Staunton SP

Staunton SP

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cottonwood Canyon, North Table Mountain Park

Cottonwood Canyon
North Table Mountain Park

Date Hiked: Nov. 30, 2014

Distance: 3.7 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 950ft
Elevation Min/Max: 5,606 - 6,440ft
Managing Agency: Jefferson County Open Space
Fee: No

North Table Mountain Park Website (Jeffco)
Cottonwood Canyon Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions:  From Denver take I-70 west to Hwy 58 west.  Exit onto McIntyre Street and head north.  Make a left (west) onto 44th Ave, a right onto Easley Way, a right onto Easley Road, a left onto Ridge and as it turns to the east and becomes Ulysses Road, you'll find the trailhead.   There is a small parking area (2-3 cars) to the left of the trailhead.

The hike up Cottonwood Canyon is a favorite of mine.  The canyon is surprisingly rugged and you'll have a hard time believing that you are only 20 min from Denver.  The trail starts along a dry creek bed lined with Cottonwoods and climbs nearly 1,000 feet to the top of the cliffs.  The trail is steady and never too steep and the views up canyon and back towards Golden are wonderful.

From the trailhead follow the Cottonwood Canyon Trail for .7 miles (the map says 1.7mi) to the junction with the North Table Mountain Loop.  Turn right and follow the switchbacks up to the junction with the Cottonwood Canyon Trail again.  Turn left here and continue up the canyon at about the 1.6 mile mark you'll break through a gap in the cliffs and find yourself on top of the mesa.  There is a terrific viewpoint here.  This makes for a good turnaround point but I recommend continuing for another .2 mile to the Mesa Top Trail.  You'll get a little taste of the wide-open spaces of the mesa top.  If not for the high tension wires, you'll think you were in a John Wayne movie.  From this junction, you also have the option of exploring more trails on the mesa by turning either right or left and hooking up with the North Table Loop.  You can also hook up with the Rim Rock trail, which is particularly nice.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Great Lawn Park & Aurora-Kelley Road Reservoir, Denver Parks & Recreation

Great Lawn Park & Aurora-Kelley Road Reservoir
Denver Parks & Recreation

Date Hiked:  Nov. 28, 2014

Distance: 2.3 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 277ft
Elevation: 5,350ft
Managing Agency: Denver Parks & Recreation
Fee: None

Great Lawn Park Map (Denver P&R)
Great Lawn Park Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions:  From I-70 east, exit onto Quebec St.  Head south on Quebec and turn left (east) on 11th Ave.  Park at Verbena Park at the intersection of 11th Ave and Verbena Street.  Cross 11th Ave and pick up the trail that leads up to the rim of the reservoir.

This short hike/walk through a suburban Denver park combines a natural area hike with a stroll through a nice neighborhood park and the views of the Front Range are spectacular.  Starting at the Reservoir, follow the gravel path along the rim of the reservoir.  By the way, the Reservoir is mostly dry.  The bed of the reservoir is now made up of wetlands with a small creek running through the middle.  From the rim, take the stairs or ramp down to the bed of the reservoir and follow the dirt trail as it loops along the reservoir.  When you reach the south end of the reservoir, switch to the paved trail as it loops around the giant sun-dial and connects to the beautifully manicured Great Lawn Park.
The paved trail follows the perimeter of the park and visits various ponds, streams, and park facilities.  Great Lawn Park, as it’s name suggests consists mainly of a large grass lawn that stretches out to a wonderful view of the Front Range Mountains.  Mt. Evans, the Indian Peaks, and Longs Peak are on full display.  The paved trail will loop around and connect back to the reservoir natural area.  To get back to the dirt loop trail, cross the stream over a series of large, flat boulders.  Once back at the loop trail you can follow the bed or climb the stairs back to the rim, either way you’ll connect back to the starting point.

For a suburban park, the Kelley Road Reservoir provides a more natural setting than you are likely to get at most neighborhood parks.  Connecting with Great Lawn Park provides a longer walk and a terrific escape or relaxing stroll.    

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Shanahan Ridge, City of Boulder

Shanahan Ridge
City of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks

Date Hiked:  November 14, 2014

  • Distance: 4 mi (RT)
  • Elevation Gain: 923ft
  • Elevation Min/Max: 5,700 to 6,449ft
  • Managing Agency: City of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks
  • Fee: None

Shanahan Ridge Access Point Website (OSMP)
Shanahan Ridge Trail Map (OSMP)
Shanahan Ridge Trail Map (Google Maps)

Directions:  From Boulder Head south on Hwy 93 (From Denver head north on Hwy 93) and turn west onto Greenbriar Blvd.  Follow Greenbrier past the school until you see the open space on your left.  There are 3 trailheads along this road and you want the 3rd.  Once Greenbriar becomes Lehigh Street, the road will divide with a sign in the middle for the Shanahan Ridge Neighborhood.  The trailhead is just across the street.  Park on Lehigh but please be respectful of the residences and the neighborhood.

Shanahan Ridge is a lesser known loop in between the popular NCAR area and South Boulder Creek Trails.  The hike rises steadily through beautiful evergreen forest to the Mesa Trail at the base of Bear Peak with great views of the surrounding foothills.  On this particular Friday we had the first sunny day since the first snow of the year, and it was COLD, but amazingly beautiful.  In the winter the trail is easy to follow as the snow is pretty well packed down and the trees look like something out of a Christmas Special.  The flatirons and rock faces of Bear Peak were crystalized with ice and snow making for a truly surreal landscape.

From the access trail you pick up the North Fork Shanahan Trail.  The trail is a wide dirt road which makes it very easy to follow.  After about .8 of a mile you'll reach a trail kiosk for the Shanahan Ridge Area.  Head to the right of the sign for the North Fork Trail.  Continue up through the forest (with intermittent views) for another .5 mile until you reach the 4 way intersection with the Mesa Trail.  Turn left here and head down into the gully.  The trail rises across the opposite side, re-enters the woods and continues for about .5 mile to the South Fork Shanahan Ridge Trail.  Before you reach the South Fork Trail, you'll come to an amazing meadow with staggering views of Bear Peak and Devil's Thumb.

Turn left onto the South Fork trail and in .7 miles you'll come to an intersection in a picturesque clearing.  Turn left here takes you back to the North Fork Trail and turning right continues on the South Fork Trail...continue right.  After about another .7 miles of beautiful forest the trail will intersect a dirt road with a water tank to your left.  Bear right here and follow the road east until it curves around to the north.  You'll see some even more incredible views here and another trail Kiosk.  Continue another .4 miles back to the access trail.  It gets a bit confusing here since there are 3 separate access trails but remember the one that you started on, and you'll be fine.