Staunton SP

Staunton SP

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Staunton State Park

Staunton State Park Website (CDP&W)

Staunton State Park is Colorado's newest state park, opening in 2013.  This park is a worthy addition to the State Park System and one of the more rugged parks in the Front Range.  Located just east of Mt. Evans, in between Hwy 285 and I-70, the park is only about 45 min from Denver.

The trails here are long...getting to the Elk Falls Overlook requires a 10 mile hike (the shortest route).  Due to the difficult access, Staunton has much more of a wilderness feel than many other state parks along the front range.  The Staunton Ranch Trail is the park's main thoroughfare and is good for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.  This trail provides access to all the side trails that take you into the real beauty of this park.  The main draw of this park is the rock; towers, spires, cliffs, formations, you name it...  Black Mountain is dramatic with its rock outcroppings and towering cliffs, the Lion's Head is something akin to Half Dome or El Capitain, and Elk Falls is stunning as it slices through a narrow granite canyon.  The park also has abundant aspen groves and I can't wait to hike here in the Fall.  For the kids, the Davis Ponds Trail offers a shorter excursion through pleasant evergreen and aspen forest to 2 small but scenic ponds.  The park also has a group picnic area and offers guided hikes up to the falls, also a good option for kids as the rangers will drive you most of the way. 

Staunton is a fantastic new area for front ranger hikers, I can't wait to spend the next few years exploring all this area has to offer.

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Clear Creek Canyon Park

Clear Creek Canyon is one of the more scenic front range foothills canyons, and just west of Golden.  They are currently building a biking/walking trail through the entirety of the canyon but for now, there are a few worth while hiking trails.  The canyon is very popular for Rock Climbing and therefore there are some short trails used for climbing access that also make for short and easy hikes.  The Mayhem Gulch trail is currently the only hike with any distance and elevation gain, but there are a few unofficial trails that you can explore...if you can find them...

The Hikes:

Mount Falcon Park

Mount Falcon Park is a wonderful open space park and very close to Denver.  The Park is made up of historic structures (such as the summer White House ruins), Scenic Picnic Areas, and a multitude of hiking trails ranging from very easy to very difficult.  There really is something for everyone here.

The Hikes:

West Trailhead:

East Trailhead:

Matthews-Winters Park

Matthews Winters Park borders the ever popular Red Rocks Park (itself a part of the Denver Mountain Parks system).  There are two main trails in this park, the Dakota Ridge Trail and the Red Rocks/Morrison Slide Loop, with various spurs and shorter trails.  However, these trails can be pieced together for various combinations including a 9 mile marathon that covers the entirety of the park.  Steep ridges, rolling hills, and red rock formations make this a very special part of the Jefferson County Open Space system.

The Hikes:

Centennial Cone Park

Centennial Cone Park is know for its 12 mile mountain biking loop trail.  While this whole loop makes for a long day hike, there are a few shorter hikes in the park suitable for a quick foothills outing.  There are two Trailheads one just north of Clear Creek Canyon and the Northern Trailhead is near Golden Gate Canyon State Park.  The rolling hills and isolated setting make this a wonderful part of the foothills to explore.

The Hikes:

South Table Mountain Park

South Table Mountain Park is a work in progress.  Jeffco Open Space is currently working on their master plan for this park, but there are currently options for hiking.  Check the park's website for current closure information.  The Lubahn Trail (currently closed?) accessed from Golden is a wonderful trail that takes you to the iconic Castle Point, the Basalt Cap and Gypsum Trails at the east end are fully constructed and there is neighborhood access to unofficial social trails that you explore on top of the mesa.

The Hikes:

Windy Saddle Park

Windy Saddle Park is another name for Lookout Mountain.  The park has many attractions, for many different types of recreation.  Hordes of road bikers slog up and race down Lookout Mountain Road, Paragliders take off from the top and land down by Hwy 6, and there are many wonderful options for hiking.  The Chimney Gulch trail is the biggie, but the Beaver Brook Trail starts at the Windy Saddle and ends 8 miles later in Genesee Park (Denver Mountain Parks).  Also at the top of Lookout Mountain you can find the Lookout Mountain Nature Center (which has it's own short nature trails) and the Beautiful Boettcher Mansion.

The Hikes:

White Ranch Park, Jefferson County Open Space

White Ranch Park Website (Jeffco)

White Ranch Park is one of the crown jewels of the Jefferson County Open Space System.  Located west of Golden it is only about 1/2 hour from Downtown Denver to the trailhead.  The park has a large and varied system of trails that are enjoyed by hikers and mountain bikers as well.  The park basically has three trail systems with interconnections and adds-ons throughout.  The northern portion of the park consists of the Rawhide Loop; the east contains a fantastic web of the Belcher Hill and Longhorn Trails; and the Mustang Trail to the south is the least visited, but maybe the most scenic.  The options are unlimited but being so close to Denver, you really have no excuse but to explore all the trails White Ranch has to offer.

