Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mud-fest through Roxborough State Park to Carpenter Peak 7,160 feet.

Spring is here, until the next snowstorm, but today was definitely "shorts" wearing weather and I loved it!
I decided to hike Roxborough State Park which is southwest of Denver on this beautiful sunny 60 degree day in March. Roxborough is a state park which does not allow any dogs, so I have never hiked here before because of this. But my dog Rock has a sprained ankle and needs to take it easy for a week, so it was my chance to hike at Roxborough without feeling bad about leaving the dogs.
I can't believe I have lived so close to this State Park and not visited before, the giant red rocks, bowls and rims in the foothills and lots of foliage makes this park a photographers dream.

Getting There: From the Golden Colorado area take C-470 east and exit South onto Wadsworth Blvd. Continue South on Wadsworth/S. Platte Canyon Road for 4.3 miles and make a Left turn onto Waterton Road. There are signs here directing you to the park, so it's an easy turn to spot. Drive on Waterton road for about 1.5 miles through the Chatfield Canyon area (which offers great hiking as well). This road dead ends at a light at Rampart Range Road. Turn Right onto Rampart Range Road and take this road for 2.2 miles until you reach the park by making a left turn at Roxborough Lane. Enter the park and pay the $6 daily fee; then drive the 1.7 miles to the visitors center where you can park. Many trails start from the visitors’ center, but not all of them. Here is the park map and park website for more information.  Click here for google map. 

The Journey:
Due to a cold, I got a late start from my house, and didn't leave until shortly after 11am for the 26 mile drive to Roxborough State Park. It took me just over 30 minutes in no traffice to get to the park, I paid my fee and parked in the visitors center parking lot. I knew that I wanted to hike Carpenter Peak, a 6.4 mile round trip hike to the highest point in the park and stopped at the visitors center to pick up a park map before I started my way down the Willow Creek Trail.  Continue walking through the red rocks for .6 miles on the Willow Creek trail then follow the signs toward Carpenter Peak. The trails are very well marked and easy to follow even in the winter. One of the rangers in the visitors center had warned me that the trails were muddy, and boy was she right! My boots were wet and muddy from the moment I started up the trail and it only got worse as the hike went on, but even in the mud the hike was worth it. Roxborough State Park is truly a gem just outside of the metro area, the most spectacular part of the park is the South Rim. The rim a large mountain rim that circles the south end of the park and inside this bowl are huge outcroppings of red rocks. To the west of this are the larger front range mountains and the trail to Carpenter Peak.

The Carpenter Peak trail first winds up the mountain with incredible views of the red rocks and south rim below. The higher the trail gets, the more frequently it takes you through the pine forest where the trail is shaded and covered in snow instead of mud.  Eventually the trail crosses another trail called the Elk Valley Trail, once you reach this point you have about 10 more minutes until you reach a viewpoint and you are able to see your destination, rocky Carpenter Peak to the northwest.  There is a bench here to check out the views to the west and a great turnaround point for a shorter hike, Carpenter peak is approximately 40 minutes from this point.  And the mud just got worse!  At one point near the top there was a small river of melting snow running directly down the hiking trail making slipping and sliding inevitable.  I just tried to focus on my music blaring in my ipod instead my feet getting wetter and the trail getting more sloppy.  After a particularly bad part of the trail where the river/trail passed through tight oak scrub and I couldn't even put my hiking pole down without it getting snagged the trail comes to an intersection with a sign saying Carpenter Peak  just .1 miles away.  I hiked the last bit of incline and the peak ends in round red rocks and pine trees at 7,160 feet.   
The views of the red rocks and houses below and city of Denver to the far east are beautiful!  Looking west the distant front range 14ers are visible.  I ate my lunch in company of a small chipmunk who was too quick for my camera and the only hikers I saw the entire day who sat on a rock and chatted.  It took me one hour and 35 minutes to reach the peak, but would have been faster had the trail been in better condition as I would expect it to be this spring and summer. 
I decided to head down around 2pm and I slipped the entire way with a couple of minor falls.  Fortunately, I had my new Leki hiking pole which has come in handy on these long and slick winter/spring hikes and I arrived back at my car at 3:23pm and made it home before 4pm. 
Roxborough State park is a great place for a day hike, but the unfortunate downfall for me is that no dogs are allowed.   Another great trail in the park is the South Rim trail recommended by the ranger, which was much less muddy in the wintertime and it has incredible views of the park and surrounding mountains.  If you have any suggestions of hikes in the park or nearby I would love to hear them! 

Here is a google map, you can click it and input your own address for directions.

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1 comment:

  1. Yes, we hiked Roxborough before we had Avery. It is an amazing park!