Sunday, October 27, 2013
Swallowtail Trail Loops, Nelson Ranch Open Space
via - Roxborough State Park
Date Hiked: October 27, 2013
Distance: Approx. 6 miles (RT)**
Elevation Gain: 500ft**
Nelson Ranch via Roxborough Trail Map**
CO State Parks Website - Roxborough Trail Map
Douglas County - Nelson Ranch OS Trail Map
**GPS lost signal for part of the hike so my statistics and map are incomplete
Directions: This hike starts at the main parking area for Roxborough State Park (Park Fees are required). From Denver take C470 and exit at S. Wadsworth Blvd. Follow S. Wadsworth south until you pass by the Waterton Canyon Parking Area. The road then becomes Waterton Road as you bear left. Make a right on N. Rampart Range Rd. Take this road until it ends and you see the signs for Roxborough SP. When you enter the park you follow the good dirt road to the parking area and visitor's center. The trail starts across from the flag pole at the main trailhead.
This hike accesses the difficult to get to Nelson Ranch Open Space. Managed by Douglas County, this area is only accessible by this hike, or by hiking/biking in via the Sharptail Trail (4.6mi) or the Ringtail Trail (7.2mi). The difficult access is worth it however as Nelson Ranch is a peaceful foothills park with impressive Red Rock formations and few people.
Start out by following the signs towards the Willow Creek Trail, South Rim Trail, and Carpenter Peak Trails. Follow the trail through Roxborough's red rock splendor until you hit County Rd 5. Going straight takes you up to Carpenter Peak, but you want to turn left and follow the dirt road for about 1 mile. The road takes you past some impressive cliffs and a few small private houses before reaching the trail junction with the Sharptail Trail. Don't take this trail, instead follow the road for a few minutes more to the next trail junction. There is terrific view here looking back onto the entirety of Roxborough.
Enter the trail through the fence and follow the signs to the Swallowtail trail loops. There are two loops, the upper and the lower, I prefer to follow the upper trail first and work your way counter-clockwise back to the starting place. This takes you past the red rock tower (I think it is actually called Red Rock...) on your way out of the loop. Once you complete the loops, head back the way you came.
This trail provides similar terrain to Roxborough but lacks the crowds that tend to build up on summer days. Nelson Ranch itself is mostly flat but follows a rolling trail through a geologically impressive landscape. The trail is particularly nice in the fall when the temperatures are cooler and the scrubby brush is turning a nice yellow and red color.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Mount Sanitas Trail > Dakota Ridge Loop
City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks
Date Hiked: Oct. 16, 2013
Distance: 3 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 1,300ft
Elevation Min/Max: 5,540 to 6,808ft
Centennial Trailhead Map (City of Boulder)
Mount Sanitas Trail Map (Google Maps)
Directions: The trailhead is located on Mapleton Ave in Boulder. Head west on Mapleton and the Centennial trailhead will be on the right.
The Mount Sanitas trail is very popular, and for good reason it is a tough but fun hike. It is short enough that there is little time commitment but it has a steep grade and little relief on the way up. You gain 1,300 ft in about a mile and a half. The trail is rocky and there are many places where you can break through the hogback formation to get great views of Boulder and Green Mountain. Going down the East Ridge trail is difficult and rocky, but again, great fun.
After the 2013 floods the Sanitas Valley trail leading back to the trailhead is closed for re-building (check the website for updated information). If it is closed, and even if it's not, you can, and should, take the Dakota Ridge trail instead. It gets more shade and less traffic and gives you a great view of Sanitas Valley.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Lincoln Mountain Trail & Loop, Douglas County Open Space
Date Hiked: Oct. 13, 2013
Distance: 3.8 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 530ft
Max/Min Elevation: 7,020 > 7,430ft
Lincoln Mountain Trail Map (Douglas County OS)
Lincoln Mountain Trail Map (Google Maps)
From Castle Rock (Wolfensberger Exit off of I-25), take Wilcox south to 5th Street. Head East on 5th and turn right (south) on S. Gilbert Street. This becomes Lake Gulch Road. Follow Lake Gulch Road until it connects to Hwy 83. Take Hwy 83 South and turn right (West) on Jones Road. The trailhead and parking area will be off to the right.
This is Douglas County's newest Open Space Park. The Lincoln Mountain Trail and Loop makes for a nice and easy hike through scrub bush to the top of a small mesa. The views of Pike's Peak from the top are phenomenal. From the parking lot, follow the trail and make a left at the trail junction for Lincoln Mountain Trail. From here the trail rolls and switchbacks through the high plains bush for about 1.3 miles. Once on top of the mesa, go left or right to follow the loop trail, the views of Pikes are to the left. While I'm sure this park is nice in any season, it was especially beautiful in the fall when the vegetation took on a verdant red color. Not many people turn to the plains for fall color, but if you're getting tired of the Aspens (I know, not possible) then check out the plains areas for reds, orange, and golds.