Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A sunny, spring hike on Saddleback Mountain Peak, 9,568 feet

March has rolled in like a lamb, here in Colorado.  After a cold and snowy February; March has brought sunshine, warmer temperatures, and the smell of springtime to the Front Range.  This warm weather really motivates me to get outside and hike; it also gets me excited about hiking 14ers this summer!   
Yesterday, I hiked Saddleback Mountain which is a little known trailhead in the Clear Creek Open Space that takes you to the peak at 9,568 feet.   The total hike was just over 3 miles round trip and took just an hour and a half to complete. There are no facilities or map at the trailhead, just a small parking lot and Clear Creek Open space sign.

Getting there:  From the Denver metro area; jump on I-70 heading west to exit #248 the Beaver Brook/Floyd Hill Exit.  At the exit ramp turn right and then make an immediate left onto CO-40 also called Frontage Road.  Drive one mile west on 40; then make a left turn toward Beaver Brook/Floyd Hill and head South over the highway.  After crossing the highway you will reach a stop sign and a T in the road; turn right here onto Hyland Drive for just .2 tenths of a mile, then you reach another stop sign.  Go straight at this stop sign onto Saddleback road.  Saddleback road heads up the mountain for about 1.5 miles through a neighborhood; next turn right at Saddle Ridge Road. (click photo below)  Continue up Saddle Ridge road for 1 mile until you reach the trailhead.  The trailhead is very small, with a spot for just 2 or 3 cars and it's directly in front of you on a switch back very easy to spot.  The trailhead sits below a very large white house at the top of the road, which dead ends shortly after the trailhead, so you will know if you have gone too far.  Here is a map with the destination and two ways to reach the trailhead from the exit.  
**Note; exit 248 has a different exit if the driver is heading east.  If you are heading east on I-70 to reach this trailhead; turn right at the exit ramp and make another immediate right onto Hyland drive and follow the directions above from there.  There is also two ways to reach the trailhead through the neighborhoods, check out the map to print your own directions.  
The Journey:
I woke up to a bright and sunny day on Tuesday and was eager to get outside and hike.  I have always seen Saddleback Mountain while driving out I-70, but never knew it's peak was accessible.  After finding my destination I gathered my gear and dogs and drove into the mountains.  I had a very difficult time finding the hike from the exit; thus the detailed directions above, but after finally finding Saddle Ridge road the trailhead was just 1 mile farther up the road and easy to spot.  There are no toilets or facilities at the trailhead, and no map either.  
I started up the trail which starts in the woods, fortunately there were prior tracks in the snow to follow.  After about .3 of a mile you exit the woods and are greeted with a huge round climbable rock and views looking east of I-70 and Denver.  Due to the limited use and knowledge of this trail, it was difficult for me to find the trail at this point.  I am sure in the summer months without snow, the trail would be easy to find, but with the snow and few tracks made it somewhat difficult.   My philosophy is "when in doubt, go up" so I hiked upward and found the trail again shortly after.  Throughout the hike, I had a somewhat difficult time finding the trail; but here are a few tips for you.  The trail is outlined by fallen tree logs (see photo below), search for these and you will be able to find the trail again.  Also, the entire route just switchbacks up the side of the mountain; if you loose the trail just continue upward and you will find it again shortly. 
The trail continues to climb up the mountain with switchbacks that are on a mild incline. The views looking back east are pretty incredible; and I could see all the way to Denver on the clear sunny day.  After about 40 minutes, I reached the summit of the mountain just under a large rock outcropping (see photo below).  To reach the top, which is not able to be seen due to the rock outcropping, walk around the rocks to the north of them to the back of the outcropping.  You will see the top of the mountain with views to the south and east.  The views to the west are obscured by the trees.   After reaching the summit, walk down to the top of the rock outcropping for even better views to the east.   After taking some time on the top to take photos and admire the views, I started back down the mountain and it only took about 25 minutes for me to reach my car.  In total the hike was just over 3 miles and took me an hour and a half, but I was walking slowly to enjoy the views.  This is a great hike close to the Denver metro area and a very hike able peak for most skill levels. 
If you have hiked this peak or have questions or comments, I would love to hear them!

No comments:

Post a Comment