Staunton SP

Staunton SP

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cretaceous > Tertiary Loop, South Table Mountain Park

Cretaceous > Tertiary Loop
South Table Mountain Park

Date Hiked: March 28, 2015

Distance:  2 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 511ft
Elevation Min/Max: 5,720 to 6,604ft
Trailhead Lat/Long: 39 44' 26'' N; 105 09' 55'' W
Managing Agency: Jefferson County Open Space
Fee: None

Directions:  From Denver head west on I-70 to Golden.  Exit the Denver West exit turn right off the highway, then left on Denver West Parkway.  Just before the entrance to NREL you will see the unmarked trailhead on the right.  However, there is no parking here.  Your best bet it is to park at the office building across the street.

The Cretaceous and Tertiary Trails are some of the few official trails at S. Table Mountain Park.  They both climb steadily (about 500 ft) to the top of the mesa allowing you access to the Basalt Loop.  The Cretaceous Trail starts just before NREL and starts out pretty level.  Once you reach the fork in the trail, head left to stay on the Cretaceous Trail.  The trail will climb the side of S. Table Mountain overlooking NREL and Green Mountain beyond.  After a short time you reach the top of the Mesa.  

When you reach the intersection with the Basalt Loop you can bear right as this description suggests or you can bear left for a longer hike.  The trail skirts the edge of the Mesa and provides the wide open views that are common the tops of North and South Table Mountains.  The views of the front range foothills to the west and Denver and the plains to the East are wonderful.  Travel the easy trail to the east and bear right at the next intersection.  Turn the corner and you see the sign for the Tertiary Trail.  Head down the Tertiary which will take you back to the trailhead.  

Like all hikes at S. Table Mountain you'll be swept away into an urban wilderness at the top of the mesa.  It really does feel like a different world, a wilder world.  One you will be eager to return to time and time again.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sawhill & Walden Ponds, City of Boulder OSMP

Sawhill & Walden Ponds
City of Boulder OSMP & Boulder County Open Space

Date Hiked: March 15, 2015

Distance: 2.7 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 300ft
Elevation Min/Max: 5,104 to 5,187ft
Trailhead Lat/Long: 40 02' 22'' N; 105 11' 08''
Managing Agency: City of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks
Fee: None

Sawhill Ponds Trailhead Website

Directions:  From Pearl Street in Boulder, head west on Pearl which becomes Pearl Parkway, then Valmont Road.  Turn left (north) on 75th Street and right when you see the signs for the trailhead, on an unnamed dirt road.  The trailhead is at the end of the road.

The Sawhill Ponds and Walden Ponds are a wonderful area for easy nature hiking in the plains east of Boulder.  When the snow in the foothills is melts into mud, the drier plains can be a great option.  Don't come here searching for solitude, but the views of the Front Range behind the reflective waters effectively drowns out the other visitors.

From the Sawhill Ponds Trailhead, head west and be sure to check out the views of Green Mountain, Bear Peak, and S. Boulder Peak reflected in the pond on the left.  When you reach the 1st trail junction, I suggest saying straight, in fact I suggest ignoring all the social trail on this stretch and head as far west as you can.  Once you pass the 1st intersection the crowds diminish and you can be alone with the towering cottonwoods.  Follow the trail as it curves north weaving between ponds.  When you start heading east on the wide path, look to the left for the gate leading to the Walden Ponds Area.  The Walden Ponds are managed by Boulder County Open Space and are not as "wild" as the Sawhill Ponds.

Turn left through the gate and head north in between two ponds.  As you head east, then south again, be sure to look behind you for stunning views of the Indian Peaks.  Follow the trail south and feel free to explore more of the Walden Ponds area before re-entering the Sawhill Ponds area.  Pass through another gate and follow the wide path back to the starting point, again, look to the west for the killer views.

Caution - the trail south in the Walden Ponds area is closed as it was washed out during the 2013 floods.  You can skirt around the closure, but it is not advised as you have to trample through the wetlands.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Squaw Mountain, Arapaho National Forest

Squaw Mountain
Arapaho National Forest

Date Hiked: March 7, 2015

Distance: 4.1 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 1,014ft
Elevation Min/Max: 10,597 to 11,481ft
Trailhead Lat/Long: 39º 41' 00" N; 105º 31' 00" W
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Fee: None

Squaw Mountain Lookout Webpage (USFS)

Directions:  From Denver take I70W and exit onto Evergreen Parkway (74).  Head south on Evergreen Parkway to Bergen Park until you see signs for Mt. Evans.  Turn right onto Squaw Pass Road and take this all the way to the trailhead on your left.

Squaw Mountain is a wonderful winter hiking trail with enormous views, an easy approach, and one problem area.  There is a gate about .7 miles up the trail/road.  Next to the gate is an area that many people use as a shooting range.  From what I understand, in the summer and fall this poses a real problem for hikers as the area is inundated with empty beer cans, loud gunshots, and the smell of gunpowder.  In the winter it is not nearly so bad, but still not ideal.  However, once you get past this spot, the sounds drain away and the scenery make up for any hassle.

This trail makes for a terrific easy snowshoe or an easy winter hike.  The trail is very popular so unless you are breaking new ground after a big storm, you probably won't need snowshoes, but microspikes are helpful.  The trail itself is impossible to lose, you just follow the wide road all the way to the summit.  About .4 miles in, you'll pass the junction for Old Squaw Pass Road, which is also a wonderful winter snowshoe adventure, click here for a trail description.  The only place where you may take a wrong turn is at the wooden fence marking the shooting range.  The trail turns left here, don't go through the opening in the fence.

Once you near the top, there are a few switchbacks that lead you to a three way junction.  Turning left here takes you to the radio tower.  This section of the trail has amazing views of Mt. Evans, Chief Mountain, Grays and Torreys Peaks, the Continental Divide, and Rocky Mt. National Park.  The trail ends just a little ways beyond the radio antenna through an open gate.

Going right at the junction takes you to the Squaw Mountain Fire Lookout Tower.  A narrow trail takes you up to the tower and offers tremendous views of Mt. Evans and south to Pike's Peak.  The tower itself is basically a backcountry hut, which you can reserve for $80/night.  Sounds like a great way to get a little hut trip in, so close to home.

I can't overstate the views from the top of Squaw, simply marvelous. Well worth a little gunfire...