Deer Creek Canyon Park

See our video from this hike here: Deer Creek Canyon Hike

Located in the foothills, only minutes outside of Denver, is a hike that gives some of the mountain hikes a run for their money. I give you Deer Creek Canyon.

Deer Creek Canyon Park offers so many different trails for hikers and mountain bikers. I will be talking about Meadowlark, Golden Eagle, and Plymouth Creek Trail.

We started on Plymouth Creek Trail and hiked all the way to Golden Eagle Trail. If you take Golden Eagle Trail to the end, you will have summited Bill Couch Mountain.

Golden Eagle Trail is an out and back trail with an elevation gain of 1,315 ft. If you decide to do this trail, you are looking at 6.5 miles round trip. But it’s well worth it. If you are looking at summiting a 14er anytime soon, I highly recommend this trail. Although it doesn’t sit at the elevation of a 14er, it has the length and the endurance that a 14er has. This is a moderately hard trail. It can be rough on your knees and feet. So wear the proper gear. You may also encounter bears on this hike. So, know what to do and be prepared for this as well.

Meadowlark Trail is a 2.5 mile loop trail. The wildflowers on this trail are absolutely beautiful! This trail is fairly easy in my opinion. Your elevation gain for this particular trail is only 531 ft. It’s perfect for kiddos!

Here’s a bear we encountered here.

Deer Creek Canyon has many trails to choose from. Some are easier and some are harder. But any of them are going to provide beautiful views and solitude. If you are looking for a trail that feels like you’re in the mountains, this is a good one.

This place is also good for the kiddos. You can turn around anytime or choose a shorter, easier hike than what we did. Also, dogs are allowed as long as they stay on leash. Don’t forget if you pack it in, please pack it out…that includes dog poop and dog poop bags.

Happy Hiking!

Rock Park Loop Trail – Castle Rock, CO

Check out our video from this hike: Rock Park, Castle Rock

This hike is one of my family’s favorites. There are weeks that we have done it 3 or 4 times. It’s quick, easy, and it gives a good workout. Not to mention, dogs ARE allowed. So take your furry family members and hit the trail!

There are two different spots where you can start the hike. We usually park in the Rock Park parking lot and hike from there.

We start hiking until we reach the fork in the trail. We always take the left fork. The left fork leads up Hill Trail. My daughter says it smells like crayons…and it really does, especially in the heat. Hill Trail will lead you all the way up to the base of the rock.

Everest at the start of Hill Trail
Hill Trail at sunset
One more of Hill Trail

Once you get to the base of the rock, eat a snack, drink some water, and enjoy the views. You can see all of Castle Rock from the top. There is a mini trail at the base of the rock that you can walk around to get a 360 degree view of Castle Rock.

The trail at the base of the Rock
On the trail at the base of the Rock

There is a free climbing “route” up to the very top of the Rock. There is also a no climbing sign at the bottom of where most people climb. I don’t recommend climbing or going against the rules. We have climbed to the top but it was before it was posted to not climb. The climb is dangerous and not for beginners. If you decide to climb up, remember, you still have to climb down. The climb down is much harder than the climb up. But if you do climb to the top, the views are spectacular! We like to climb to the top to watch the sunset and the 4th of July fireworks. If you climb to the top to watch either of these, bring a headlamp because chances are you will be down climbing after dark. You will need both hands to climb down so the headlamp will allow that and still allow you to see in the dark.

Once you decide to head back down, we always go down on the west side of the mountain via the switchbacks. It’s usually sunset or dark when we head down but the lights from Castle Rock light the mountain up after dark. It’s very pretty!

Heading down the west side of the mountain

This hike is a great family hike! It’s easy for the kiddos, it’s short, and it’s fun. Plus you have great views and don’t have to drive up I70.

Length: 1.9 miles. Elevation Gain: 433 ft. Route Type: Loop

Rainbow Falls 4×4 Trail – Sedalia, CO

We found this trail via Google and were so excited to take our Jeep on it! It is a pretty easy trail but you will need some good ground clearance to clear part of the trail. There are some bigger rocks that need to be cleared while going up or down a hill.

It is possible to do most of this trail with your stock Jeep. But do your research on where to enter the trail so you don’t have to go over the bigger rocks.

Rainbow Falls is so fun! We entered off of CO 67, across from Turkey Track Shooting Area. There are camp sites all inside of Rainbow Falls. Bring your family, your tent or camper, your grill, your off-roading vehicles and HAVE FUN!! Camping is free but the weekends fill up pretty quickly. If you plan on camping near Painted Rocks, a reservation is required.

If you are in your 4×4, go slow when on the main parts on the trail. There will be dirt bikes, ATVs, and side by sides coming around corners with speed. Watch out for them and know your hand signals.

