Sunday, May 3, 2015

Reynolds Park: Oxen Draw-Eagle View-Raven's Roost Loop

Distance: 5 mile loop
Elevation: 7,265 ft - 8,179 ft
Elevation Gain: 914 ft
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes
Dogs: On leash (Jefferson County Open Space)
Date Hiked: 23 August 2013

Banner Peak viewed from the Eagle View Trail in the Reynold's Park Open Space
Reynolds Park Open Space south of Conifer contains some pleasant Front Range trails that will get you moving even in the off season. On this trip I went with a group and we hiked up the Oxen Draw Trail for 0.6 miles to the Eagle View trail (2.3 miles) and then back down the Raven's Roost Trail (0.6 miles). This route traverses variable terrain with lush meadows near the parking lot, dark piney woods on the way to the view point, and sandy Ponderosa slopes on the way back down.

Trail map. Note that while the Elkhorn Trail is listed, it is far more convoluted on the ground.

Starting out on the Elkhorn Trail that traverses lush summer grasses. You can see why this might have been a good place to feed a mule train.

The one tricky aspect of this route is the Elkhorn Nature Trail, which serves as an intermediary connector trail to both the Oxen Draw Trail going up and the Raven's Roost Trail coming down. The Elkhorn Trail contains numerous social connectors and winds in a loop near the river. Be advised that finding the exact route might take a couple of tries.

Starting out on the Oxen Draw Trail. The lower reaches are shaded with lush riparian plants.

As the route climbs, the area becomes more wooded but still dark, a pleasant respite on a hot summer day.
The best aspect of this area is the middle portion of the Eagle's Roost Trail, which travels along an open ridge with views of the surround foothills. Here rocky Banner Peak (8, 504 ft) stands out in sharp relief.

Looking southeast across the foothills. That is Platte View Drive in the distance.

Hiker lounging on a log bench with a view of Banner Peak.
Reynolds Park does have an interesting history.  Before it became open space, it was once a stop for pack trains traveling between Denver and Leadville. Now locals can zip up the highway, hike, and return home in the time it took to water a mule!

The upper reaches of the Eagle View Trail continue along an open ridge.

Heading down the Raven's Roost Trail
Finally, this route is not open to mountain bikers, which lends a level of serenity that other trails in the area don't have.

The lower sections of the Raven's Roost Trail are dry slopes filled with Sagebrush and Ponderosa Pine.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge: Lake Ladora Loop

Distance: 1.8 miles loop
Elevation: 5,279 ft
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Dogs: Not allowed
Bathrooms at the Trailhead: Yes
Date Hiked: 19 October 2014

Lake Ladora in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal north of Denver, Colorado
The Lake Ladora Loop is a short trail around an irregularly shaped, but seriously serene lake in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

Map showing the Lake Ladora Loop in reference to the visitor's center
Standing on the edge of the lake. Trail starts just to the right, outside of the frame.
Leaving the larger road and heading off onto the single track
The Arsenal, as the locals call it,  is an oasis just north of Denver that used to be a WWII chemical weapons plant. Now it is a series of small lakes and trails, a fenced compound filled with rambunctious Buffalo, and a appealing visitor's center with interpretive displays and lectures. I took my parents there when golden grasses stood in stark relief to a deep blue Autumn sky. It was a great family day!

Picnic area
Rabbit Brush in bloom
The Lake Lador Loop starts up the road from the visitor's center at a small pumping station sandwiched between Lake Mary and Lake Lador. The former has very pleasant boardwalk through a forest of cattails, while the route around Lador Lake is more open. Waterfowl hugged the shorelines and cruised in and out of weeds in a cacophony of honks and screeches. We didn't see any of the resident Bald Eagles, but plenty of Ravens and other small birds.

Heading towards the marshy southern end
Crossing the marsh on the pontoon bridge
The route varies between dirt road, single track, and boardwalk depending upon where you are. Signage is limited, but a little thought enables you to take the correct turns. On the southern end of the lake the trail gets very close to the water and several picnic tables grace the shoreline for anglers and their picnic lunches.

Looking at the marsh from the pontoon bridge
On the east side of the lake
The route does step out on the paved road briefly before diving back into the marshy side of the lake. A pontoon bridge claimed by some local Raccoons, leads to the other side, which is mostly atop an embankment.

Looking northwest
On the wide path on the eastern side
There are plenty of trails in the Arsenal and I would love to return to explore them all. I am always looking for shorter, easier trails to enjoy with my parents. After our hike, we did drive through the Buffalo compound where a group of yearlings were frolicking in the dust right next to the road. Snide comments from the back seat about children, mud, and the perils of parenting were deftly ignored.