The Hikes:

Aldefer/Three Sisters Park

Aldefer/Three Sisters Park is located in Evergreen just west of Evergreen Lake.  It is one of, if not the largest of the Jefferson County Open Space Parks.  The hiking options are many and they vary from short strolls to long hauls.  The iconic Three Sisters are the park's centerpiece but there is much more to this park than just the rock formations.  Evergreen Mountain and the Mountain Muly trails make for wonderful day hikes while the short hike to the Brothers Lookout is great for kids.  Aldefer/Three Sisters has lots to offer and acres to explore.

Aldefer/Three Sisters Park Website

The Hikes:

Elk Meadow Park, Jefferson County Open Space

Elk Meadow Park is located on the north edge of Evergreen about 30 minutes from Downtown Denver.  The park consists of the eastern flank of Bergen Peak and the large open meadows leading down towards Bergen Park.  The main trail system skirts the edge of the mountain and crosses the meadow.  The Bergen Peak Trail offers a 10 mile (RT) climb up to a wonderful summit with tremendous views in all directions.  This park truly offers hikes of all skill levels and is a centerpiece of the Jefferson County Open Space System.

The Hikes:

Chatfield State Park

Chatfield State Park is a wonderful recreation area just southwest of Denver.  The park consists of a large reservoir feed by the South Platte River as it winds through Waterton Canyon and empties onto the plains.  While the reservoir itself is utilized mostly by boaters and picnics, the park also has an extensive system of paved walking and biking trails.  The park's hiking trails however, are often overlooked.  The park has two natural areas with trails; the Plum Creek Area to the east, and the Audubon Discover Center area to the south.  Both areas provide easy hiking across open prairie, through dense cottonwood forests, and along winding rivers.  It's easy to forget that you are so close to Denver when you're wandering the forests of Chatfield.

The Hikes:

Eldorado Canyon State Park

Eldorado Canyon State Park Website

Eldorado Canyon State Park is astounding.  If you want steep cliffs, rock towers, a raging river, and a short drive from Denver then this is your place.  The first hike in I ever did in Colorado was the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail.  Unfortunately, the park was hid hard by the 2013 floods and the Rattlesnake Gulch trail was all but erased.  The other trails in the park are now open but check their website to make sure.

The Hikes:

Apex Park

Apex Park is a Jefferson County Open Space Park along the foothills of Golden, just south of Lookout Mountain.  It has many excellent hiking trails, lots of elevation gain, and beautiful lush forests.  The Apex Trail cuts through the middle of the park going all the way up Apex Canyon.  The Apex Trail is popular with Mountain Bikers but there are various loops hike extending North and South of the Canyon.  Apex Park was hit hard by the 2013 floods so be sure to check the website or closures before you head out.

Apex Park Website

The Hikes:

South Valley Park, Jefferson County Open Space

South Valley Park Webpage (Jeffco)

South Valley Park features the same Red Rock formations that make Red Rocks Park and Roxborough State Park famous destinations for Front Range hikers.  The park is situated in a beautiful valley wedged between a hogback and the Foothills just north of Deer Creek Canyon.  The setting is peaceful and serene and makes for a great, quick, and easy escape from Denver, Lakewood, and Golden.

The Hikes:
Misc. Posts:

North Table Mountain Park, Jefferson County Open Space

North Table Mountain Park is a hikers delight 20 minutes from Denver and just North of Golden.  Almost the entire mesa is reserved for recreational use and is popular with hikers and bikers, though not as popular as nearby Green Mountain.  The trails are expansive, there are many rock climbing opportunities and the park feels way more remote them it actually is.  The North Table Loop Trail encircles the mesa top and there are various shorter loops that can be configured.  Sunrise and sunset from the top are amazingly beautiful if your timing is right.  NTMP is a real Jefferson County treasure.

The Hikes:

Castlewood Canyon State Park

Castlewood Canyon State Park is a real treat, a bona fide hidden gem in the State Park System. Next time someone tells you that the plains are flat and boring, tell them to go check out Castlewood Canyon.  Also, this is a wonderful Fall hiking option, while the entire state is searching for Aspen groves, you can get some real color in Castlewood Canyon without all the crowds.  The park has 3 canyon loops, a great visitor's center, and is terrific for kids, but adults can find real adventure here as well.  It is fair to say that this my favorite hiking spot in the plains near Denver.

