Tag Archives: Front Range

Matthews/Winters Park, Lakeview CO Hiked 5/17/14

23 May

best view

Zorro Trail> Dakota Ridge Trail> Village Walk>Red Rocks Trail> Morrison Slide> Red Rocks Trail> Dakota Ridge> Zorro Trail

Starting elevation: 6055 ft

Highest Elevation: 6800ft ( total Elevation gain was around 1600 ft)

Trail Length: Approximately 9 miles, it took us 4 hours to do the whole hike

Trail Uses: Some sections are hiking & horses only, most are hiker, biker & horses

Degree of Difficulty:  Moderate-mostly because of length

Fees:  None

Bathrooms:  At the parking lot of both Green Mountain and Matthews/Winters Park parking lots

Pets:  Yes – On Leash

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At 5PM on Friday I found our hike for the weekend, it didn’t give me the climbing I wanted for the but it did give us some good mileage plus we had never done this one, extra bonus.  I had wanted to do this one for over a year, but I had written across the map “lots of snakes only hike in winter”  and yet this winter we were obsessed with snowshoeing and completely forgot about this one.

Saturday was strangely humid for Denver so when we pulled up to the trailhead we were cold but determined to not overdress this time.  We actually parked in the lot for Green Mountain (hike details)in Lakewood because that was the best place to start for the loop hike we wanted to attempt.

Starting out

Starting out looking towards the trailhead

The trailhead across Rooney Road

The trailhead across Rooney Road

Zorro is a nice easy climb up about 500 ft over the course of almost of a mile to the Dakota Ridge Trail.  The bad part of this section is all the noise from 470 on this side and then when we got over the ridge, I70 noise was also super loud.

One of the views as we approached the top of Zorro

One of the views as we approached the top of Zorro

Some rocky steps close to the top of Zorro.

Some rocky steps close to the top of Zorro.

As we were on this side of the mountain or hogback, there were clouds all over the front range and they were low.  Green mountain just across the road was covered in clouds, when we got to the top it was all blue skies over Red Rocks.

Green Mountain all cloudy

Green Mountain all cloudy

Dakota Ridge Trail - Go right.

Dakota Ridge Trail – Go right.

Yay Blue skies

Yay Blue skies

Me on Dakota Ridge with Red Rocks in the background

Me on Dakota Ridge with Red Rocks in the background

We walked along this until we crossed over to the west side and through some trees, had a small break from traffic noise until we could see I70 and then the noise was all back.  We could also see the parking lot for Matthews/Winters Park below us.

Coming down Dakota Ridge

Coming down Dakota Ridge

There is Matthews/Winters Park...and I70

There is Matthews/Winters Park…and I70

Coming down Dakota Ridge was the most muddy part of the whole hike but wasn’t super bad and before we knew it we were at the road crossing to get to the next set of trails.

Matthews/Winters Park

Matthews/Winters Park

Trail Map

Trail Map

As we got to the next section of our hike, there were a bunch of vault toilets that we could take advantage of.  It was also the start of all of this fantastic red beauty and because of all the snow the weekend before, the green was amazing against the red.  We took Village Walk ( no Bikes allowed) To the Red Rocks Trail.

Changing over from Dakota Ridge to Village walk.

Changing over from Dakota Ridge to Village walk.

The next trail section starts just after this creek crossing.

The next trail section starts just after this creek crossing.

Village walk

There is an old Cemetery just off the Village Walk Trail.

There is an old Cemetery just off the Village Walk Trail.

Red Rocks goes back to bikers and hikers

Red Rocks Trail start

Red Rocks Trail start

I have to tell when we got to this part of the hike, I was so glad it snowed the week before because the flowers were so plentiful and as we got to the lowest part on this trail there was an oasis of green & red with the running water was stunning.  It was the best part of the hike!

An Oasis

An Oasis

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From here we started climbing back up to the Morrision Slide trail, which climbs up to a lovely flat with lots of views of everywhere we had been so far and where we were going.  It is also the highest part of the hike.

Picking up Morrison Slide

Picking up Morrison Slide

Views of Red Rocks and the Part of Dakota Ridge we had already been on

Views of Red Rocks and the part of Dakota Ridge we had already been on

Morrison Slide flat part on a beautiful day

Morrison Slide flat part on a beautiful day

After the beautiful flat top of Morrison Slide we started descending back to Red Rocks Trail.

Back on Red Rocks Trail

Back on Red Rocks Trail

Trail Conditions coming down Red Rocks Trail

Trail Conditions coming down Red Rocks Trail

I have to tell you coming down this portion of red rocks trail was really hard to not keep looking behind us as it was just a perfect view.  Which made the next section a little disappointing because it was detour on a regular road with car traffic, down to the other side of the Dakota Ridge Trail which also is known as Dinosaur Ridge.  I saw that the construction in Red Rocks had forced a detour of the trail but I never guessed it was actually on the road.

Boo - Detour :(

Boo – Detour 😦

Crossing over to the Dinosaur Ridge part and a closed road.

Crossing over to the Dinosaur Ridge part and a closed road.

This is cool!

This is cool!

I have heard about this place but I have to tell you it was way cooler then I thought it would be.   They left dinosaur bones in the rock so that people could see what they look like when they are discovered!  We were like little kids checking it all out, oohing and ahhing

Dinosaur bones

As we finished up reading about all the bones and the changing landscape, we got back to the original Dakota ridge trail.

End of detour

no more paved road

no more paved road

This last section of the hike was all white and felt so different from the rest of the hike and I loved the change!

The last stretch

I really enjoyed this hike and I honestly think we did it with perfect conditions, on the best day possible.   It is a really exposed trail which means in the summer it is likely HOT, I mean it didn’t get much above 60 while we were hiking and the sweat was pouring off of us-now I get why there are typically a lot of snakes here.   The downside(outside of the snakes of course) is how close it is to both 470 & I70, the noise went away for a good portion of the hike but when it was around it was pretty bad.   Despite that, I will for sure do it again and likely bring guest hikers here because of the great views of Red Rocks.  After the directions will be pictures of all the flowers we had the good fortune to catch before they burn off in the sun.

This 3 day weekend we will get in 2 hikes that will both likely be repeaters!  I hope you all have great plans for the holiday weekend that includes a hike!  Life is too short… you should hike more!

Directions: Take I-70 West from Denver for about 9 miles to C470-East exit (exit 260). Go about 2 miles on C470 East and take the Alameda Parkway exit. Turn right onto Alameda Parkway, then take your first right onto Rooney Road. Go about 1.5 miles and the trail head parking lot will be on your right.

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Spruce Mountain Trail, Larkspur CO (Repeater) 9/26/13

10 Oct
View at the top

View at the top

A couple of weeks ago I had the best visitor in town….my sister!  While we were planning her visit, she let me know she wanted to see more of Colorado and to see it the way I have been seeing it, by hiking.   We only had 5 days to visit and hike, so like a crazy person I planned aggressively, 4 hikes in those 5 days.  The day she landed I picked her up fed her and drove her right to the trailhead here for a quick acclimatizing hike.

Spruce Mountain Trail (hike details here) is one of those good an easy hikes to take flatlanders to first.  A solid 5.5 miles with a little bit of elevation gain with amazing views all up and down the front range.

When we pulled up and started getting ready to hike I noticed these 2 school buses slowing down at the entrance to the parking lot, for a second I thought maybe it was just dropping off kids after school but it was noon on a Thursday.  Sure enough both buses unloaded at the parking lot entrance for a hike….our hike …….. right then.  And then they were moving right up the trail ahead of us.  Hiking with 100-ish kids seemed like it would be…..crowded.

It was actually not that bad, we needed to move more slowly at first anyway plus we got to talk to some of the teachers.  The kids were finishing up their week of outdoor education and this hike was like their graduation.  It made me wish I had grown up in Colorado just so I could have outdoor education as part of my school curriculum.  Eventually they stopped and had lunch, when we walked past them they all cheered ….. it was kinda cool, cute and encouraging.  What a great way to start our week of hiking, with our own cheering section helping us ring in our first hike.

It. Was. Awesome!!!!!

