gets easier as you get out of the woods and continue up the mountain.
The views get better too! You are able to see the mountains between Clear Creek Canyon and I-70, and at some points you can see 6th Ave winding through Clear Creek below you. It was shortly after this point that we checked out watches and decided it was time to turn back, it was 2pm and we had hiked for two hours.
On the way back we decided to make a loop out of the Chavez Trail and hiked that back to the parking lot. The Chavez trail wasn't as steep as the trail we had hiked down, but you did have to cross the river many times. Fortunately, the river was frozen and where it wasn't frozen, we were able to hop across it. But it felt a little dicey as we could hear the rushing water under the ice and weren't certain that it was completely solid.
After 4 hours of hiking we made it back to the car at 4pm, just as it was starting to get dark. It took us exactly 1 hour after starting the Chavez Trail to reach our car at the winter parking lot. We were both exhausted after so many miles of hiking with our colds, but it felt great to get outside.
I look forward to coming back and exploring this area again, it was just 10 minutes from my house and really gives a back-country experience just outside the city! Click here if you'd like to be updated about our next hike adventures.
Here is a map to Genesee Park, you can click it and get directions to the trailhead.
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