The view here is gorgeous and so relaxing. It is quiet for the most part. While riding the trails, there are a few pull offs that you can stop, stretch your legs, and have a picnic lunch.

Rainbow Falls is part of the Pike National Forest. There are approximately 20 miles of trails to ride. Most can be accessed by your 4×4. But there are a few that can only be accessed by an ATV. A huge draw to this trail is Moab Hill. Moab Hill is a very popular rock crawling section. I made it up the hill in my 98 Jeep Wrangler. My Jeep has lift otherwise I’m not sure we would have made it. We didn’t bottom out at all and it cleared the rocks with ease while in 4 low.

You can see more about this trail and enjoy our video about this trail here: Rainbow Falls Riding Area

The Ghost Town of Independence

Located 16 miles east of Aspen in a valley is the gorgeous ghost town of Independence. The suggested donation to visit is $5 per adult. Kiddos under 18 are free. Let me say, it is absolutely worth it!

You can park right off of HWY 82 then walk down to the little town.

From www.aspenhistory.org :

“The first mining site in the Roaring Fork Valley, today, Independence is an archaeological preserve, featuring interpretive stations that tell of the characters, enterprises, and structures that make it an integral part of area history. Located just below the continental Divide, the ghost town is a “don’t-miss stop” on Independence Pass along the Top of the Rockies’ Scenic Byway.

Site History:
Legend has it that prospectors discovered the Independence Gold Lode on July 4, 1879. A tent city sprang up that summer, and by 1880 there were 300 people living in the camp.

By 1881, the Farwell Mining Company had acquired most of the leading mines in the area including the Independence No. 1, 2, & 3, Last Dollar, Legal Tender, Mammoth, Mount Hope, Champion, Sheba, Friday, and Dolly Varden. The company also operated the Farwell Stamp Mill and a large sawmill for their mines. That summer, the population grew to 500, served by four grocery stores, four boarding houses and three saloons. The Independence Miner started printing in October. By 1882 the Town of Independence had over 40 businesses with three post offices and an estimated population of 1,500. A miner could get room and board for $2 at the New England House, a boarding house on the east end of Main Street.

Typical of mining boom towns, the bust soon followed. Miners were lured away from Independence by the abundant work, good pay and milder climate of Aspen. The citizens of Independence could expect to be blanketed in snow from early October to late May. Daily life in a town at 10,900 feet was not easy!

Although mining at Independence proved to be short lived, over $190,000 worth of gold was produced between 1881 and 1882. The next year production dropped to $2,000. By 1888, only 100 citizens remained in the high mountain town, which in its brief history had been called many names—Independence, Chipeta, Mammoth City, Mount Hope, Farwell, Sparkill and Hunter’s Pass.

During the winter of 1899 the worst storm in Colorado’s history cut off the supply routes to Independence. The miners, who were running out of food, proceeded to dismantle their homes to make 75 pairs of skis and to escape en masse to Aspen. They made light of their adventure by making it a race of the Hunter’s Pass Ski Club—entry fee: one ham sandwich.”

There are old pieces of different items scattered around the town. You can take photos, but please don’t remove any items. Some of these items date back to the 1800s.

If you are looking for something quick and fun to do with your family while on your road trip, this is a must do. The views are incredible, the history is so interesting, and the memories you will make will last a lifetime.

Info from www.aspenhistory.org

Photos are mine.

Turkey Track 4×4 Trail & Shooting Area – Westcreek, Colorado

Do you love 4×4 trails? Do you love shooting guns? Well, this spot is the perfect place for you! We were actually trying to go to Rainbow Falls Riding area and ended up a mile away at this hidden gem.

This trail is about an hour and half from Lone Tree. We also avoided highways on the GPS. The views are better that way. Also, you won’t have cell service after you leave Sedalia. So, make sure you have a paper map on hand as well. We didn’t have one and I accidentally exited out of our GPS and we couldn’t get our map back. Luckily my husband was able to remember how to get home.

My husband recently bought me my dream vehicle – a 1998 Jeep Wrangler. I absolutely LOVE it! But we have been itching to take it on more 4×4 trails. We googled and found Rainbow Falls Riding Area (a blog coming this weekend for this one). We decided to be spontaneous and go. Best decision ever!

On the way to Turkey Track Shooting Area, you end up on CO-67. The road follows a nice little creek with plenty of pull offs. We took our husky, Everest, and she absolutely loved playing in the creek. This is the perfect trip to make a day of – take a picnic lunch, swim shoes, towels, etc and spend half the day at the creek.

My hubby and daughter heading to the middle of the creek for a photo.

The creek is so peaceful and not very crowded at all. At least it wasn’t when we went. But, the creek is pretty deep (for a small creek) in the middle and it is very fast moving. With that being said, I wouldn’t recommend smaller children getting in it without an adult.

Bring your rafts and/or kayaks! The fast pace of this creek make it pretty easy to kayak or raft. Who doesn’t like a day on the water relaxing?

Once you get to Turkey Track, you enter through a gate and there are clear rules posted if you will be shooting. Please abide by those and always use caution.

As you drive Turkey Track Road, you will notice the pull offs for the outdoor shooting range. Only one group is allowed per range. The ranges are roped off so no one accidentally ventures down range while someone is shooting. You can, however, go down range to change out targets. As far as guns, you can bring whatever you have. We saw several AKs and ARs being shot when we were there. We only brought our small handgun.

Turkey Track Road is the 4×4 trail. It’s pretty easy and there’s nothing too serious. You could take a stock Jeep on the trail and be just fine. We just followed the road, took a side road here and there, and stopped for a ton of photos. We did take our Jeep’s top and doors off and we were able to high five Aspen trees while driving.

We had a great time and absolutely loved everything about this day. You will too. Get started early to enjoy the creek for a bit before heading off to Turkey Track. You won’t regret it!

Colorado’s Deadliest 14er, Long’s Peak

2am. We got about 2 hours of sleep and drove 2 hours to get to the Long’s Peak Trailhead. My husband had summited Colorado’s deadliest mountain many times before. This was my first attempt.

Near the start of the trail during one of our summit attempts.

Getting started early is a must; therefore, headlamps are also a must. You need to be off the summit by noon to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. You don’t want to get caught at the summit, coming off the summit, or out of the keyhole during a snowstorm or thunderstorm. The results could be deadly.

The trailhead starts at an elevation of 9,405ft. That means you have an elevation gain of 5,525ft. As soon as you step onto the trail, you immediately start ascending. You have to keep a pretty steady pace in order to make your goal of summiting before noon. Within the first hour of hiking, I actually had to stop to vomit. After that, we just kept hiking. I am a very seasoned hiker and this trail was nothing short of hard. Giving up crossed my mind more than once.

The trail starts in the trees with steep switchbacks. You hike through Goblin’s Forest and also cross small brooks and a gorgeous waterfall before stepping out of the tree line to see Twin Sisters to the East.

Twin Sisters as we came out of tree line.

From here, you continue hiking with the breathtaking views of the Long’s Peak diamond in view. The diamond is a 1000’ sheer cliff. The trail climbs until you reach the fork to Chasm Lake. This is where we normally stop for lunch. There is also a small privy here.

The privy
Looking east
The diamond of Longs Peak

This is where it really starts getting tough because you are tired, cold, and you’ve already thought about giving up at least 3 times.

From here, you steadily climb to summit Granite Pass. My husband hates the stretch to Granite Pass. I don’t mind it because past the Pass, you start the switchbacks that lead you to the boulder field of Longs.

The stairs to Granite Pass. Granite Pass is on the right side of this photo. It’s the lowest point along the ridge line.
The top of Granite Pass taken at sunset.

The trail in the boulder field is hard to navigate at best. There is a small stream that runs under the boulders. If you have a water purifier you can refill your water bottles from the stream.

My husband refilling our water bottles from the stream during one of our summit attempts.

From the boulder field, you have to navigate up to the Keyhole. The closer you get, the harder the climb gets and the bigger the boulders are. Some are the size of cars. At this point, you will want to go ahead and put your helmet on before you start the climb to the Keyhole.

Long’s Peak with the Keyhole on the far right. We backpacked on an attempt and spent the night in the boulderfield. This is our tent and prayer flags. Highly recommend!
The Keyhole

I have attempted to summit twice. I didn’t make it either time. I made it past the Keyhole to the trough and didn’t go any further. There was a section I felt very uncomfortable doing so we turned around. Knowing your limits and having the willingness to turn around at any time could save your life. I firmly believe this saved my life. You can be confident in your abilities and still be smart about a climb. Don’t risk your life just to have the best Instagram photo. It’s seriously not worth it.

On the way up to the Keyhole, be sure to step inside Vaille Shelter. If you’ve never read the story behind it, I recommend it before the climb. Plus this is a great spot to pause and eat an energy bar and chug some water before stepping on the other side of the Keyhole.

Agnes Vaille shelter to the left of the Keyhole

Once you make it to the Keyhole, the exposure is breathtaking and overwhelming. It might scare you once you step through. That’s ok. Everyone has that moment their first time climbing it. I will warn you though, the Keyhole is very windy. At this point, a lot of people make the decision to turn around after seeing what comes next. But don’t be discouraged if you have to turn around! You made it farther than most.

