Hiking in Meyer Ranch Park/Legault Mountain – Jefferson County, Colorado.
Meyer Ranch Park has 667 acres of land with easy to moderate hiking trails. The trails here is multi-use, so if you are a hiker be prepared to share it with bikers and equestrians. There are also picnic tables and rest room near the trailhead for those not into hiking. One thing we like in this park is, even in warm weather, the surrounding forest provides shade along most of the trails. Besides that, in spring you will find beautiful wildflowers here that you will not typically see in other parks.
Before Meyer Ranch became a park, the Duncan McIntyre family homesteaded here in the mid-19th century. The area served as a stopping point on the stagecoach route from Denver to Fairplay. The land was purchased in 1883 by Louis Francis Ramboz who developed a ranch and built a house, known as Midway House - being “midway” between Denver and points to the west. From 1912 to 1950, it was a working ranch owned by Ralph Kirkpatrick who also cleared the hillside for skiing in the early 1940’s - hence the Old Ski Run Trail.
The last owners, Norman and Ethel Meyer bought the ranch, including the Midway House, in 1950 - you will see this historic Queen Anne style house (today listed on the National Register of Historic Places) along US 285 across from the park. In 1987, the Meyers sold 400 acres of the ranch to Jefferson County Open Space. The county opened the Meyer Ranch Park to the public in 1989.
In winter, this park is a favorite among cross country skiers and especially sledding for kids. You will see them if you are driving by on US-285 after a good snowfall.
HOW TO GET HERE
From Denver to the trailhead is about 40-minute drive via U.S. Highway 285. The main trailhead and parking is on South Turkey Creek Road just off the highway, with additional overflow parking across the road. The main parking area is adequate, at least on weekdays.
The Trails - 4.1 miles or longer
Hiking here, you will hear the traffic noise part of the way, but as you get higher and farther up the mountain, the noise will dissipate and all you can hear are birds and squirrels. This is a short and easy trail. To add some additional miles, we always take a detour to Legault Mountain. Not a lot of people know about this unofficial trail and for years we only saw occasional hikers up there. Recently, we’ve been seeing more and more, so it’s probably not a secret anymore – so don’t blame me for spreading the word. The word is already out there. This detour is the best part of hiking here since this is where you will find the best view in the park.
SUNNY ASPEN/OLD SKI RUN/LEGAULT MOUNTAIN/LODGE POLE LOOP/OWL'S PERCH LOOP - 6.5 miles round trip
From the trailhead to the loo is only about 200 yards. This is where you will decide which trail you want to take. If you are not concern about miles then you can start your hike any which way since you will still end up where you started. Take a map with you if you haven't hiked here. It's not likely that you will get lost but it is useful if you want to shorten your hike or make it longer. This is a popular trail, you will likely meet hikers on the trail at some point and if you think you don't know where you are you can always ask.
Hiking in winter here you will definitely need spikes as the trails can be icy. The traction you get from the spikes will make it easier for you.
At a junction is a picnic shelter. We stop here usually for some snacks before continuing on to the Old Ski Run Trail.
Legault Mountain (9,057 feet)
Legault Mountain is within the park boundaries, but there is no official trail to the top. But we have heard that the county is planning to designate a new trail in the park to include the summit. There is no sign to show the trail to Legault Mountain. Years ago it was hard to find it, unless you marked it on your GPS, but hikers are finding it more and more. Today the trail is well trodden so that it has become easier to find. You will have a bit of a workout going up there, with a little bit of scrambling to the summit, but you will be happy with the view.
This is a perfect spot to have lunch while facing the beautiful views of the mountains. Either here or on the west side, the views encompass the mountain peaks in the distance as far as the eye can see. You can even see three fourteeners from this place - Pikes Peak, Mount Evans and Longs Peak.
We hike here in winter, spring and fall, but we like it best in Spring when the wildflowers are at their peak. We found one of the rarest wildflowers in Colorado just by the trail. This flower can be easily missed since it is tiny. For more wildflowers of Colorado, check this link: https://www.vienrguenther.com/wildflowers
Fall is also a great time to hike here when Aspen trees change color from green to yellow and gold. Photo below.