Springtime in Colorado is the best time of the year to see the rushing rivers and waterfalls running high from the mountain runoff. One of the best places to hike while walking beside a rushing river to view some falls is the Maxwell Trailhead in Evergreen Colorado. The trail takes you through a typical foothills evergreen forest that makes for shady hiking on a hot day, often Maxwell Creek runs beside the trail, other times the river is just a distant sound in the valley below.
The trail provides some views of the surrounding mountains when a clearing permits, but mostly the lure of this trail are the large Maxwell falls and river beside the trail. A popular trail for dog owners; this trail was busy with dogs and their owners when I hiked on a beautiful Saturday over Memorial Day weekend. There are also other trails which intersect the Maxwell falls trail that you can take instead of hiking through the forest.
Getting There: From the Golden/Lakewood area west of Denver, jump on I-70 and travel west to exit #252, Evergreen Parkway (Hwy 74) for 7.6 miles to the center of Evergreen where Highway 74 and Highway 73 meet. Turn right onto Highway 73 and drive about .9 of a mile to Brook Forest Road and turn right. Take Brook Forest Road for 3.5 miles to the trailhead at Lower Maxwell Falls. This is an easy parking lot to miss, there is not a sign on Brook Forest Road indicating the parking lot, therefore make note of your mileage as you turn onto Brook Forest Road and drive 3.5 miles, the trailhead is on the left or south side of the road.
If you miss this trailhead, you will see a very large damn in the river shortly up the road that you cannot miss, if you reach this damn, turn around and go back just a few tenths of a mile to the trailhead. The parking lot is small, there are no bathrooms, and there is a small overflow lot with additional trails just past the main parking lot if it's full.
The Hike: I arrived at the small and nearly full trailhead at 11:45am, a lot later than I would have liked, but our weekend camping plans were foiled when Josh got really sick. I decided at the last minute to get out and hike by myself after checking once again on my sleeping sick husband. As I drove west into the mountains, I was again disappointed about the ruined camping trip and felt back for my ill husband over his long, well earned, weekend, but I was determined to have a good hike with the dogs.
The trail starts out, and continues, in an evergreen forest alongside Maxwell Creek. The trail does have a fair amount of incline, and gains and looses around 1,000 feet in elevation, but overall it's not a difficult hike. After about 20-25 minutes the trail reaches the top of a bluff and you come to an intersection with 4 other trails. To continue to Maxwell falls, follow the arrow and continue straight.
After the intersection the trail goes down the mountain to the creek; you will cross a bridge and then continue left alongside the river. While hiking along the river there are several places to stop and rest, let the dogs play in the water or wade yourself. Continue along the trail and it will intersect and cross the river another time, follow the signs to Maxwell Falls and the Upper Parking Lot. After about 1 hour of hiking you will reach Maxwell Falls, a large Colorado waterfall; here lots of people can be found relaxing by the water or on the rocks about the water, and it's one of the better kept hiking secrets near the Denver metro area.
The photo to the right shows an aerial view of the falls, the trail comes in way above the river and falls, you need to take one of the many man-made paths down to the river and waterfalls below.
It was at this point that I turned around and started back down the trail toward my car, but I wanted to explore one of the trails that intersected the Maxwell falls trail in photo above. I hiked back to the intersection and turned right, toward the mountains. I continued on this large trail for about 10 minutes when I noticed a smaller path which continued left off the main trail. I speculated that this path might take me to one of the peaks that are noted in the distance and hiked up the path for about 20 minutes through the forest. However, at that point, I didn't know how close I was to this peak that I thought I was climbing to, and decided to head back to my sick husband, I had been hiking for about 1.5 hours by this time.
Continuing down the mountain the same way I came in, and turning right at the trail intersection to reach the lower Maxwell falls parking lot. It took me about 35 minutes of hustling down the mountain to reach my car. The dogs were happy to be back to the vehicle and lay down, it was a hot day and we were all pretty worn out. It took me about 30 minutes to reach my home outside of Golden.
If you have hiked this trail or one of the nearby trails please leave a comment. I would love to hear about some other hikes in this area! Are there any peaks to summit? Click here to join my mailing list and receive updates on other great hikes.
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