Round-Trip Length: 5.5 miles
Start Elevation: 6,844’
Low Point: 6,541’
Elevation Change: – 303’
Skill Level: Easy
Trailhead Location: 923 Tomah Road, Castle Rock. From I-25, take the Plum Creek Parkway exit west and head south five miles on the frontage road; turn right/west at Tomah Road; follow 1.5 miles to the Dawson Butte Ranch entrance on the right.
A winter storm was predicted for this weekend so I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get out and get any hiking in. However, my friend Lewis gave me a call on Saturday morning and asked if I wanted to do a hike with him. The storm was delayed a bit and the heavy snow wasn’t supposed to hit until Saturday afternoon so he was planning to get out before it hit. I jumped at the chance and quickly got ready and headed out to meet him for the hike. When I arrived at his place, there were a few snow flurries in the air and by the time we got to the trailhead at Dawson Butte Ranch, there was a steady fall of snow but it wasn’t heavy and there wasn’t any wind so it was actually quite peaceful out on the trail.
Dawson Butte Ranch is part of the Douglas County Open Space parks. The 5 ½ mile loop trail travels through mostly forested areas with open meadows and views of the Front Range Mountains. Unfortunately, there is no access to the top of the butte.
Dawson Butte, sometimes known as Dawson Mountain, was named for an early homesteader on West Plum Creek named Thomas Dawson. Mr. Dawson came to the area in the early 1860’s and staked out squatters rights below the butte. He was the first postmaster at Bear Canyon. Dawson Butte is a 7,476 foot landmark for both East and West Plum Creek. Because of the unusual washes on the side and the way the sun would shadow on those washes the turn of the century settlers could always tell what time it was.
Heading on the trail up through the woods.
About 1 ½ miles into the hike we came to an open meadow with a view of the butte. The Stairway to Heaven trail is a short spur that leads you up closer the base of the butte and then loops back down to rejoin the Dawson Butte trail. We skipped this spur today and continued on the Dawson Butte trail.
As we were hiking, Lewis was telling me that there are actually some orchids along this trail and one, in particular, which he knew was right along the trail. About 3 miles into the hike we came across the orchid. I have no idea what kind it is. I guess we’ll have to go back in the spring/summer to see it blooming!
We looped on around the trail and continued on through some more open meadows with just a few trees.
I stopped to take a selfie of myself, proof that I was out hiking today in the snow!
Onwards and heading back into some conifer trees.
An area of low growing scrub oaks among the conifer trees.
Back at the trailhead I noticed this log with these cuts. Haven’t seen this before but I’m guessing maybe a place to park bikes?
Our complete route:
We headed on back to Lewis’ for a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup which tasted good after a couple of hours out hiking in the snow!