Devil’s Head Trail (2nd attempt)

Devil’s Head Trail, Pike National Forest
Getting There/Parking: from Sedalia, Take 67 West to Rampart Range Road.  Head South on Rampart Range for about 9 miles on a washboard, dirt road.
Distance: 2.8 miles, there and back
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Features: forest, awesome views, fire tower
Day hiked: July 19, 2014
Dog friendly? Yes, on leashes, but I don’t recommend taking them up the fire tower.  It’s crowded and narrow.

This was our second attempt at this hike.  Our first attempt, we got one mile in before the weather forced us to turn around.  We should have arrived much earlier in the day for this hike.  By the time we got there, the parking lot was full and we had to park pretty far down the road.  (Still…when you have a nine-year-old who is still sleeping at 9:00 a.m., you take advantage of it!)  This time we we determined to make it to the top.  The boys were cranky and struggled the whole way up.  The first time we did it, there wasn’t a single complaint and we didn’t have to stop once.  This time we had stopped for breaks three times before we reached the point where we had turned around last time.

Once we finally got to the fire tower, attitudes had improved and the boys were excited to climb to the top.  It’s 143 steep stairs to the top and it was very crowded this day, but the views more than made up for it.  I was very glad we did not bring our dog with us.  The hike would have been fine, but taking her up those steps would have been iffy (and annoying for other hikers!)

On a side note, the tower at the top actually sells t-shirts.  Had I known, I would have brought cash to support the Forest Service, but I had no idea.

The hike back down was easy.  I still think this is a beautiful hike, but the crowds just killed it for me.  And it still irritates me when I see people hiking WITHOUT water or in flip-flops.  And, just like our first attempt on this trail, we passed a hiker in a skirt.  The trail isn’t *that* easy, people!  At a minimum put some sneakers on and bring a water bottle!  I know I sound like a cranky, old woman, but this trail was way too crowded to really get to enjoy nature.  Now that we’ve crossed it off the list, I won’t be in a big hurry to repeat this one.

For more information: Devil’s Head Trailhead

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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in Colorado, Hiking


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Dunes Overlook Trail

Dunes Overlook Trail, Great Sand Dunes National Park
Getting There/Parking: In the park, follow the signs to camping loop 2.  Trailhead is in this loop.  If you aren’t camping, you’ll have to park at the amphitheater lot and walk in.
Distance: 2 miles, out and back
Difficulty: easy
Features: scrub grassland, mountain views, sand dunes views
Day hiked: July 12, 2014
Dog friendly? yes, on leash

This wasn’t my first choice for a hike while we were camping at Great Sand Dunes National Park, but the trailhead was right in our campground loop, so we kind of had to!  (For the record, I wanted to hike to Zapata Falls.)  This was an easy hike through some interesting scrub that’s very different from other trails we’ve done.  You have great views of the sand dunes and surrounding mountains for most of the trail.

The last half-mile of the trail heads uphill in a series of switchbacks that finally end up at a bench that overlooks the Sand Dunes.

For more information: Great Sand Dunes National Park

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Posted by on July 15, 2014 in Colorado, Hiking


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Mineral Springs Loop Trail (Pennsylvania)

Mineral Springs Loop Trail, Raccoon Creek State Park
Getting There/Parking: from Colorado go to Pennsylvania.  Find park.
Distance: 1.2 mile loop
Difficulty: easy
Features: forest, waterfall
Day hiked: June 21, 2014
Dog friendly? no idea, although we did see a few dogs, so I’ll go with yes.

Kids hike Pennsylvania this time!  We went to visit family in Pennsylvania, and Aunt Tracy picked out this hike for us to do at Raccoon Creek State Park.  This park is awesome.  We went back later in our visit to go canoeing and swimming.  This trail is an easy loop trail that has a beautiful waterfall at the halfway point.  It was so different from the hikes we do in Colorado since it is so green!  I felt like we were in a rain forest.  The trail was narrow and muddy in spots, but none of us had a problem avoiding it (except for one of us.  Ahem…talking to you, Elliott.)  You cross the creek a few times by jumping from rock to rock or crossing logs that have been laid down.  The boys, of course, loved those parts.

And we all loved the waterfall!  It was so pretty and we had a good half hour to play and explore by ourselves before other hikers showed up.  (And they just walked right past, with barely a look at it.)  If you ever find yourself near Pittsburgh, be sure to check this park out!

For more information: Raccoon Creek State Park

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Posted by on July 4, 2014 in Hiking, Kids


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Lizard Rock Trail

Lizard Rock Trail, Lost Creek Wilderness
Getting There/Parking: from Colorado Springs, Take 24 West to 77/Tarryall Road. Turn right on Tarryall and go 13.5 miles to the Spruce Grove campground.  Trailhead parking just outside the campground.  The trailhead is in the campground, behind the pit toilet and across the bridge.
Distance: 4.6 miles, there and back
Difficulty: moderate on the hike in, easy on the hike out
Features: forest, views, rock formations
Day hiked: June 14, 2014
Dog friendly? Yes, on leashes.

