Staunton SP

Staunton SP

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Panorama Point (Raccoon Loop), Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Panorama Point via the Raccoon Trail
Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Date Hiked:  September 22, 2012

Distance: 4 mi (RT)

Elevation Gain: 1,338ft

Elevation Min/Max: 8,853 to 9,390ft

Managing Agency: CO Division of Parks & Wildlife

Golden Gate Canyon SP Trail Map (CDW)
Raccoon Loop Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions:  From Denver/Boulder take Hwy 93 to Golden Gate Canyon Road, just north of Golden.  Head west on Golden Gate Canyon Road for 9 miles to the park entrance.  Bear left at the fork staying on Golden Gate Canyon Road and turn right (there will be signs) onto Mountain Base Road.  Turn left onto Gap road and follow the signs to the campground.  The trailhead to located in the campground.  A fee is required to visit the park.

The Raccoon Loop is one of the quintessential GGCSP hikes, and at about 4 miles, it is also one of the shorter hikes.  This hike is amazing in the fall when the aspens are in there prime, but it is also beautiful in all other seasons.

The hike starts by descending a ridge until you reach an open meadow area and the start of the Raccoon Loop.  I suggest following the loop clockwise (turn left) as the big views will come at the end of the hike, instead of the beginning.  The trail is easy to follow and is mostly up hill from the meadow to Panorama Point.  Panorama Point is one of the park's main features.  It is a wood deck area (right of the road) with an amazing view of the Front Range.  You may witness a wedding while passing through.  Once you leave Panorama Point, the trail descends through evergreen forest, back to the meadow and up to the trailhead.

Although you can drive to Panorama Point, where's the fun in that?  The Raccoon Trail offers a wonder hike through beautiful country with a stellar view.  Way better than driving.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Chief Mountain 11,709ft, Arapaho National Forest

Chief Mountain 11,709ft
Arapaho National Forest

Date Hiked: September 21, 2012

Distance: 3 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 1,000ft
Elevation Min/Max: 10,723 to 11,709 ft
Trailhead Lat/Long:39.682439º N; 105.521141º W
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Fee: None

U.S. Forest Service Chief Mountain Webpage
Chief Mountain Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions:  The trailhead is located on Squaw Pass Road (103) across from a small parking area (on the shoulder of the road) and near the Echo Mountain Ski Area.  From Idaho Springs, go south on 103 to mile marker 18.  From Evergreen head west on 103 towards Mount Evans to mile marker 18.  The trailhead is small and easy to miss but look for the small Forest Service road sign and a wood sign that says "Chief Mt. Trail"

This is a great beginners summit hike.  It is reasonably steep, you gain 1,000 ft in just 1.5 miles, but the trail is easy to follow, breaks tree line, and leads right to a rocky alpine summit.  From the summit the views are endless.  You can see all the front range Fourteeners (Pikes is just visible if the sky is really clear) but Mount Evans is the main attraction.  Looking back to the east you get an up close view of Squaw Mountain.  The trail starts through the forest (pass by Old Squaw Pass Road, do not turn), breaks treeline, and switchbacks up to the summit.  The quality of the hike and the view vastly outweigh the effort, enjoy!

The pics below are from two separate hikes.  In 2012 there were terrible wildfires, even in September, and the sky was so hazy you could barely see Mt. Evans.  The other pics are from 2008 and the view was breathtaking.

Beaver Brook Watershed Open Space

Beaver Brook Watershed Open Space
Clear Creek County Open Space & Arapaho National Forest

Date Hiked: Sept. 21, 2012

Distance: 1.8 mi (RT)

Elevation Gain: 300ft

Clear Creek County Webpage for Beaver Brook Watershed
Beaver Brook Watershed OS Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions:  From Evergreen, take Squaw Pass Road towards Mt. Evans.  Make a right on Old Squaw Pass Road and park in the small parking area near the gate and trailhead.

This park provides a peaceful walk through forests dotted with aspens (good for fall colors) down to a scenic reservoir.  Once at the reservoir there is a faint trail leading along the southern shore to the inlet with Beaver Brook.