Hiking


Does this guy look like a hiker or WHAT?

Jay

That’s my brother. He should be the one living in Denver. My hikes so far have been limited to mile-long nature walks that could be done whilst several month pregnant: see Table Mountain and Mt. Falcon. I suspect this is why my brother waited until I was sufficiently back in shape before he came to visit.

So within three hours of his landing at DIA, we were making our way up Lookout Mountain in Golden (tip for those prone to altitude sickness: Going from Seattle to Denver to Golden to Lookout Mountain shouldn’t be attempted all in the same afternoon).
Taking the Chimney Gulch Trail up Lookout Mountain is one of those perfect quick hikes: Tons of great city views on one side and mountain/valley views on the other. A good three mile hike, but easy enough to run or bike up it if you are super in shape. People hang-glide off of it, there’s a big “M” on the side of it that lights up at night (M for the Colorado School of Mines), and I could see it from my driveway when I lived in Golden.

Lookout Mountain in the snow

To get to Lookout Mountain take Highway 58 from Denver to Golden and turn left onto 6th Ave. Then you’ve got some options. You can drive less than a mile and park right off 6th Ave in this makeshift parking lot…

Lookout Parking

…or you could keep driving for another minute and then turn right onto 19th street, which winds through a neighborhood and then becomes Lookout Mountain Rd (follow the signs) and park at the trailhead alongside the road, or you could just drive all the way to the top. It’s a switchback-y road that’s not very much fun to drive (unless you like that kind of thing), but it gets you to the top quicker.

View from Lookout

The next day we headed out to Eldorado Canyon State Park ($8 daily vehicle pass), which is just off Highway 93 between Golden and Boulder. My brother looked longingly at the rock climbers doting the canyon walls as I heaved the baby backpack on my shoulders and we started exploring.

Hiking with baby

There are numerous trail options at the State Park from the rim trail (which is stroller friendly) to technical boulder scrambles that lead to sheer rock faces. The hiking and scenery were great, but the best part of this park was definitely marveling at the rock climbers. I vividly remember my difficulties scaling the one and only (very, very small) cliff that I’ve ever faced, so I could only shake my head in amazement at the guys and gals dangling above me. How cool is must be to conquer something as imposing as a canyon wall.

Eldorado Canyon State Park

We were there Memorial Day weekend, so the trails were packed, as was the area near the visitor center where huge groups of families and friends were picnicking and barbequing alongside the South Boulder Creek (which looked like a full-blown river after all the snow we had last spring).

The next day we re-traced our route and this time made it all the way to Boulder. We parked the car at Chautaugua Park and set out towards the Flatirons. We walked along Bluebell road which was very boring at first. It starts out as a flat gravel trail between a grassy valley and a housing development. But once it hooked in with the Flatirons loop (briefly) and then the Royal Arch trail things got a lot more mountain-y. About half a mile away from the arch viewpoint there is a natural stopping place to sit on some rocks and eat lunch. I stopped here, opting not to go all the way to the arch because the trail got a little steep and I wasn’t comfortable doing it with a baby on my back.

The Royal Arch trail was cool, but my least favorite of the three hikes. It was just your basic hike. Nice, but nothing to blog about. The trail was super crowded and everyone kept giving my brother dirty looks because I the baby on my back and everyone assumed he was Aubrey’s dad, shirking his fatherly-hiking duties. I had to keep explaining that he was only my brother, shirking his uncle-hiking duties, which is a less grievous offense.
Oh, and there was a snake. It was big.

 

“What do you mean you didn’t bring hiking boots?” My brother asks, exasperated. I shrug and he starts wondering aloud if his friends can supply me crampons along with hiking poles and snow gear.

“Um, you know your sister is pregnant, right?” My dad asks dubiously, not for the first time.

My brother gives me a quick glance, decides that I will be fine, and continues muttering about the snow pack levels and the need to pick up some M&M’s.

I can’t wimp out now. There are M&M’s involved. I tie plastic grocery bags over my socks, put on my running shoes, and figure I’d be good to go.

And I was! We took the West Fork Foss River Trail eight gorgeous miles (four up and four down) past two lakes, over two bridges, and past some of the biggest trees I’d seen since my trip to the Redwoods. The trail held the prefect hiking combinations: It was long and  challenging, there was unexpected scenery, it was just a little scary, and we all felt the need to high five each other upon reaching our destination.  

