Staunton SP

Staunton SP

Friday, June 29, 2012

Maxwell Falls & Cliffs Loop, Arapaho National Forest

Maxwell Falls & Cliffs Loop
Arapaho National Forest

Date Hiked: June 29, 2012


  • Lower Falls TH to Falls and Cliffs Loop = 4.61mi (RT)
  • Lower Falls TH to Falls = 4 mi (RT)
  • Upper Falls TH to Falls and Cliffs Loop = 3 mi (RT)
  • Upper Falls TH to Falls = 1 mi (RT)

Elevation Gain:

  • Lower Falls TH to Falls and Cliffs Loop = 1,170ft
  • Lower Falls TH to Falls = 800ft
  • Upper Falls TH to Falls = 300ft

Elevation Min/Max: 7,313 to 8,484 ft

Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service

Maxwell Falls Upper Trail Webpage (USFS)
Maxwell Falls Lower Trail Webpage (USFS)
Lower Falls TH to Falls & Cliffs Loop Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions: To Lower Falls TH: From Evergreen, head south on 73 and make a right (west) on S. Brook Forest Road.  Follow S. Brook Forest Road for 3.6 mi and look to the left for the TH and Parking Area, it is difficult to see from this direction so keep your eyes peeled.  To Upper Falls Trailhead:  Follow S. Brook Forest past the Lower TH until the road becomes Black Mountain Drive.  Continue on Black Mountain Drive until you see the Upper TH on the left.

The Maxwell Falls Area is a fantastic spot for some good relaxing yet heart beat raising hiking.  The hike can be a moderately difficult 1,100 ft climb over 4.61 miles or as easy as a 300ft descent down to the falls and back over .5 mile.  There are 3 components to this area: 1) the Lower Trail; 2) the Upper Trail; and 3) the Cliffs Loop.  I strongly suggest starting at the Lower Trailhead and climbing all the way up to the top of the Cliffs Loop, then down to the falls and back to the trailhead, this route gives you all the highlights and a great workout.

From the Lower Falls Trailhead, you climb on a good steady trail through pine forest and past boulders along a babbling brook.  When you reach the ridgeline, the trees will shrink down and you'll reach a 4 way intersection...stay straight heading down the hillside.  You'll descend down to a creek crossing before you start climbing again to the intersection of the Falls trail and the Cliffs Loop.  If there is no sign, then just bear right at the intersection.

Photos for this section:

Once on the cliffs loop, you'll continue to climb through pine forest and granite boulders until you reach the first cliff.  The cliffs area consists of a series of rock outcroppings with wonderful views back down the valley and tall cliffs of granite that the trail weaves through and under.  Most likely, you'll lose the trail a bit here, but don't fret you will surely pick it up again as the cliffs area enters a small pine and aspen forest before heading down towards the falls.  You'll reach a falls overlook shortly before rejoining the falls trail and heading down to the actual falls.

Photos for this section:

Maxwell Falls is best visited in the spring when there is actually water in the waterfall.  Other times of year, the falls is a trickle and difficult to see from the trail.  You can bushwack a bit once you reach the creek up to the falls for an up-close view but don't expect Niagara here, this is a small waterfall.  After exploring the falls, follow the trail down along the creek side back to the bridge and creek crossing.  Cross the bridge and follow the trail up and back down to the Lower Falls TH.

Photos for this section:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mount Evans 14,264ft from Summit Lake

Mount Evans 14, 264ft from Summit Lake (West Ridge via Mt. Spaulding)
Mount Evans Wilderness, Arapaho National Forest

Date Hiked: June 23, 2012
  • Distance: Approx. 5 miles (RT)
  • Elevation Gain: 2,300ft
  • Elevation Min/Max: 11,970 to 14,270ft
  • Trailhead Lat/Long: 39.598061º N; 105.640394º W
  • Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service
  • Fee: $10 (Annual National Parks Pass Accepted)
U.S. Forest Service Mount Evans Recreation Area Website webpage for West Ridge Route webpage for Northeast Face Route
West Ridge Route Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions:  This route to the summit of Mt. Evans starts at Summit Lake (Denver Mountain Park).  Summit Lake is the last stop before the summit parking lot on Mt. Evans Road.  From Denver take I-70 west to Idaho Springs, take the Mt. Evans Exit south and take Chicago Creek Road to Mt. Evans Road, just after Echo Lake.  The road is closed in winter and there is a fee to drive up the road.  If you have a National Parks Pass it will work here, even though the area is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, not the National Park Service.

Climbing Mt. Evans is a funny experience.  You work really hard and then get to the top and find yourself surrounded by a crowd of tourists that drove to the top.  That being said, the hike up from Summit Lake is nothing short of spectacular.  From the time you leave Summit Lake until you reach Evans, you get a true wilderness experience.

As usual, I'll defer the detailed trail description to the good folks at, just a few thoughts...  The hike between the summit of Mt. Spaulding and the Summit of Evans is incredibly fun.  The view of the Sawtooth Ridge and Mt. Bierstadt is stunning and it's really cool to see the crowd of people on Bierstadt from another 14er.  The trail gets quite exposed at times, make no mistake you are climbing a 14er on this hike, take all the same precautions that you would on any other 14er.

I chose to descend via the northeast face, and my GPS lost me half way down.  This trail is very steep but it is the quickest route back to Summit Lake and makes for a nice loop hike.

Enjoy this incredible hike, and if you've never driven up to Evans, you should probably do that also, it's actually very cool.