Hiking in Alderfer/Three Sisters Park - Jefferson County, Colorado
Updated: Jan 19, 2021
Alderfer/Three Sisters Park is probably one of the parks in Jefferson County that we hike most. Located in Evergreen, the park has 15 miles of trails. These trails offer wonderful views, rock formations, colorful wildflowers and wildlife - birds, deer, elk etc. Trails here are interconnected from easy to moderate, so you have a choice.
Before this area became a park, it was an active ranch run by generations of homesteaders. The last owner, the Alderfer family, raised silver foxes here (hence the name of one of the trails), angus cattle and operated a sawmill until 1988. The family sold much of their property to Jefferson County Open Space (JCOS), with portions of the land donated as a gift. With the additional land purchased by JCOS, as well as land donated by the Spencer family (another land owner in the area), the county created this open space park that we now enjoy.
TO GET HERE
There are two trailheads in the park, the East Trailhead located on Buffalo Park Road and the West Summit Trailhead located in South Le Masters Road. From Denver to the trailhead is about a 45-minute drive following I-70. To the East Trailhead, take exit 252 and continue on CO-74 S. Drive to S. Buffalo Park Road. You will pass by downtown Evergreen and Evergreen Lake. If the parking is full, another half mile will take you to a much larger parking area, to the West Summit Trailhead near Alderfer Barn.
- THE TRAIL -
THREE SISTERS LOOP - 6 to 8.5 miles
We always start our hike on the East Trailhead along S. Buffalo Park Road. But you have to be early if you want to park here, especially on weekends. This trailhead has a much smaller parking space than the West Summit Trailhead.
This park is popular so we hike here on weekdays, either in winter or spring or fall. Remember that this park is multi-use so be aware of bikers, and of equestrians as well. One thing I like about this parks is most of the trails are shaded by trees, so even in a hot day it is pleasant to hike here.
On the trail, after crossing Buffalo Creek, a little way uphill you will pass by an old barn, an outhouse, a cabin boarded up with a "No Trespassing" sign and a wooden water tank. We usually stop here for some energy boost, there's still a long way to go and it's all uphill.
This park has over 15 miles of trail. Look around, you might find wild animals grazing. Listen to the birds chirping - squirrels, chipmunks and mule deer are common but elk usually come out in the fall, during mating season. At least that's when we see them in this park.
Halfway, before completing the loop, we take a detour to Elephant Butte. It's not part of the park but if you can find the way there you will find the best view overlooking the high mountains and the valley below. You will see the Evergreen Lake from the trail and at the summit the stunning view of Mt. Evans.
Continuing on the loop you will pass by the Alderfer Barn, right by the West Trailhead, along South Le Masters Road. The Barn is more than 100 years old, first built in the 1850s. It is a distinctive landmark in Evergreen. If you want to hang around a bit and absorb the surroundings, there are picnic tables and rest rooms nearby.
In Spring, the surrounding meadows by the barn are so lush and green with colorful wildflowers. In winter, the meadows turn brown and dry until the next Spring.
EVERGREEN MOUNTAIN LOOP - 8.5 to 9.5 miles
The trail to Evergreen Mountain is adjacent to the East Trailhead. You have to cross the Buffalo Park Road. This is an easier trail but a longer loop. There is not much of a view on this trail but the aspen trees in the fall are beautiful.
Take note, from all the hikes we have done in the foothills, on this trail is where we experienced our first sighting of a bear. It was a baby bear and ran away when it saw us coming, but we know mama bear was out there somewhere. It is wise to bring bear spray with you just in case.
Once you reach the summit of Evergreen Mountain, then you will get an open view of the Mt. Evans Massif. For a short hike, you can turn around here back to where you started. But for a longer hike, you have to backtrack to the main trail then follow the trail to the West Summit Trailhead. You will have to cross Buffalo Park Road once again.
From the West Summit Trailhead you have another choice, the trail to the East Trailhead is only about half a mile. My husband finds it too short so we follow the trail to the Mountain Muhly/Coneflower Trail Fork, then to Sisters Trail Summit and Brother’s Lookout back to the East Trailhead. If you are a hard core hikers, you can do both the Sisters Trail and Evergreen Mountain Trail. Add a detour to Elephant Butte then you have something to really brag about.