We were camping at Spruce Grove campground, so this trail was a no-brainer, since the trailhead is right in the campground. Just cross the bridge near the walk-in campsites and turn left.  Unfortunately, the beginning of the trail was underwater, so we had to hike around a large rock formation to meet up with the trail.  That was probably the steepest and most difficult part of the trail.  The trail is a steady uphill climb, but the beautiful views make up for it.  We hiked for about 45 minutes before we encountered other people, so it made for a quiet hike. My only complaint is that the trail is not well marked.  The map at the trailhead was faded by the sun and not very detailed.  We passed several side trails and there were no signs indicating which trail we were on.  The only sign we did pass showed we were on the Lizard Rock trail, but it wasn’t near any intersecting trails, so it wasn’t very helpful.  We stayed on the widest trail (staying left) when we passed other trails.  We eventually reached another intersection at the two mile point.  We originally headed right, then changed our minds and back-tracked to the trail to the left.  After seeing how narrow that trail was, we changed our minds again and headed back to the right trail.  We hiked another 0.3 miles in and when we reached some cool rock formations, we decided to make that our turn-around point.  (Turns out, the smaller trail heading left is the one that would have gotten us to Lizard Rock.  I don’t feel like we missed out on anything.) The hike back down was easy and quick.  Rather than hiking back up and around the boulders at the trailhead, we took our camp host’s advice to check out the rock tunnel at the bottom of the trail.  From there we were able to inch our way to the trailhead without getting wet.  (Cosmo, on the other hand, didn’t mind the water and ran right through it.) For more information: Lizard Rock Trail

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Posted by on June 16, 2014 in Colorado, Hiking


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Devil’s Head Trail

Devil’s Head Trail, Pike National Forest
Getting There/Parking: from Sedalia, Take 67 West to Rampart Range Road.  Head South on Rampart Range for about 9 miles on a washboard, dirt road.
Distance: 2.8 miles, there and back (we only made it a mile in before weather forced a turnaround.)
Difficulty: easy
Features: forest, awesome views, fire tower
Day hiked: June 7, 2014 (National Trails Day)
Dog friendly? Yes, on leashes.

Once I realized June 7, 2014 was National Trails Day, I recruited to boys to head out for a last minute hike.  I’ve had this one bookmarked for awhile, and figured the fire tower at the top would appeal to the boys.  Rampart Range Road is a 9 mile dirt road, and while it’s in great condition, I was uncomfortable driving on it.  The road is very busy with trucks going to the dirt-bike and ATV trails in the area.  I had to pull over several times to allow the trucks to pass me.  They apparently aren’t as nervous driving on the road as I was!  When we finally reached the trailhead (those 9 miles took FOREVER) the parking lot was packed!  We managed to get the last available spot.  We should have headed out earlier and we should have brought jackets, but like I said…it was a last minute hike.

The weather was sketchy when we got there, but we decided to hike for 20 minutes and re-address the weather.  The trail is beautiful and crowded!  It’s a steady uphill climb, but it’s a gentle one.  (We passed a woman hiking in a skirt, if that gives you an idea of how easy it is.)  The forest is so pretty in this area.  After 20 minutes, we heard quite a bit of thunder, but saw no lightning.  We chatted with people on their way down, and while they warned us there were clouds rolling in, no one seemed too concerned.  Henry and I voted to continue on, Steven was more reluctant, so we made the group decision to continue on for another quarter mile to make it an even mile long distance, and at that point we would figure out what to do.

The views really open up in that extra quarter mile, so I’m glad we continued on.  It was gorgeous!  But once we reached the mile mark, I decided it was time to turn around.  It was getting dark and windy and the clouds were threatening to rain.  We were almost to the trailhead when a hail storm hit.  Luckily, the trees gave us a lot of protection, so we didn’t get pelted too hard.  I was surprised to see people were just starting the hike as we are running back to the car.  In the hail.  People are weird.

I don’t feel disappointed that we didn’t make it to the fire tower.  The storm made for quite the adventure, and we will definitely add this one back to the list!

