Round-Trip Length: 5.75 miles
Trailhead Location: Heritage Square parking lot (U.S. Highway 40 at County Road 93)
Today was such a nice day with temperatures around 60 degrees that I decided I couldn’t pass up getting outside this afternoon for a hike. Since it was already late, I picked a trail close to home. I decided on Apex Park, one of the many Jefferson County Open Space parks. Although I have hiked here several times before, there was still one loop I hadn’t done so I decided to hike that for something new. I left home around 1:40pm and was on the trail by 2:00pm.
Apex Gulch was the path of the “Apex and Gregory Wagon Road”. This toll road was one of three early competing routes to the gold fields of Central City (then known as the Gregory Diggings). The other two competing routes were accessed at Gold Gate Canyon and Mt. Vernon Canyon. At the lower end of the road lay Apex City. This frontier settlement was sited at the present location of the Heritage Square Shopping Center. It was here that the tolls were collected from miners and suppliers who were headed for the gold fields. Tired horses could rest and extra teams might be hooked up for the steep uphill haul. Weary travelers could refresh themselves as well. As one of the most direct routes to the gold diggings, the Apex and Gregory Wagon Road operated profitably during the 1860’s and 70’s, but fell into disuse by the mid-1880’s. The Mt. Vernon Canyon Road (now I-70) finally became the primary route to the mountains.
A short distance further I came to a trail junction. I headed left up the Apex trail.
Another short distance and I came to this sign telling about the history of the Apex and Gregory Wagon Road and the tolls that were charged to use the road back in the 1860’s and 1870’s.
I came across a couple of deer grazing on the hillside a little further up the trail.
The trail follows a small stream up through the canyon. I stopped to take a picture of this tiny waterfall and also captured a reflection in the stream as well.
The trail continued up through the narrow canyon, which doesn’t get much sun, especially this time of the year. So, although there was no snow anywhere else, the trail through this section was a little snowy and icy.
After 1.8 miles, I turned left onto the Enchanted Forest trail. Named appropriately, the trail headed up through a forest.
After heading down this trail for about a mile, I took a little side trail to the left that headed up to a meadow where there was a herd of elk grazing.
After getting some pictures of the elk, I headed back down the little side trail and continued on the Enchanted Forest trail. After another 0.3 miles, the trail looped back to the right and became the Apex trail again. I followed the Apex trail for 0.7 miles and then decided to take a left onto the Hardscrabble trail. This trail parallels the Apex trail but is higher up on the canyon with a little better views down the canyon. This shot looks across to the switchbacks of the Sluicebox trail that I will soon be heading down to pick up the Apex trail again. You can see a few other hikers and mountain bikers on the trail.
As I continued down the trail, I could occasionally here an elk bugling somewhere off in the distance. I made my way down the switchbacks and picked up the Apex trail again and headed back on out of the canyon. Nearing the end of the trail, I caught these shots looking across to the northeast as the sun was hitting the hills just to the east of Golden.
I was back to the car around 4:15pm and heading home. A great Sunday afternoon hike close to home.