Saturday, April 23, 2011

Roxborough State Park: Fountain Valley Loop

Distance: 2.3 mile loop
Elevation: 6,280 ft - 6,100 ft
Elevation Gain: 180 ft
Dogs: Not permitted, even on leash
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes
Date Hiked: 9 April 2011

Looking at the dramatic red rocks of Roxborough State Park as a thunderstorm builds in the distance

An afternoon stroll on the Fountain Valley Loop in Roxborough State Park south of Denver is a road trip into the depths of geologic time as well as a wonder to the senses. There is nothing that makes Colorado more like Colorado than red rocks and blue skies.

Looking south through the Fountain Formation from the Fountain Valley Overlook on the west side of the loop. Barren Gamble Oaks shroud the valley while a prominent hump of the Dakota Formation can be seen in the hazy distance.

A topographical map of the area. The Fountain Formation is to the left followed by the Lyons Formation and the Dakota Formation. The Fountain Valley Loop is depicted on the map as well.

The Fountain Valley Loop begins and ends at the visitors center and contains two overlooks with expansive views of the Fountain Formation. The trail is not flat, but is well manicured and easy on the feet.

Looking at the Fountain Formation across a wide meadow

On this trip, the trees were still barren and gray, which made the oxidized rocks stand out even more sharply. If you are like me, however, and get over stimulated by cool rock formations, it won't matter what time of year you go, because the main attraction at Roxborough is rock and lots of it.

Looking up at the Lyons Overlook and Lyons Formation from the Fountain Trail

The Fountain Formation is just one of three formations in the park but the undisputed star of the show. Like giant fins of prehistoric sharks, the blades of red sandstone dominate the scenery. Formed from the eroded sands of the ancestral Rocky Mountains, these rocks have been uplifted to pleasing 60° angle and eroded by wind and rain into soft curvaceous shapes. Isn't geology grand?

Looking back down the loop at the Persee House, a man who thought to turn the area into a resort. The house is open for tours on select days of the week. Call the park for info. The hogback of the Lyons formations is quite obvious directly behind the house.

Not unique to the park, protrusions of this formation can been seen periodically from Boulder to Colorado Springs. It never fails to impress. Check out Mathew Winters Park near the Red Rocks Amphitheater for a pleasant hike through similar protrusions.

Heading up the east side of the loop

The aptly named Lyons Overlook, on the right side of the loop, stands atop the Lyons Formation, which is formed from Permian age wind blown deposits. Its white sandstone contrasts sharply against the red sandstone.

The narrow trail through Gamble Oaks that leads to the Lyons Overlook

To the east of the Lyons Formation is the Dakota Hogback of Cretaceous "my what a lovely snack you would be" fame. The road into the park traverses the east side of this formation and then cuts through it to the parking area. Dinosaur Ridge near Morrison is good place to walk along this formation.

Looking south from the Lyons Overlook. A small Ponderosa Pine clings to the cliff.

If you are one of those people bored with rocks (as if), don't forget to look for one of the 145 species of birds in the park as well as Mule Deer.

Looking north from the Lyons Overlook

Roxborough State Park is a Colorado classic. The fact that even people with disabilities can get access to the amazing geology contained within is an added plus. Locals...you have no excuse. Bring a friend the next time they are in town.

A slab of white Lyons Formation with the monoliths of the Fountain Formation in the distance. I actually took this picture up side down. I was sitting on a bench and bending over to stretch my back when this interesting alignment came into view.

1 comment:

Linda said...

I share your excitement about rocks. I'm just starting to make good my ignorance on the subject, and am trying to get to grips with the geology of the British Isles. So I know know enough to be enthralled by these red rocks.