Staunton SP

Staunton SP

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lake Helene (Winter), Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Lake Helene from Bear Lake (Winter)
Rocky Mountain National Park

Date Hiked: April 28, 2013
  • Distance: 6.8 miles (RT)
  • Elevation Gain: 1,300 ft
  • Elevation Min/Max: 9,433 to 10,678ft
Rocky Mountain National Park Website (NPS)
Lake Helene from Bear Lake Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions:  This amazing hike leaves from Bear Lake, at the end of Bear Lake Road.  Enter Rocky Mountain National Park ($20 fee) at the Beaver Meadows entrance.  Make a left onto Bear Lake Road and take it all the way to the end.  The parking lot at Bear Lake get filled rather quickly, you can park at Glacier Gorge and walk .5 mi to Bear Lake, or better yet, take the free shuttle instead of driving down Bear Lake Road.

This is probably my favorite snowshoe hike yet.  In April, when the weather mellowed out but there was still plenty of snow on the ground, I had the whole park to myself.  I seriously did not see another person on this hike, and I hiked it solo which was really an amazing experience.  I've hiked solo in the park many times but never this far into the park in the winter.

For this hike, you want to follow the signs towards Odessa Lake.  You'll start by switchbacking up to a ridge where the Flattop Mountain trail will go off to the left, you want to stay straight to Lake Helene.  Going up the ridge, you get wonderful views of Longs Peak, the Keyboard of the Winds, and Hallett Peak, in all their glory.  From the ridge, you'll level off and gain elevation gradually while skirtting the north face of the valley all the way to Two Rivers Lake, which is just before Lake Helene.  By the time you've reached Two Rivers Lake, you'll no doubt have spotted Notch Mountain rising above the trees.  Once you get to the lakes, Notch is front and center, it is a spectacular and iconic mountain and one that most people never get to see up close.  Add the winter's majesty and you get a view that you can be truly proud of.  Once you get cold enough, from standing and drooling at Notch Mt., return the way you came.

Go get a beer and a burger at The Rock Inn, you've earned it!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Daniels Park, Denver Mountain Parks

Daniels Park
Denver Mountain Parks

Date Hiked: April 21, 2013

Distance: .5 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 100ft
Elevation Min/Max: 6,528 to 6,602ft
Managing Agency: Denver Mountain Parks
Fee: None

Daniels Park Picnic Area Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions:  From Denver, take I-25 south and exit at Castle Pines.  Take the Castle Pines Parkway west and turn right (west) onto Daniels Park Road.  Park at the Picnic Area.

Daniels Park is an odd duck in the Denver Mountain Park System.  First of all, it is the only Denver Mountain Park in Douglas County.  It is also massive, the largest park in the system, but only a small portion of the park is open to public recreation.  There are no trails in the park except for social trails connecting the picnic areas.  However, hiking along these trails provides one of the best views of the Front Range that you can get.  You can explore where you like as the trails all follow the edge of a cliffside and it's impossible to get lost, just be careful for loose rock.  The park is adjacent to the Highlands Ranch Backcountry Wilderness Area which does have a trail system so it is a great place to explore as an add-on to another hike in the area.  

Dawson Butte Ranch

Dawson Butte Ranch
Douglas County Open Space

Date Hiked: April 21, 2013

Distance: 5.2 mi (RT)

Elevation Gain: 740ft

Elevation Min/Max: 6,561 > 6,936ft

Dawson Butte Ranch Trail Map (Douglas County OS)
Dawson Butte Ranch Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions: From Castle Rock head South on I-25 to the Plum Creek Exit.  Follow the Frontage road to the west of 25 south for about 5 miles.  Turn right onto Tomah Road.  The trailhead and parking area is about 1.5 miles down on Tomah Road.

While popular with Mountain Bikers and Horses, Dawson Butte makes for a great 5 miler through forest and scrub.  There are good views of the Front Range foothills and Devil's Head.  This makes for a great hike in the shoulder seasons when the foothills are muddy or icy but you still want to get some distance in your hike.  The trail is easy to follow and generally even, so this makes for a good trail run as well.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Rock Park

Rock Park
Town of Castle Rock Parks and Open Space

Date Hiked: April 20, 2013

Distance: 1.5 mi (RT)

Elevation Gain: 400ft

Elevation Min/Max: 6,195 > 6,551ft

Rock Park Trail Map (Castle Rock POSP)
Rock Park Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions:  From Denver take I-25 S to Castle Rock, exit the Wolfensberger/Wilcox exit and head east on Wilcox.  Make a left of 5th Street and another left onto Front Street.  The trailhead and parking are will be on your right... or... just look for the big rock in the middle of town and head for the base...

This short, popular hike take you up to the base of the large rock thingy that looks like a castle...hmmm...I wonder if that's why they call this town Castle Rock...hmmm.....

The hike will gently ascend up the side of Castle Rock and put out onto the top of the mesa with the Rock.  There is no trail up to the top of the rock, just to the top of the mesa.  From there you can walk all the way around the rock, which is impressive up close.  Follow the trail on the opposite side of the rock and it will loop you back to the parking lot.  This is a great hike for kids as they will love being up close to the enormous rock face.