For more information: Devil’s Head Trail


Posted by on June 8, 2014 in Colorado, Hiking


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Walker Ranch Loop Trail to Eldorado Canyon Falls

Walker Ranch Loop Trail, Boulder County Parks & Open Space
Getting There/Parking: from Boulder, take Baseline Road to Flagstaff Road.  Follow Flagstaff for seven miles and turn left on Pika, then right on Bison.  Parking at the Ethel Harrold Trailhead.
Distance: 2.6 miles, there and back
Difficulty: moderate (to difficult for kids)
Features: forest, mountain views, canyon, waterfall
Day hiked: May 25, 2014
Dog friendly? Yes

With as close as we live to Boulder, I find it crazy that we’ve never gone hiking here.  For Memorial Day weekend, we had picked out this hike to Eldorado Falls because the book I was using, Hiking Waterfalls in Colorado, promised an “easy” hike, and I liked the idea of a hike that ended with a destination.  (This book’s definition of “easy” is what I would call “moderate” because of the hike back out.)  The trailhead was easy to find and there was only one other car parked there.

The trail is wide and hard-packed dirt.  Even with all the rain we’ve had lately, we didn’t encounter any mud.  The views of the surrounding hills and mountains were beautiful, even on this overcast day.  We spotted lots of signs of deer around, but didn’t spot any deer.  About twenty minutes into our hike we noted that we were going downhill the entire time, which, of course, meant going uphill on the hike out.  (For the record, I’m not a fan of hikes that end with the “hard” part.)  There were also lots of wildflowers around, but just little patches of them here and there.

Once you get to the steepest part of the trail (you’ll know it…) you are almost to the canyon.  You’ll hear the roaring of the South Boulder Creek before you see it, but once you see it…man, is it impressive!  The canyon itself is gorgeous, and with the creek running through it…just amazing!  The Falls were so fast moving they almost seemed to be on fast-forward.  There are a couple of spots where you can get close to the water, but we found a higher spot to sit and have lunch where we could enjoy the falls.

The hike out was painful, but the first 1/4 mile is the worst.  Henry, our seven-year-old, struggled quite a bit, but with a few breaks and lots of encouragement, he made it through.  I didn’t hear Steven, our nine-year-old, complain at all (but my calves were certainly complaining the next day.)

For more information: Walker Ranch, Boulder County Parks & Open Space

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Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Colorado, Hiking, Kids


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Glendale Farm Open Space

Glendale Farm Open Space, Douglas County Open Space
Getting There/Parking: from I-25 North, take exit 188, head north on frontage road.  From I-25 South, take exit 192 and head south on frontage road. 12300 S. Havana Street.  Large parking lot.
Distance: 1.6 mile loop
Difficulty: easy
Features: prairie views, distant mountain views
Day hiked: April 19, 2014
Dog friendly? Yes, also has an off-leash dog park at the trailhead.

This is more of a stroll than a hike, but we had a two hour window between crappy weather, so it was a good excuse to get outside.  We often take our dog, Cosmo, to the dog park here, and since it’s nearby, we decided to give this trail a try just to do *something*.  This trail is very exposed, with no shade, so keep that in mind in the summer.  The trail is mostly hard-packed dirt and easy to navigate.  Shortly after the trailhead, turn right to take a counter-clockwise direction.  The trail heads through oak scrub and you’ll be walking parallel to the interstate.  Eventually the trail turns east for a short, easy climb.  Once you are at the top of the trail, you have a great panorama view of the Front Range (and yes, unfortunately of the interstate.)  At the top, there is a prairie dog colony that was fun to watch.  Birds were also serenading us for the entire hike.  Another hiker warned us that she saw a snake on the trail ahead, but we never saw one.  (Keep in mind, this is rattlesnake country!)  As the trail flattens out, you can take a short walk to the overlook.  The rocks are cool to look at, and the boys enjoyed the view.  The trail heads back down to loop back to the trailhead.  For being such a crowded trail, this was a surprisingly quiet hike.

This isn’t going to be high on my list of hikes to take visitors on, but it is a nice trail for just getting away for a little while.  Cosmo enjoyed a romp at the dog park after the hike and slept for the rest of the day.

For more information: Glendale Farm Open Space


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Posted by on April 20, 2014 in Colorado, Hiking, Kids


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Tower Trail

Tower Trail, Mount Falcon, Mount Falcon Park, Jefferson County Open Space
Getting There/Parking: from Highway 285, take Indian Hills turn-off, follow Parmalee Gulch Road for 5 miles to Picutis Road.  Follow signs to Mount Falcon Park.
Distance: 1.7 (to the Tower and back)
Difficulty: easy
Features: forest views, great views of foothills, wildfire damage, fire tower
Day hiked: April 6, 2014
Dog friendly? Dogs are welcome, but I was glad we left Cosmo behind as the trail was very muddy this Spring day!

Last year we started hiking so late in the year, we barely met our hiking goal.  This year, we are adding five more miles to our goal, so I was determined to set off sooner.  I figured a nice, easy one would be a good way to get back in to it.  Despite the weather forecast promising a sunny day in the 50s, when we arrived, it was looking very overcast and a few snow flakes were falling.  I had originally picked the 2-mile Parmalee Trail at Mount Falcon Park, but since I had never done that trail, I thought it would be safer for us to go with a trail I was more familiar with, one that I knew was relatively flat and short, in case we had to make a quick escape.  We decided instead to go check out the old fire tower on the Tower Trail, and depending on weather conditions, maybe check out the Walker Home Ruins on the Castle Trail again.

