Round-Trip Length: 8.8 miles
Trailhead Location: Deer Creek Canyon Road to Grizzly Drive
I decided to take a break yesterday afternoon since the weather was so nice and take a quick hike in Deer Creek Canyon, one of the Jefferson County Open Space parks. It gave me a chance to clear my head and come up with some new ideas and a direction for moving ahead on a project I have been working on for quite some time. I’m fortunate to live in the Denver metro area and have so many choices for close-to-home hikes here in Jefferson County. So, on days when I only have a few hours and don’t have the time to travel up into the High Country, I have many hiking options right in my backyard.
Jefferson County Open Space parks comprise 210 miles of trails and 52,000 acres spread over 28 parks and properties. As a result of the vision and energy that powered a grassroots citizen campaign, the Open Space program was created in 1972. Voters supported a one-half cent sales tax to preserve open space lands and natural and cultural resources, and to create quality park and recreation experiences here in Jefferson County. Visitors to the parks have so many options – they can fish, hike, climb, mountain bike, horseback ride, and explore in the parks.
Deer Creek Canyon Park is literally 10 minutes from my house but I feel like I’m in a whole other world when taking a hike there. One of the most striking natural environments of the park is the Gamble (scrub) oak habitat. Uncommon to Jefferson County, Gamble oak provides important food and cover for wildlife including mule deer, elk, turkey, grouse, mountain lions, and bear.
Yesterday I decided to hike the Meadowlark, Golden Eagle, Red Mesa Loop, and Plymouth Creek trails. I headed up the Meadowlark trail, a hikers only trail. This trail has great views of meadows and the south valley. After 1.6 miles I merged onto the Plymouth Creek trail, a multi-use trail shared by mountain bikers, and started climbing more quickly. This trail is one of the steepest in the park. I only ran into a few bikers. After 1.3 miles, I took a side trail onto the Golden Eagle Trail, another hiker only trail.
The Golden Eagle trail is a 0.5-mile trail that takes you out to a scenic view at the summit with great views to the east of Chatfield Reservoir, to the northeast of downtown Denver, to the northwest of the Flatirons near Boulder, and to the west further into the Foothills.
West into the Foothills
Looking down from this vantage point, I could also see some of the red sandstone rock formations in Ken Caryl Valley.
After taking in the views, I headed the 0.5 miles back out to the Red Mesa Loop trail, another multi-use trail. This section of the trail provides open views of the canyon, meadows, and forested sections.
Even though it was 80 degrees, a sign that it was definitely Fall.
After completing the 2.5 mile Red Mesa Loop, it was back to the Plymouth Creek trail for my 2.4 mile trek back to the car. Refreshed with some good ideas, it was time to get back to my project.