Trail Length: 5-mile loop
Trailhead Elevation: 7,700’
Elevation Gain: 700’
Trailhead Location: From downtown Evergreen, take CO Road 73, continue for a mile, and turn right onto South Brook Forest Road. Drive 5.4 miles to the Upper Maxwell Falls parking area.
Maxwell Falls ended up being our “Plan B” hike last Saturday. Earlier in the week I was planning a hike for Lisa, I, and a couple of friends from Lisa’s work. Always looking for new hikes, I had picked Squaw Peak west of Bergen Park. Although, as soon as I picked it, I realized it was probably going to be too early in the season to hike this trail without snowshoes. We had been having snowfalls even down in Littleton over the last couple of weeks and although the snow was melted away down in town, I was sure there was probably still going to be quite a bit at the higher elevations. After all, the fire tower on squaw peak sits at 11,500’! I guess I was just antsy to start hiking at higher elevations.
We headed out shortly after 9:00am from home and decided to drive up to the Squaw Peak trailhead and check it out anyway. As we began heading up Colorado Highway 103 from Bergen Park and began climbing in elevation, snow soon appeared and increased in depth as we climbed higher. In sections, only half of the road was even plowed! We arrived at the trailhead realizing we would not be hiking this trail today as we were not prepared for winter hiking conditions.
A picture from the road of Squaw Peak. There are some radio towers in the center and clear to the right you can see the old Fire Tower Lookout which was to be our destination.
Although we weren’t going to be hiking Squaw Peak today, we did have a beautiful drive up to the area with great views of Mt. Evans and the surrounding mountains. We turned around and headed back down towards Evergreen. I quickly came up with a Plan B hike and decided on Maxwell Falls. I had hiked this trail once before a couple of years ago in late summer when there wasn’t much water flow and decided Spring would be a good time to hike it again to see a more active falls.
I wasn’t quite sure of the trailhead location, but with the help of the internet, Lisa Googled the trailhead on her phone and directed us to the upper Maxwell Falls trailhead parking. We headed down the trail around 11:20am. A shot at the beginning of the trail. There was a little snow even at this elevation (7,700’).
We soon came to a trail split and took the trail to the left (the Cliff Loop). We found that the trails are poorly marked in this area. At most trail junctions we came to, there was a post but no sign on the post. Some people had written in pen on the posts attempting to tell you where the different trails led.
As we headed up the Cliff Loop trail, we had a view of the cliffs we were heading towards.
Here are a few shots after we got to the cliffs and the overlook of the valley. Looking across the valley.
Looking down the valley.
From the overlook area, the trail switch backed down heading to the bottom of the valley and Maxwell Creek. There was still plenty of snow along the shaded areas of the creek.
We came to the section of the creek with a little cascade. Quite a contrast in water flow between now and the last time I was here in August.
Back in 2011 I took rocks and spelled out “Daily Hiker” in the stream bed and submitted the photo to the Daily Hiker Facebook group for a photo contest they were running. You were to be creative in using their name Daily Hiker in a photo. I won the contest and received a new camp stove from them!
The water flow today was much greater than in August of 2011. My Daily Hiker rocks were long gone I’m sure!
Instead of heading on up to Maxwell Falls, we decided to extend our hike and cross Maxwell Creek and head up the trail in the direction of the lower trailhead and do a little more exploring. We crossed the creek and started climbing up the mountainside. We came to another little runoff area.
Some bright green moss growing on a boulder. The moss looked star-shaped.
We climbed up from the creek bed and stopped for a lunch break. Looking across the valley, we could see the cliff area we had hiked up in the first part of our hike.
The clouds starting moving in and it looked like we were going to get rain, so we decided to head back down to Maxwell Creek and continue our loop up to Maxwell Falls. As we headed down, it started hailing. A shot of some of the pea sized hail pellets on the ground.
A shot back down at the creek.
We continued to follow the trail along the creek. A small stand of aspens along the creek.
We arrived at Maxwell Falls, which was totally frozen. We could hear the water rushing underneath.
Here’s a shot of the water flowing underneath a thick layer of ice.
We’ll have to come back in a couple of weeks if we want to see Maxwell Falls flowing after the ice has melted and we’ll also have to head back up to Squaw Peak later in the season after the snow melts to check out the fire tower there – more reasons to get out and explore!