We started out on the Castle Trail, which is an easy, wide (muddy!) trail.  There are great views of the surrounding foothills, lots of rocks to check out and some information about a wildfire that burned the area several years ago.  Despite the overcast clouds, the views were great, and blue skies were shining behind us.  The Castle Trail meets up quickly with the Tower Trail.  On the Tower Trail, you can enjoy the views from the Eagle Eye Shelter, that used to be a summer home for the Kirchhof family.  There is a sign that allows you to scan a QR code, to listen to Der Lindenbaum by Franz Schubert.  (The Kirchhof family decorated their water well with a lyrics from this song.)  Since we had the shelter to ourselves, it was kind of fun to listen to the music while we checked out the shelter.

The Tower Trail continues on past the shelter, and is wooded and pretty.  This would be a nice trail in the summer, to get the shade from the trees.  You eventually come to an old fire tower.  From the Tower you get a great view of Denver.  It was too windy to have our snacks in the shelter, but we settled at the rocks below and  decided to make this our turnaround point.  Had we had gloves, we probably could have continued on, but there was no point in pushing it for our first hike.

For more information: Mount Falcon Park

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Posted by on April 13, 2014 in Colorado, Hiking, Kids


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Lodgepole Loop Trail

Lodgepole Loop Trail, Meyer Ranch, Jefferson County Open Space
Getting There/Parking: from C470, take Highway 285 South to Meyer Ranch.  Parking lot just off 285
Distance: 2 mile loop
Difficulty: easy
Features: forest views, sledding hill
Day hiked: December 30, 2013

Woot!  The boys reached their goal to hike 25 miles in 2013 with one day to spare.  For our last hike, we recruited Suzanne and her daughters Elizabeth and Abigail to join us for this short 2 mile loop hike.  You gain about 200 feet in elevation on this trail, and I’m pretty sure most of it was walking from the car to the top of the sledding hill.  This trail was easy!

The trail was snow packed and led through the forest of pine and aspen trees.  Most of the trail was shaded, which I bet makes it really nice in the hot summer, and the aspens would make it beautiful in the fall.  I enjoyed the snowy scenery, so I imagine you can’t really go wrong with this hike, any time of year.  You won’t find many views on this trail, so enjoy the trees!

You could easily turn this into a longer hike by turning on to the Sunny Aspen Trail, or an even longer hike by adding the Old Ski Run Trail.  I wish we had brought our sleds so the kids (and we!) could have done a few runs after the hike!

For more information: Meyer Ranch.

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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Colorado, Hiking, Kids


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South Rim Trail

South Rim Trail, Roxborough State Park
Parking: parking at Visitor Center, park fee applies
Distance: 3 mile loop
Difficulty: easy (the park describes the trail as moderate, but the boys had no problems with this trail)
Features: views, rock formations
Day hiked: December 29, 2013

We took the boys to Roxborough State Park.  I’ve only been there once before, when we did the Fountain Valley Trail.  It was a beautiful, warm December day.  We were worried that the trail would be muddy, but for the most part, it was dry.  There were some shady spots that were still hard packed ice, but nothing too sketchy.  (This is apparently a good trail for snowshoeing, I might have to try that sometime!)

The trail starts at the Visitors Center (which has really great interactive exhibits, especially for kids) at the Willow Creek trailhead.  The trail is wide and dirt packed and is surrounded by scrub oak.  Adults will have  great views of the valley and the large red rock formations, but kids might feel they are trapped in a forest.  (Which might be cool too!)  The boys had a great time on this part of the trail, running ahead and doing whatever they do, which I’m sure involved Minecraft.  You reach the turn off to continue on the Willow Creek Trail, and the Carpenter Peak Trail shortly after.  Everything is well marked and easy to follow.

Once you are on the South Rim trail, the path continues into the valley and the views of the park start to open up.  Just amazing.  You’ll get lots of glimpses of the trail on the east side of the valley, so you’ll get to see where you are going.  The trail eventually starts climbing through the scrub oak and pine trees (but you’ll still have lots of great views and overlooks) and I think this was my favorite part of the trail.  The incline is steady, but not difficult.  No one struggled at all with the climb.  Once you reach the top of the south rim, you’ll have a great view of the path you’ve just taken and the surrounding rocks.  The trail then descends back to the visitors center.  The end of the trail will require you to cross a (not busy) road and the parking lots to get back to the start.

For more information: Roxborough State Park

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Posted by on December 29, 2013 in Colorado, Hiking, Kids


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