Travel Journal

Milford Sound, New Zealand

Exploring the World...our way

We don't just travel, we explore

 

- Vien & Hermann

  • Vien R. Guenther

Hiking in Deer Creek Canyon Park - Jefferson County, Colorado

Deer Creek Canyon Park is one of the parks in Jefferson County that is popular for both hikers and bikers as well as equestrians, but parking space is not a problem. We love to hike here in Spring when the wildflowers are in bloom and in the Fall when the foliage has changed colors. With over 14 miles of interconnecting trails, you will be able to get away from the crowd, including bikers on some trails. For non-hikers, there are picnic areas along Rattlesnake Gulch Trail (rattlesnakes are active here in summer, thus the name) with sheltered picnic tables and paved paths.

View from the trail

THE PARK

Before the park was created, the area was a popular campground for native Americans - the Ute and Arapaho tribes. Then homesteaders (John Williamson, from Plymouth, England) arrived here in 1800s. This area also became a hiding place for some infamous villains such as Jesse James and Alferd Packer, a man accused of cannibalism.


In 1991, the land which is what we now called Deer Creek Canyon Park was acquired by Jefferson County and became part of the Jefferson County Open Space system.



TO GET HERE


From Denver to the trailhead is about 35 minutes-drive following C-470. Take the Ken Caryl Avenue exit then turn left to S. Valley Road. In about 2.4 miles, turn right onto Deer Creek Canyon Road, then left to Grizzly Drive. The trailhead will be obvious.


- THE TRAILS (7 to 13 miles) -


If it’s just Hermann hiking alone, he hikes almost all the connecting trails in the park, but together we vary our hikes. We usually hike here in Spring, Fall and Winter. The longest hike I did here was at least 10.5 miles while Hermann's was about 13.5 miles. You can begin your hike either at the Meadowlark Trail which is for hikers only, or at the Plymouth Creek Trail which, is a multi-use trail. Either way, both trails converge at a junction, at the steepest part of all trails in the park.


MEADOWLARK TRAIL/PLYMOUTH CREEK TRAIL


We usually begin our hike at Meadowlark Trail, although it is longer than the lower Plymouth Creek Trail, but you don't have to deal with bikers flying down the trail, plus it has a better view. The trail ends at a junction and merges with the Plymouth Creek Trail, which continues all the way to the junction with the Red Mesa Loop.


Meadowlark Trail in Spring
Meadowlark Trail in winter

GOLDEN EAGLE TRAIL TO BILL COUCH MOUNTAIN


By taking the Red Mesa Loop a short distance, you will arrive at a side trail, the Golden Eagle Trail, to Bill Couch Mountain. Most of the time we hike there instead of taking the Red Mesa Loop. From the summit there is a 360-degree view of the mountains to the west and the valley below. We usually have the place to ourselves when we hike here. Also, bikes are not allowed on this trail.

Trail to Bill Couch Mountain
At the summit with the view to the east
View to the west
View to the west from Bill Couch Mountain

RED MESA LOOP


The Red Mesa Loop is 2.3 miles long. Most of the time we skip this trail and go to Plymouth Mountain instead where we can get a better view.

At the junction of Plymouth Creek Trail and Red Mesa Loop
Red Mesa Loop Trail
Red Mesa Loop Trail

PLYMOUTH MOUNTAIN TRAIL


Plymouth Mountain Trail is also a loop with a short side trail that will take you to the Plymouth Mountain viewpoint. Taking this short trail is worth the extra distance since you will find a different view of the valley. See pictures below.

View of Chatfield Reservoir from Plymouth Mountain
View of the valley from Plymouth Mountain Trail

Hiking back, we usually take the Meadowlark Trail but sometimes we follow the Plymouth Creek Trail all the way down to the trailhead - this trail has been used since before this was a park. It is an easier and shorter trek, but it can be muddy at times.

View of the valley from Meadowlark Trail in Spring

BLACK BEAR TRAIL

Trailhead from Hildebrand Ranch Park

Black Bear Trail was newly opened - you will find the trail sign along the Plymouth Mountain Loop. This trail was originally proposed in 1994, but only became possible with a land grant from Lockheed Martin in 2014. With the Jefferson County acquisition and trail development of the land, the Black Bear Trail was opened in 2018, connecting Deer Creek Canyon Park to Hildebrand Ranch Park.


From Deer Creek Canyon Park Trailhead to Hildebrand Ranch Park is 11 miles. This is a challenging trail and is suggested for “advanced users” only. This trail is also closed from February to July for protection of nesting raptors. Few people use the Black Bear Trail.


When starting from Hildebrand Ranch Park, you can find the Black Bear Trail on the Two Brands Trail Loop, about 1.8 miles from the main trailhead following the hogback.



NOTE:


If hiking in winter, we take along spikes, it is very useful on icy areas. In Spring and Fall we bring along bear spray. Wild animals (especially bears & mountain lions) are active here, We haven't encountered either one but they are there. We don't see them but they probably see us, so it is wise to be prepared just in case.

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