Outside of our fabulous hiking buddies, the day was beautiful and with some wind – perfect.  We could see a lot of trail  damage from all the flooding the week before, I mean the trail was still in good shape but there were huge crevices all over the place.   We had great views of Pikes Peak and the front range but Long’s peak was hard to see because of the brown cloud that tends to sit over the front range.  We could sort of see it but not capture it in a picture.

Mary did awesome and we kicked the trail’s butt, finishing in just 2 hours, an hour less than I had planned.   Better yet, she loved the trail,  the whole time oooohhhiiiinnnngggg and aaaahhhhiiiinnnngggg.  It made the hike even more special for me!  There is something about getting to share my love of Colorado with the most important people in my life this way.  Hiking Rocks!

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St. Vrain Mountain Trail, Allens Park CO 6/15/13 Part 1

19 Jun
Part of the view at the top

Part of the view at the top

Starting Elevation: 8940ft

Highest elevation: 12, 162 Ft ( With all the snow fields we ended up going for a total elevation gain of 3400Ft)

Trail Length: Officially it is 8.6 miles but going around some of the snow fields and our route up my fitbit said 13 miles. It took us 8 solid hours to complete.

Trail Uses: hikers/ joggers

Degree of Difficulty: Difficult/Strenuous.

Bathrooms: None

Pets: Dogs are allowed on leash only but note that this does cross over to Rocky Mountain National Park at some places and dogs are NOT allowed there.

View to the south at the top

View to the south at the top

We tried this hike about a month ago and the snow won out. Saturday it was much easier and while snow was still a factor, it didn’t stop us from making it to the summit of St. Vrain Mountain. I read about this hike in the Colorado mountain Club Guidebook for the Best Front Range Hikes and when it said 7 hours to do a max of 9.6 miles for both St. Vrain Mt AND Meadow Mountain I figured we should have no problem completing it in less time. Now that I have actually done it, I want to know how someone does this and Meadow mountain in just 7 hours.

It was a pretty amazing hike and I picked a crazy amount of pictures so I have decided to do this one in 2 parts, one on the way up and one for the way down as surprisingly they were 2 very different hikes.

Let’s talk the start and our way up, we got to the parking lot a little later than we planned around 7:45 and started hiking around 8AM. The road from Allens Park to the trailhead does require 4 wheel drive and while there is a parking lot, it is small no more than 8 or 10 vehicles, but you can park on the side of the road leading up to the trailhead. It was almost full when we got there and 2 cars pulled in while we got ready.

ParkinglotTrailhead

The trail itself starts off with a nice steady incline nothing too hard to warm you up. There are some rocks through out the path but initially it doesn’t start out too bad and the weather was perfect high 40’s and not a cloud in the sky. We started peeling off layers pretty quickly, I love that about Colorado 47 feels like 70 and then again so can 90.

Start of the trail

We made it to the Indian Peaks Wilderness sign in a third of the time it took us on our first attempt, which is just under a mile in to the trail.

Entering Indain wilderness

The trail started to get rockier here,while the creek started moving up along the south side of the trail. The nice thing was, no snow in sight and what we learned was that we totally went the wrong way last time. The trail stays pretty close to the creek as it starts to switchback up the mountain and the creek is RUSHING nice and loud from all the snow melt right now.

Lower part of the trail as we got closer to the stream

Outside of the actual summit climb, I would say this is the most steep section of the trail.

At about 2 miles in the views started to really open up all around and while we had some tree cover we were in the sun about half the time. It was really strong and so we slathered on the sunblock early. The snow melt was also interesting in that there were little paths of water working their ways towards the larger creek and often are part of the trail itself.

About 2 miles into the trail on a switchback as we caught a glimpse close to our goal.

About 2 miles into the trail on a switchback as we caught a glimpse close to our goal.

The view at the end of a switchback and the view southeast.

The view at the end of a switchback and the view southeast.

Trail is snowmelt runoff.

Trail is snowmelt runoff.

We did actually have to cross over the main creek but it was at a good spot and then the switchbacks got very long as we crossed over to other side of the valley here the trees started to spread out. We got to our first snow field at close to 3 miles in and it was interesting as we had to start in a runoff path and then climb up on to the field. From there we followed those who went before us to get back on the trail. It was surprisingly easy but a little nerve-racking as we knew it was deepish snow.

