Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
Date Hiked: May 11, 2013
- Distance: 3.2 mi (RT)
- Elevation Gain: Nominal
- Elevation Start: 5,205 ft
- Managing Agency: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Rocky Mt. Arsenal NWR Trail Map (USFWS)
Lake Ladora Trail Map (Google Maps)
Directions: From Denver, take I-70 east to the Quebec/Northfield Exit. Head North on Quebec and make a right onto Prairie Parkway (there are signs to the refuge). Turn left onto Gateway Road and enter the gates to the park. Follow this road to the Visitor's Center, the trail starts from the south end of the parking lot.
Rocky Mt. Arsenal may once have been a stockyard for U.S. Government chemical weapons, but it is now a wonderfully peaceful prairie habitat complete with it's own bison heard...don't worry, the chemicals were cleaned up... There are many hikes to do in the Arsenal but Lake Ladora is the heart of the accessible park.
You start out by leaving the parking lot and descending down to Lake Mary. Make a right and follow the shore of the lake (the loop around Lake Mary is itself a nice short hike). Soon you will meet up with the Prairie Trail, take this as it leads you away from the lake through the prairie to a paved road. (6th Ave). Follow the road for just a little ways east until you see the much larger Lake Ladora to your left. Follow the road to the far side of Lake Ladora and hook up with the trail heading north towards the lakeshore. This is a beautiful area...wetlands, riparian habitat, and towering cottonwoods. Cross a small bridge and follow the east shore of the lake north. Soon the trail will head back west towards Lake Mary. Find you way down back to Lake Mary and travel the boardwalk over the lake back to the west shore where you started. From here, head back up to the parking lot and the Refuge Visitor's Center.
While chances are you won't see much wildlife, apart from a multitude of birds and prairie dogs, the landscape here is wonderful. The refuge provides a small glimpse back in time to what the eastern prairie looked like before Northfield Mall and Dicks Sporting Goods Arena took up residence.