The first 1.5 miles to Trout Lake was pretty easy. The trail was great and included a new bridge, so river crossing wasn’t a problem. (Yet) We pulled into the picnicking spot along the lake and all the guys in the group immediately began throwing rocks into the water. What is it about guys and throwing rocks? I don’t think I’ve ever been near water without some male trying to skip a rock across it. This phenomena holds true from my friend’s 1 year old son to my 65 year old father. After all the good skipping stones had been hurled into Trout Lake we continued on.  

The trail got a little steeper after Trout Lake, but still easy to follow and the views of waterfalls, valleys, etc. were great. There were a couple snowy patches, but nothing I couldn’t stomp through in my running shoes. Trickles of water started running down the trail, but my water-proof socks/grocery bags held up quite nicely.  

At mile 3 (or possibly 3.5) things get tough. The river creates a waterfall across the trail and there was nothing but snow from here on out. My brother’s friend fished some yaktrax out of her bag and helped me pull them over my shoes for the upcoming snow. I don’t think I would have continued if not for the extra traction.

The river was a little sketchy, but not exactly a death trap. My primary goal was to not fall in the water (goal attained), with a secondary goal to keep my shoes dry (goal NOT attained). The dog hiking with us picked up on the tension as we all crossed the river and let out an uncharacteristic bark. The scariest part wasn’t the river though, it was looking up at the bridge we had to cross. From down below it looked like nothing but a log stretched across a waterfall with banks of snow on each side. When we got closer it turned out to be a legitimate bridge, so all was well.  

The rest of the trail to Coppe rLake and the two lakes beyond was completely covered in snow. Not having skills in the finding-the-trail-in-the-snow arena, I wouldn’t have continued on by myself, but another one of my brother’s friends took the lead and we all confidently trekked after him. He did not disappoint. After a little bit of wandering around (including trekking across some not-so-safe snow banks where sliding and post hole possibilities were numerous) we found a frozen pond, and Copper Lake beyond.

To celebrate a propane stove was whipped out and we all had grilled cheese sandwiches and hot cocoa. I am totally bringing such a stove with me on my next big hike. Words can’t even describe how much better the melted cheese was compared to the peanut butter-Dorito sandwich that I had packed. After lunch everyone (except my pregnant self) took advance of the great sledding opportunities above the lake. This kinda freaked out the dog, who kept trying to save people from flying down the hill.

We got back to the empty trail parking lot right before nightfall (a little after 9:00pm, up here in the Pacific Northwest), and exchanged those high-fives for a day well spent.   

To get to the trail head, Drive US 2 east towards Skykomish. Continue east for 1.9 miles, passing the Forest Service ranger station. Pick up a $5 trail pass here. Turn right ontoFoss River Road(Forest Road 68). Continue for 4.7 miles (the pavement ends at 1.1 miles), turning left onto FR 6835. Follow this road for 1.9 miles to its end and the trailhead. There is a very clean and not-bad-smelling pit toilet at the trailhead.

Naturally Denver has no shortage of hiking trails, and I’m excited to try them all out. Much to the horror or skiers and people worried about summertime droughts there wasn’t a lot of snow this year, so trails are clearing up earlier than usual.

My mom (who was in town for the weekend) and I started out the season easy yesterday with a quick morning hike up at Mt. Falcon. Forty minutes west of Denver, this is a great hike if you want to sleep in, hike, and be back in the city for lunch.

What I like most about Mt. Falcon were the options. This well maintained, not-too-rocky and not-too-steep trail is perfect for an easy hike, a trail run, and those who prefer to tackle trails on mountain bikes or horses. There are enough people around during the weekends that I would feel comfortable hiking solo here, but the trails are easy enough to take friends of varying fitness levels.

There are also plenty of trail options.

Make your decision before you head out though (or print out this map to take with you), because the only map I saw was the one near the parking lot. We opted for the three mile Parmalee/Meadow loop. I hope to head back in a couple weeks and try running the Castle Trail, so there may be an addendum to this post soon. The loop was a nice rolling trail with great views of the Front Range foothills (although where in Denver do you NOT have great views of the Front Range foothills?) towards the west and the Mile High skyline to the east. I hear this is a gorgeous place for sunrise pictures. (Again: addendum coming up!)

The GPS on my phone pretty much got me to Mt. Falcon, but directions are as follows:

  • Head west on I-70
  • Go south on 470 (just past 6th Ave)
  • Turn onto 285, again heading west

If you are following directions on a GPS, once you turn off highway 285 turn it off and just follow the signs. My GPS wanted me to turn down various private drives and dirt roads which was not necessary. The signs were plentiful and obvious.