The Hikes:

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Golden Gate Canyon is a terrific park for hikers of all skill levels.  There are short trails, extremely long trails, easy, hard, and everything in between.  The park gets a lot of snow in the winter making it a great place for snowshoeing.  The park's main attraction is Panorama Point, accessed via the road or by hiking the Raccoon Loop.  The park also has picnicking, fishing, and even camping.  It is a large park and you could spend a whole summer hiking these trails.  Being so close to Denver makes it a great choice for Front Range foothills hiking.

The Hikes:

Misc. Posts:

State Forest State Park

State Forest State Park is one of the larger and more rugged of Colorado's State Parks.  It is situated in the northern Front Range straddling Cameron Pass about 60 miles west of Fort Collins.  The park has the highest peaks in the state park system and borders on Rocky Mountain National Park, Roosevelt National Forest, and the Rawah Wilderness Area.  The park is known for having some of the largest concentrations of Moose in Colorado so watch out for these awesome, but dangerous, animals.

State Forest State Park Website

The Hikes:


Roxborough State Park

Roxborough State Park is a red rock wonderland south of the more famous Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater.  It is part of the Morrison formation which forms the geologic basis for the front range foothills'  red rock fascination.  Similar to Red Rocks, Garden of the Gods, and South Valley Park, the trails take you amongst the formations and up into the foothills to look down on the otherworldly landscape.  The park has a nice visitor center, well maintained and marked trails, and is fun for adults and kids alike.

The Hikes:

Reynolds Park

Reynolds Park is a rugged, hiker only, part of the Jeffco System.  It is located down Foxton Road south of Conifer just before you get to the South Platte River Valley area (home of the Cathedral Spires).  There are trails north and south of Foxton Road, the south being the more rugged hike up to Eagle's View, the north being the tamer Hummingbird Trail.  Whichever side you choose, you're in for a real treat, the view of the top of Eagle's View trail is breathtaking.

The Hikes:

William F. Hayden Park at Green Mountain, Lakewood

Hayden/Green Mountain Website (Lakewood)

William F. Hayden Park, better known as Green Mountain, is a very popular park just west of Denver and South of Golden.  The park is subtle and surprising.  From the highway it is not much to look at but once you are on Green Mountain, you'll feel as if you've been transported 60 miles west to a wilderness area. In the spring, there are wonderful wildflowers, in the fall, the mountain takes on a golden glow in the evening. There is very little shade on Green Mountain which tricks you into thinking that you are above treeline at a much higher altitude, watch out for summer afternoon thunderstorms.  There are many trailheads and a vast system of official trails and social trails.  The Most popular is the Green Mountain/Hayden Loop and the trailheads along Alameda Parkway will fill up on the weekends.  For a more remote and peaceful hike try the hikes that start on the north side at the Indiana Street Trailhead.  

The Hikes:

Hayden > Green Mountain Loop
Green Mountain > Rooney Valley Loop
Green Mt>Box O'Rox>Summit>Rooney Valley>Green Mt. Loop
North Access Trail to Summit Loops

Mount Galbraith Park

Mount Galbraith is a hidden gem located just west of Golden.  The park consists of a loop around the summit of Mt. Galbraith, and two routes to get up to the loop.  The Nightbird Gulch trail is the "secret way" accessed via a neighborhood.  The Cedar Gulch Trail is slightly more popular and leaves from a trailhead with the typical amenities.  Either way it's about a 5 mi trip and a terrific hike.  The views north from the loop trail are fantastic, well worth the effort.

The Hikes:

Lair O' the Bear Park

Lair O' the Bear Park is nestled in along Bear Creek and between two Denver Mountain Park properties (Little Park and Corwina Park).  Therefore, while the park only has one short but sweet trail, you can connect to the other parks via the Bear Creek Trail.  This is a great place to take kids for a picnic and hike, or just to go for a nice short warm up hike during the shoulder seasons.

The Hikes:

Bruin Bluff Trail

Pine Valley Ranch Park

Pine Valley Ranch is located near the historic town of Pine, Colorado.  The park has a wonderful loop trail as well as easy trails that follow the South Platte River.  This area was part of the Buffalo Creek wildfire and therefore has very interesting terrain.  It also provides access to the Buffalo Creek Recreation Area (Pike National Forest), making it possible to hike for miles and miles into the backcountry, while still having toilets at the trailhead...

The Hikes:

Deer Creek Canyon Park, Jefferson County Open Space

Deer Creek Canyon is a wonderful hiking and biking park just south of Golden.  There are multiple loops, various viewpoints, and possibilities for hikes ranging from 3 - 8 miles, something for any mood that strikes you.  I highly recommend the Plymouth Mountain or Red Mesa hikes.  Both give you lots of mileage with a minimum of Mountain Bikers and no crowds.   Having this gem of a park so close to Denver makes us all very lucky hikers.

The Hikes: