As I sit here and write this, it’s 90 degrees and the sun is beating down turning this ginger’s skin a little pink after a mere 20 minutes outside. I’ll be honest, though, this beer is keeping me cool while thoughts of getting out on a few trails just outside of the city are on my mind. Why? Because if you’re like me, you spend a majority of your week in and out of traffic, working that job that helps pays the bills, and of course, waiting for the weekend to come. The good thing is that the weather will be nice…well hot, but still good enough to grab those hiking shoes, throw a pack over your shoulder, and spend time on some short yet scenic trails close by. Did I mention you’ll be close enough to some great breweries and a pub when you get done? Well, now you know so check out these places to go this weekend.
1. Fountain Valley Loop Trail
Fountain Valley Loop, located in Roxborough State Park about 20 miles south of Denver, is the perfect, quick getaway trail that will take you through some of the most scenic sites outside of the city and right up to front door of Colorado history.
The trailhead to this 2.2 mile loop is located a short walk from the main parking lot and adjacent to the visitor center. A well-manicured trail ascends slightly from the start, offers the best overview of the park from a small lookout off the main trail, and then splits into a loop offering two different trail experiences. Head left and you’ll immediately be inundated with spectacular, up-close views of dramatic red-rock formations. Head right and you’ll experience a picturesque view to the north before descending into a small valley. No matter what direction you take, you’ll come upon Henry S. Persse’s turn of the century homestead, a place where this native of New York fell in love with Colorado and spent his summers conjuring up dreams of a first-class resort that would never be.
*After Hike Brew Bonus
Look no further than Living the Dream Brewing Company just up the road from the park in Littleton for their Belgian Raspberry; a nice golden ale with you guessed it, raspberries.
2. Continental Divide Trail (Mt. Flora)
If you’re looking for elevation, remarkable views, fresh Rocky Mountain air, and the opportunity to pour water on the ground sending some to the Pacific and some to the Atlantic, it’s time to hit the Continental Divide Trail just outside of Winter Park.
Trail access begins on a service road at the top of Berthoud Pass to the right of the bathrooms in the parking area. You’ll wind through the forest before the trail splits off the road almost a mile in and turns into a narrow single track that will take you through the tree line. If you’re lucky you may see bighorn sheep or mountain goats as you steadily climb along the gentle slopes to the saddle below Colorado Mines Peak. From here the trail briefly levels before ascending to a false summit, leveling again, and then comes the final push to the summit of Mt. Floral. It’s a great place to stop, soak in the expansive view and peer down on Ethel Lake glistening below in a picture perfect turquois hue.
*After Hike Brew Bonus
Drive down Berthoud Pass and head through the doors of The Peak Bistro & Brewery in Winter Park. The place has a great sports atmosphere and tremendous craft beer selection. Try the Timberline Stout. They call it breakfast in a glass and after tasting the chocolate malt, oats, and lactose, I’d have to agree.
3. Mt. Falcon Trail
The Mt. Falcon trail is home to the skeletal remains of a once grand castle owned by Denver businessman, John Brisben Walker, which burned to the ground in 1918. If you’re looking for the most solitude combined with incredible panorama views, choose this shorter route near Indian Hills on the west side of the park.
The .5 mile trail leaves the parking lot and meanders by a few gangly, dead trees and large rock outcroppings while paralleling a gorgeous valley on the right. It then crests a small hill that opens up into a high mountain valley full of native grass and views to the east before finally reaching the ruins that can be seen in the distance.
This is a short, yet one of the most scenic hikes outside of Denver with the chance to walk right up to and around the ruins of a once stately home where black soot of long ago, cold winter fires still stain the imposing stone fireplace still left standing.
*After Hike Brew Bonus
This one is a simple choice. Just head right through the doors of Sit N Bull Saloon just down the road from the trailhead. I’m pretty sure you’ll find something there to quench your thirst.