Saturday, April 25, 2015
Skunk Canyon > Kohler Mesa Loop
Boulder Mountain Park
Date Hiked: April 25, 2015
Distance: 3 miles (RT)
Elevation Gain: 615ft
Elevation Min.Max: 5,698 to 6,281ft
Trailhead Lat/Long: 39º 59' 09" N; 105º 16' 13" W
Managing Agency: City of Boulder OSMP
Skunk Canyon Trail Map
Directions: From Boulder/Denver take Hwy 93 to Table Mesa Drive and turn west. Make a right on Gillaspie Drive and a right on Stanford Ave. Stanford becomes Kohler Drive. Make a left on Deer Valley Road and park at the end of the street on the right next to the trail access sign. This is a neighborhood access point so please be respectful of private property.
The Skunk Canyon/Kohler Mesa Loop is a terrific short and easy jaunt in the Boulder Foothills. The trail leads up to connect to the Mesa Trail at the base of Green Mountain and provides terrific views. From the access point, follow a straight old dirt road west. After just a short time you'll reach some power lines and cross a creek with noticeable flood damage. Here you start switchbacking up the canyon wall to connect with the Skunk Canyon trail. After some more switchbacks, and great views of Bear Peak rising behind Bear Canyon, you'll reach the junction with the Kohler Mesa trail.
Turn right and follow the Kohler Mesa trail up to the top of the ridge. At another junction sign, turn left following the Kohler Mesa Trail uphill, towards Green Mountain. This section of the trail is quiet and peaceful as you climb gently through evergreen forest. When you meet up with the Mesa Trail turn left as the trail skirts across boulder fields underneath Woods Quarry. It is not long before you'll reach the junction with the Skunk Canyon Trail. Turn left and follow the Skunk Canyon Trail back down the canyon to the creek that you crossed at the start of the hike.
Be sure to turn around and check out the view as you exit Skunk Canyon, Green Mountain and Bear Peak are impressive as always and this trail provides a wonderful up-close view of them both.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
North Table Mountain Park
Date Hiked: April 21, 2015
Distance: 1.7 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 571ft
Elevation Min/Max: 6,013 to 6,560ft
Managing Agency: Jefferson County Open Space
North Table Mountain Park Website
Directions: From Denver, take I-70 west to Hwy 58 west to Golden. Make a right (north) on 93. Head north through the shopping center, the parking area and trailhead will be on your right.
The hike up to Lichen Peak is a short but steep hike directly up to the highest point on North Table Mountain. The trail starts out from the parking area along an old dirt road. Resist the urge to take the side trails and continue up the steep road. The views up and down the Golden Valley are wonderful from this trail. Once you reach the mesa top, you'll see the quarry climbing area on the right and a trail intersection ahead. Proceed straight on the Tilted Mesa Trail for just a few steps, the Lichen Peak trail will be on your left. This easy, well maintained trail leads up through the lichen covered volcanic rock garden up some steps to the rocky summit. The views from the trail and the summit are nothing short of spectacular. The peak gives you a grand overview of North Table Mountain and views stretching north to the Boulder Mountains, Indian Peaks, and Longs Peak, and south to Pike's Peak in the distance.
When you are finished admiring the view, retrace your steps. There are numerous options for longer hikes on the Mesa Top, but the most direct route back down is along the road you hiked up.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
East Canyon Preservation Area
Castlewood Canyon State Park
Date Hiked: April 18, 2015
Distance: 4 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 450ft
Elevation Min/Max: 6,526 to 6,638ft
Managing Agency: CO Parks & Wildlife
Directions: From Castle Rock, head east on Founders Parkway (86). At the intersection with 5th Street, turn left (east) following 86. Take 86 to Franktown and turn right (west) on 83. Follow signs to the park. After you pass the entrance station turn right into the overlook parking area and start out on the paved overlook trail. The East Canyon Trailhead is just a minute down the paved trail.
Castlewood Canyon State Park is one of my favorite areas to hike in Douglas County, and the East Canyon Trail is my favorite in the park. The trail sees far less traffic then the Inner Canyon/Lake Gulch area and explores some truly amazing canyon and prairie landscapes.
From the trailhead the trail crosses the slickrock and skirts the rim of the canyon. The trail can be hard to follow but there are good cairns leading the way. In the spring, melting snow runs off the canyon walls in cascades and small waterfalls, adding to the beauty. Every now and then there will be amazing views of the canyon and the canyon bridge to the south. Cross under the bridge and continue following the rim of the canyon. The trail then descends down to the canyon floor crossing Cherry Creek over a narrow foot bridge. As the trail winds along the base of the cliffs, you enter into a narrow section of the canyon and you'll need to hop along some boulders criss-crossing a tributary of Cherry Creek over cascades and falls. This is a wonderful spot and make sure to linger and enjoy it.
When you climb out of this section of the canyon, you'll see the trail sign for the loop. I prefer to turn right here and hike the loop in a counter-clockwise direction. The trail will emerge onto the plains with terrific views of the Front Range Mountains and foothills. The loop takes you along the plains and across rock face until you return to the canyon rim and the trail sign for the loop. From here you retrace your steps back along the canyon rim, under the bridge, and back to the trailhead. In the spring, be sure to look across the canyon for the waterfalls on the opposite side.