Past the Keyhole, look for the bullseyes-they mark the trail for you. If you get off trail, it could be deadly. You will want to follow those all the way to the summit. From the Keyhole, it will take about 2-3 hours to summit given you are moving at a steady pace and there aren’t a ton of people in front of you.

The bullseyes

The Ledges are past the Keyhole, then you hit the Trough, the Narrows, the Homestretch, then the summit.

These sections are named accordingly. The Ledges are literal ledges that you are climbing on. The Trough is a steep, rock-filled gulley. The Homestretch is a class 3 slope of exposed granite that requires scrambling on all fours. Stay safe, be alert, and always remember that the mountains show mercy to no one. Respect the mountain.

The Narrows
The Homestretch looking straight down
Taken from the summit. That mountain in the photo is Mt. Meeker.
Taken from the summit. That is Chasm Lake at the bottom.

Spruce Mountain Trail-Larkspur, Colorado

Chances are if you’ve ever driven south on I-25 to Colorado Springs, then you’ve seen this majestic mountain hidden along the Gap. What you may not know is that you can hike to the top.

Spruce Mountain Trail can either be a 5.5 mile loop trail all the way up to an 8.5 mile loop trail. It depends on the route you take and if you decide to tackle the upper loop once at the top. I have taken the shortest route and the longest route. Both well worth it!

Spruce Meadows

When we started, we took the Spruce Meadows side of the trail. It’s a bit exposed for a portion of the trail. But it’s not too bad. The wildflowers on this section are so pretty. My kids absolutely loved them! If you want to make your hike a little shorter, you can take the Oak Shortcut. That cuts out Spruce Meadows and saves a good bit of time.

From the Spruce Meadows, the trail will turn into the trees and you start your ascent to the top with switchbacks.

This trail is heavily trafficked but it doesn’t stop the serenity you feel while hiking it. The overgrown shrubs and trees make it feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.

Taken from near the top of the mountain. The smoke from recent fires made for a pretty spectacular sunset that day.

Once at the top, there are some pretty sheer drop offs with loose gravel and rock. The view is incredible though. There are plenty of rocks to sit, have a lunch, read a book, and just take in the beauty of Gods creation.

If you decide that you have the time and want to do Mountain Top Loop, there are some pretty big rock formations for your kids to climb and play on while on this hike. Also, if you have a hammock and want to make a day of this, bring it. There are plenty of trees to hang a hammock from.

Mountain Top Loop does seem a bit longer than it actually is. We were the only ones on that trail and found ourselves wondering if it was ever going to end. Haha!

Have you ever hiked in Florida on Honeymoon Island? We hiked it years ago. Mountain Top Loop reminded my husband and myself of that hike. There is white sand and a nice breeze the entire time we were on the trail that greatly resembled Honeymoon Island. It felt different than most trails in Colorado…and not in a bad way at all. It was peaceful and definitely a stress reliever.

This hike is hands down one of my favorites. I’ve hiked it several times with my family and once with one of my friends. Get started early, take a picnic lunch, and make a day of this mountain. You won’t be disappointed.

Elevation Gain: 600 ft. Distance: 5.5-8.5 miles depending on route Route type: Loop Trail Difficulty: Easy Moderate Dog Friendly: Yes

My business page: www.thecoloradowild.com

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Quail Lake, Colorado Springs

Are you looking for a short, GORGEOUS, and easy family hike? If your answer is yes, then this is the hike for you. Even if you don’t want to do this hike now, it needs to be on your bucket list. Why? Just check out the photos. Seriously. Write it down or better yet, just send this blog to yourself or significant other so you don’t lose it.

Quail Lake Trail is pretty flat. Therefore there’s not really any elevation gain. It’s a mile loop trail and bonus-it’s dog friendly! (But please clean up after your pup and keep them on a leash.) Did I mention that you can also fish and kayak in the lake? Well, you totally can! There are also picnic tables, bathrooms, and a basketball court on one side of the Quail Lake Park.

Quail Lake Trail with my pup, Everest.

The main trail is very wide and mostly shaded in the summer. In the winter, be careful, it is oftentimes snow covered. The lake is accessible by a few smaller trails that connect to the main trail. Shown above is one of the smaller, connecting trails. Everest and I were hiking back up from the lake. Even though it was freezing, she wanted to take a dip in the water.

This trail is absolutely perfect for your family especially if you have smaller kiddos. If you have older kiddos, bring the basketball, kayak, paddle board, and have fun!

How long will this hike take you? Well, it took Everest and myself about 30-45 minutes to walk all the way around the lake. But we also stopped A LOT to take photos. If you walk it without stopping, you could honestly do it in probably 15 minutes. Like I said, super short hike. But worth the views to check it out one day.

You can find my photography page here: www.thecoloradowild.com

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