Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Beaver Brook Trail to Windy Saddle Park; Jefferson County Colorado

Beaver Brook Creek with one of many small waterfalls
The Beaver Brook trail spans 8.65 miles from the trailhead in Genesee to the Windy Saddle parking lot on the Golden side of Lookout Mountain.  The trail is 8.6 miles one way and makes for a great day hike if you have a shuttle back to your car.  Josh and I hiked this trail last winter but we did hiked a few miles out then picked up the Chavez trail to make it a loop; but I knew I had to go back and complete the entire 8.6 mile hike.  The Beaver Brook trail is a hiker only, back-country trail just outside of the city on Lookout Mountain.  The trail is moderately difficult; (7 out of 10) with a few very steep sections in the beginning near Genesee and some sections with big boulders on the Windy Saddle side.  The trail provides good views into Clear Creek Canyon and of the Continental Divide, as well as sections through the forest and meadows. 

Getting there:  I started this hike in Genesee.  Take I-70 West to the top of Lookout Mountain to the Chief Hosa exit #253 and turn right and right again onto dirt Stapleton Drive.  Continue down the road approximately 1 mile to one of two parking lots.  The closest lot is smaller with a pit toilet but it's farther from the start of the hiking trail.  The second parking lot is farther down the dirt road, it is again small, there are no bathrooms but there is a trail sign and map. 
Views of Denver in the distance &; destination Lookout Mtn
Specs:  Hikers can start from the Windy Saddle Parking lot on Lookout Mountain or from Genesee.  There are pit toilets at the Genesee side but none on the Windy Saddle side which also has a small and crowded parking lot.  On the Genesee side 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 including plants, trees and other wildlife.  The entire Beaver Brook trail is marked with "B/B" signs on the trees along with mileage markers.  Click here for Windy Saddle trailhead map; the red line is the Beaver Brook trail which continues to Genesee and here for the Genesee side map. 
The Journey:  To hike the entire Beaver Brook trail, I needed a shuttle from one end back to the other.  My hubby goes to work early and I didn't want to get up around 4am to move cars and start hiking, so I decided to start the hike at 12:30pm and I expected to be at Windy Saddle by 4:30.  The entire hike is 8.6 miles, and I have read that you can estimate time hiked in a pretty easy equation.  Add one hour for ever 2 miles hiked; and 1 hour for each 1000 feet in elevation gain.  The equation is a rough estimate, sometimes I find myself hiking faster than this and other times slower when there is great scenery and nature to photograph.  I expected to complete the hike in 4 hours; even though the hiking calculator estimated closer to 5 hours; and I actually finished the hike in 4.5 hours.  
Views from the best overlook on trail @5.5 miles remaining

The beginning of the trail from Genesee starts going downhill all the way to the creek, Beaver Brook; it takes you through the ponderosa pine forest with numerous dry climate plants like juniper trees along the way.  There are several small stream crossings in the first 3 miles of the hike and the dogs were able to be off leash easily with plenty of water to drink and cool off in.  The trail is well marked with B/B symbols on the trees along the way, and each 1/2 mile is marked, which is really helpful in knowing how far you still have left to hike. 
After you reach the bottom of a ravine with willow trees just after the 7.0 mile marker (7 miles remaining, the markers count down) the trail starts a very steep, long incline that seemed to last forever, although it was nothing like being here on the icy trail last winter with the slipping and sliding, but it was very steep.  The trail continues to climb in elevation once out of the pine forest up the drier side of the mountain, once you reach the forest near the top there are views to the north into Clear Creek Canyon with the sounds of Hwy 6 and the river far below.  From here the trail continues to meander up the mountain and near the 5.5 mile marker there is another trail that intersects the Beaver Brook trail.   At the intersection I was confused which way to go, but I continued straight and shortly after saw another B/B trail sign which confirmed that I was heading in the right direction.   It's just after this intersection that the photo above was taken; the overlook is a great place to stop for lunch, take some pictures and enjoy the views. 
At overlook past the trail intersection. BB Sign w/ mileage
After the overlook the trail heads downhill and it was at this time that one of the three hikers I saw all day passed me.  The trail was very secluded and I was able to see some wildlife along the way.  There were numerous gray squirrels, aberts squirrels, and I even saw an elk and some deer.  It was at this point that I started worrying about mountain lions again and I had to remind myself that it was 3 in the afternoon and all the mountain lions were sleeping.  When I had myself convinced that everything was OK and to get over my paranoia I was passing through a beautiful meadow and entering the woods when all of a sudden a big black thing was in the middle of the trail and it stopped me in my tracks!   Holy Cow!  It was, in fact, a black cow, which took one look at me and promptly started to charge at me.  I quickly grabbed the dogs and climbed up the side of the mountain because we were on a very thin trail with a steep drop off on one side and there was no-where else to go.  I was wondering what the heck a cow was doing on the side of the mountain and how I was going to get past it.  I decided to go through the brush and weeds above the cow on the trail below and it looked at me and considered charging again, but then decided against it, probably because it was very steep!   I finally got around a curve and past the cow and made sure it wasn't following me and chuckled out loud about nearly being attacked by a cow.  I tried to think of the best news headline the entire rest of the hike, my friend came up with the best one though; "Moooove over for animals while hiking; local girl gets trampled on trail by cow". 
Small waterfall about 2 miles from end
After the cow encounter, the remainder of the hike was pretty uneventful.  The trail continues around the backside of Lookout Mountain and it eventually intersects and continues on the Jefferson County Open Space trails.  Once reaching the Lookout Mountain side of the hike, I was familiar with the trails and knew that I was pretty close to being done.  There are a few difficult spots to navigate on this side of the hike around large boulders, but I made it past those spots easily enough and knew the end was almost in site.  The sun was starting to set and the mountains were starting to be the black silhouette of night as the sky turned pink and orange.  This is my favorite time to look at the front range mountains, and I stopped and snapped photo's before hurrying to complete the hike because I was getting hungry for dinner. 
At 4:45 I came around the corner and saw the parking lot and Josh waiting for me on the bench, he was also watching the sun setting over the mountains.  We drove over the top of Lookout Mountain to I-70 and got my truck and then went home.  I am glad I finally got to complete the entire 8.6 mile trail, it was a great back country experience close to Golden.   Other hikes in the area you might like are Clear Creek Canyon hikes which are secluded with views into the canyon and Dakota Ridge a trail with amazing views and dinosaur tracks. 
Here is a map of the two starting/ending points of the trail.  Please leave a comment or question and click here if you'd like to be updated about future trail information.

View Larger Map


  1. Thank you, beautiful description. I was on the Lookout Mt. trail from Windy Saddle yesterday and saw the turn off to Beaver Brook trail and was curious about where it went. You provided great details - so many trail descriptions are really vague. Thanks again, I can't wait to try this!

  2. Thanks for posting! My spouse and I love trying out new places, and having a preview like this is super helpful in planning our day. Will be checking back with you as time goes on, I'm sure.

    Try a family hike at Pawnee Buttes sometime. Rugged and remote, sacred Native American land. Just gorgeous. That's one we return to periodically.

    Take care!

  3. This is a good review; however, dogs need to be leashed at all times on this trail.