Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hildebrand Ranch Park - a new park in Jefferson County Open Space

Looking up at a really cool entwined tree
Jefferson County has been busy in the last two years creating new trails and parks for residents; North Table Mountain has a new trailhead and facilities, Clear Creek Canyon is being developed and Hildebrand Ranch has been created.   Hildebrand Ranch is an Open Space Park for bikes, hikers, and equestrian riders in South Jefferson County between Chatfield Reservoir and Deer Creek Canyon Park.  The land was acquired by Jefferson County in 2001 and began creating the park shortly after, the parking lot is new and very nice well maintained with a brick parking lot instead of concrete; there is a port-o-pot, and good trail maps. 

It didn't take me long to decide what trail to hike yesterday morning, I knew I had to hike somewhere south of the metro area because I needed to stop by a friends house in the area.  I jumped on the Jefferson County website to check out their park map and noticed this new park between Deer Creek and South Valley; it stood out to me because I didn't recall it being there last year.  After asking my friend Laura who lives in the area, I found out that the trailhead was new, and she had noticed the parking lot being built recently. 

Getting there:  The park is located south of C-470 and west of Wadsworth on Deer Creek Canyon Road.  I got to the trail by exiting Wadsworth south from C-470, then I took the first right turn on Deer Creek Canyon Road and drove just over 1 mile to the obvious trailhead on the left.  (past the Botanic Gardens)  You could also reach the trail if you exit Kipling and follow the signs toward Deer Creek Canyon Open Space, but make a left turn on Deer Creek Canyon Road when it intersects with Ute/S. Owens; the trail is just a few hundred yards past the intersection over the hill. 

Golden fields and bright blue skies
Specs:  The trailhead has a parking lot for cars and horses with trailers, a small port-o-potty, and trail maps.  Click here for google map, trail is located about 200 yards to the east of marker.  (google doesn't recognize Open Space yet)  Here is the Jefferson County link. 

The Hike:  I arrived at the park at 10:30am on Wednesday morning and there was just 1 other car in the parking lot and the sun had just burned off the last of the snow clouds from the night before, and the sky was a bright blue.  There was a light dusting of snow that quickly melted away as I stepped onto the trail after giving a quick glimpse to the trail map, which has one big loop in the park, the Two Brands Loop.  I decided I'd do the whole loop and started walking west without taking a trail map, big mistake!  But I thought, how hard can a loop be?  There are no other trails at the park, just the loop and some short unmarked social trails.
The trail west starts going up a small bluff, and you can see views to the Tech Center, and Denver from the trail.  After about 3/4 of a mile, the hard packed, well maintained trail, continues through a Prairie Dog habitat, with large holes all over the fields and side of the bluff.  My dogs were going crazy as the Prairie dogs chirped at us and ran around, Rock, in her youth, would have taken off to chase them, but in her old age, she listened to me and stayed put, attempting to stalk the holes next to the trail.  Belle, on the other hand, was on the leash the entire time; as a terrier she likes to dig and burrow so she would have been down the holes in a heartbeat, it was also her first time seeing prairie dogs.  

Prairie Dog, there are 3 habitats along loop
 I snapped several photos of the cute little critters, and continued on my way; the trail continues along the base of the next bluff and I had hoped it would climb it, but it did not.  We continued to walk along the base of the bluff for probably 1.5 miles before the trail starts to loop back around, the bluff provides views of the neighborhoods below, Chatfield Res, and the mountains to the south and north.  I passed one other person, a unicyclist, riding along the trail on this beautiful sunny day.  I remember the first time seeing unicyclists riding down Apex trail when I first moved to Colorado and I was shocked; that's something you won't see in the Midwest!  Funny, I did have a unicycle when I was a teen, its probably still in my parents garage, but I never graduated to gravel riding, pavement was difficult enough. 
Eventually, the trail starts to turn back east and loop around, it continues on the sides of the smaller bluffs, which provide great views looking south, and another prairie dog habitat.  Then the trail turns north, and you continue your way back.  However, the trail does pass through the large neighborhood which was far below you when hiking on the side of the Hogback Bluff.  It was at this point that I wished I had a trail map, once entering the neighborhood there are several paved paths to take and none of them are marked as the Two Brands trail loop.  

I continued into the neighborhood, hiked to the left of the pond and playground; when I reached the road at the playground, I turned left and walked down the sidewalk toward an open field in hopes to pick up the trail there.  The trail did continue through the field, past homes and eventually intersected again, choice: left or right (not straight or north, the way I needed to go).  It was at this point, after looking at the map in hindsight, where I chose incorrectly.   I picked left or west, back toward the mountains and Hogback Bluff; the trail ended at a road shortly after and here I should have turned around and gone back, but instead I walked up the sidewalk of the road in hopes to find the trail again. 
Trail goes left or right; I came down the two
trail tracks from the neighborhood in middle
I continued on this road and didn't turn off it, after a good 1/2 mile, I could see an open field again with a brown Open Space sign on a barbed wire fence.  I knew it was Open Space beyond the barbed wire fence, so I hopped the fence to get out of suburbia and started walking through the field toward the bluff, figuring I'd retrace my steps back from the trail.  But after just a few yards past the barbed wire fence I came across a two track trail going north and south; I chose to go north and walked just over the hill and could immediately see the parking lot and my car, I was very close!  In hindsight, I should have turned east back at the trail intersection, toward the red barns; this would loop me through the Botanic Gardens on the Two Brands trail, and back to the parking lot.  
The two track trail took me right to the Two Brands Loop where I had started; and I probably cut out about 3/4-1 mile, which was through the Denver Botanic Gardens, but I was ready to be done with the hike after the suburban mess I had walked into.  (see photo to rt)
This is a great trail and I look forward to coming back sometime and trying my hand at mountain biking here, the bluffs would make for a simple ride for those who are a little less daring on the mountain bike, like myself. 

Map Below; click it to input your personal directions. The trailhead is just 100 yards to the right or east of pin.
Check out some of these other hikes nearby too; Deer Creek Canyon, Roxborough State Park, and Waterton Canyon

View Larger Map

Hat can be found on my site


  1. Have you been back to the trail yet? I ran it a few times and, just like you, got lost in the housing development and ended up hopping the fence and following the two track trail back to the parking lot. The proper route is to go east through the little park, like you said, but the trail I took eventually led north to a street (Holland) that took me back to the open space and on to the two brands trail again. Dis you eventually go through the Botanic Gardens?

    Thaks for your write up about this park!!


  2. Thanks for the info Mark! I did not go through the Botanic Gardens and haven't been back to the pak since the first hike. Knowing the correct way to go will definitely help out my readers!