Monday, February 1, 2010

Bergen Peak 9,708 feet, Evergreen Colorado

I have had Bergen Peak on my hiking "to do" list for a long time now, but never made the time for the 9.4 mile round trip hike. Last night I decided I had procrastinated long enough, and prepared myself for the solo hike up to the top of 9,708 ft Bergen Peak.
Bergen Peak is located in the Elk Meadow Open Space Park in Jefferson County. The land which is now Elk Meadow Open Space was sold by the Means family, who used the land for their horses to graze, to the Open Space in 1975. Elk Meadow Park has over 400 acres of land for your hiking, biking and equestrian activities.

Getting There
From I-70 West Exit #252, Evergreen Parkway or highway 74. Take this road toward Evergreen for 2.25 miles, you will see Elk Meadow Park on your right.
There is a parking lot on the right off highway 74 at Lewis Ridge Road, which is easy to spot. A second access to the Elk Meadow Park (also called Bergen Peak Lot), where I began my hike, is farther up hwy 74 past the first parking lot. Continue on 74 then rurn Right at Stagecoach Blvd and continue up Stagecoach for 1.3 miles to the trailhead on the right. Click here for map and directions.
There is also a off leash dog park across the street from the Bergen Peak parking lot. This is a large off-leash dog park and great for friendly dogs who like to play!

The Journey I decided Sunday evening that I wanted to hike a peak Monday morning, and Bergen Peak has eluded me for quite a while. Mostly because the length of the trail to reach the peak is 9.4 miles round trip and a prior attempt to reach the summit was ended after a late start and the sun began to set before we made it to the top. I left my house in Golden, Colorado around 8:30am and thought to myself that it was going to be a beautiful, sunny, but cool day on the trail. I got in the car and jumped on I-70 and immediately after starting up the mountain the truck was hit by a huge guest of wind! "Oh great, wind!" I thought sarcastically.
When I reached the nearly deserted parking lot shortly before 9am, the wind was so strong a small dust storm started in the lot and my temperature gauge read 28 degrees on my truck. brrr!
After a quick trip to the restroom, I started climbing up the mountain. The route I took to the peak was Meadow View Trail for 1 mile until reaching the Bergen Peak Trail which is 2.7 miles to reach the final turnoff which is 1 mile to the summit for a total of 4.7 miles one way. Here is a link to the trail map.

The sun was shining brightly as I started the hike but the wind made it very cold and I hiked briskly up the trail which continues through the woods. The trees part often enough for the sun to shine down on the trail melting the snow and for some incredible views of hwy 74, Evergreen Lake and the front range mountains in every direction as the trail winds around the moutain. The trail conditions were a mixture of hard packed snow in the woods and dirt, rock and gravel where the sun reaches the trail. This hike was not as slippery as many of the trails I have done this winter, and I didn't really need hiking poles or crampons for the journey. The switchbacks up the mountain are very gradual compared to other hikes, and I was able to make it to the final 1 mile trail to the summit in just an hour and a half. (in photo below)

It took me about 30 minutes from this trail sign to reach the summit, which is 1 mile per the trail maps. The trail winds around the mountain which blocked the wind for a good part of the hike and everytime I thought the wind had died down, I would turn a corner and was reminded that the wind was still coming from the west and it had not died down at all! About halfway up the final mile there is a "scenic viewpoint" marked with a sign which would have been a great stopping point had it not been for the wind. Eventually the trail levels off and winds around the summit to the peak, which took me 2 hours exactly from the start of the trail. There is an antenna and it's solar powered panel on the top of the mountain just beyond that is the highest point of Bergen Peak marked with a summit sign; 9,708 feet.

The best views on the summit are not at the very top, but at the rock outcropping you will pass just before the antenna. I stopped there to call my husband and tell him I had made it to the top and I was safe, then I called my dad who hiked with me on this trail in a prior attempt, ate some lunch and took some photos. From the top I was able to pick out 14,000 foot peaks, Mt. Evans and Bierstadt, Pikes Peak, and the city of Denver. The views are partially obstructed by trees but they are sparse enough to allow some great photo opportunities.

It would have been ideal in the warm sun on the peak to sit and enjoy the view, but the cold blowing wind made it unbearable. I had only passed one other hiker on this cool Monday morning, but after sitting on the peak for 30 minutes until 11:30, two more hikers had reached the peak. It was at this time the solitude was over, the dogs were restless, and I started my descent at 11:30am.
I was pretty cold at that point and started to jog down the mountain to get warm, and continued to jog when I remembered that I will be sporting a bathing suit in May and need to feel comfortable in it :)
I reached the car just before 1:00pm, making it down in under 1.5 hours. The hike in total was 9.4 miles and took me 4 hours to complete, with 30 minutes to rest on the peak. Despite the length of the hike, this is a very do-able peak to achieve with a relatively gradual incline, its also ideal for mountain biking and trail running.

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