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We were making decent time all this way, in fact we did this in less time then it took us to go a mile the first time. The snow fields would slow us down a bit and certainly take more energy but overall they weren’t as bad as what we had been dealing with.

As we started to get closer to the tree line, there were still lots of runoff and I have learned to look behind us often because it is always so beautiful, this time was no disappointment.

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The back the way we came, East - Southeast

The back the way we came, East – Southeast

As we came up to the saddle between mountains, the most spectacular view starting coming into play

Coming to the pass

Coming to the pass

We also now figured out it was Meadow Mountain on our right. In the trail descriptions I could find it is often suggested to hit Meadow Mountain for an extra .6 miles round trip and an extra 400 foot elevation gain and then go onto to St. Vrain Mountain. I had decided that if we had time and stamina we would try this addition on the way back but our main goal was St. Vrain Mountain, mostly because I had read there is no defined path up Meadow Mountain that it would require a lot of bouldering. Somehow I missed that St. Vrain mountain was exactly the same only more than twice the height and distance to cover.

As we passed Meadow Mountain and got to the border of the Rocky Mountain National Park, it was hard not to constantly stare at the amazing beauty of the massive mountains to our right; Longs Peak, Mt. Meeker and Lady Washington as well as the beautiful flowers all along the path, small but plentiful!

Meadow Mountain Behind us.

Meadow Mountain Behind us.

Rocky Mountain National Park Border

Rocky Mountain National Park Border

Us at the border sign very excited about the hike so far.

Us at the border sign very excited about the hike so far.

View from higher up on the pass trail.

View from higher up on the pass trail.

The trail goes from Meadow Mountain over to St. Vrain and at a nice easy incline, when we got to the last the snow field before the final climb the amount of snow and water was amazing. It was not unlike a marsh, Aaron randomly put his pole in a little pool of water only to watch it go down a couple of feet. It was a bit of a shock and really struck home how much we have left to learn about hiking in Colorado.

We followed one pair of hikers through the last snowfield to the base of the summit climb. We saw one lone hiker making his own path down and a couple of snowboarders getting in a run down the large snowfield on the East face of St. Vrain Mountain, all going via different routes. As we approached the end of the snow field, no path was discernible and so Aaron kept the couple a bit head in view and tried to follow where it looked like they might have gone.

Approaching the Boulder field.  It is already pretty steep.

Approaching the Boulder field. It is already pretty steep.

Climbing over the steepest edge of the boulder field

Climbing over the steepest edge of the boulder field and false summit

THe view north as the boulder field ended and we were steps away from the summit,

The view north as the boulder field ended and we were steps away from the summit.

Wind Shelter

Wind Shelter

I can tell you I was pretty stressed the entire climb up and repeatedly thought about asking Aaron to turn around, not because the height bothered me but I was using so much strength to crawl over the boulders and for so long with it getting more steep. At some point I realized that I was trying to give up and convince myself I couldn’t do things like this because of my size, but the truth is I was doing just fine. Yes it was hard and yes I was pushing my limits but I was still ok. Interestingly Aaron was doing the same thing for different reasons but because I kept on following him without complaint he kept on going. When we reached the summit I was so crazy proud of us that I didn’t even care how windy it was getting. We shared the wind shelter at the top with another couple that was so incredibly nice. It took us 4 and half hours to get to the top and probably at least an hour of it for the summit climb alone. We ate some food, took a bunch of pictures and then headed back down. More to come on the way down, but first the directions and a few favorite pictures from the way up.

Directions:

From Boulder, take Highway 36 north until it dead ends. Turn left at the light towards Lyons and continue through the town of Lyons until you reach another dead-end. Turn left onto Highway 7 which will take you through St. Vrain Canyon from Lyons to Allenspark. Upon entering Allenspark, take County Road 107 (ski road) south for about 1.5 miles. At this point, National Forest System Road #116 heads up the hill to your right for about .5 miles to the St. Vrain Mountain Trailhead there is a sign noting the trailhead that way. Parking is limited at the trailhead.

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